"TV IS HEROIN CROSSED WITH HYPNOSIS
I haven't owned a TV in almost 20 years. I don't miss it at all.
Note that I didn't say I don't watch TV. I and everyone I know does.
TV is everywhere these days: your phone; the internet; public spaces; download & watch it on your computer. The only real changes are the increased ease of time shifting (choosing when we watch), placeshifting(where we watch), and largely optional advertising.
IS TV RELAXING?
Yes, but not in the way you'd expect.
Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi did a study which appeared in Scientific American in 2002. Participants carried a beeper which beeped several times a day and when it did, they wrote down what they were doing and how they were feeling. When beeped while watching TV, people recorded feeling relaxed and passive. What was surprising was that the relaxation ended as soon as theTV was switched off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continued.
Additionally, the participants had more trouble concentrating after viewing than before, and EEG studies showed less mental stimulation (identified by increased alpha brain wave production) while watching TV. Neither occurrences happened as a result of plain old reading.
In other words, we associate "watching TV" with "being relaxed" (so we do relax), but after we finish watching we can't concentrate, feel sluggish, and become as stressed (or more so) than before.
Despite all this, of course, we keep on watching.
Substance dependence is defined (very roughly, it’s a big subject) as: spending a lot of time using the substance; tendency to increase the dose (using more than you planned); a psychological or physical dependence on the effects of the substance; a desire to continue using the substance for the sense of improved well-being it creates; giving up social, family or work activities to use it; experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.
Not all addictions are chemical, of course. Any behavior that leads to a pleasurable experience will be repeated, especially if that behavior requires little effort. The psychological term for this is “positive reinforcement.”
Two experiments were conducted where people were asked to stop watching television. In the first, South African families agreed to switch off for a month. The poorest family gave up after a week, others suffered from depression, saying they “felt like they had lost a friend.” In the second, 182 West Germans agreed to avoid TV for a year (with the added bonus of payment). None lasted more than six months, and all of the participants showed increased anxiety, frustration and depression. Yes, the exact symptoms of heroin withdrawal.
In order to understand television addiction, it’s important to note what is happening inside our brains.
When you watch TV, brain activity switches from the left to the right hemisphere. How much? Research by Professor Herbert Krugman showed that the right hemisphere becomes twice as active as the left, an extreme neurological anomaly.
The crossover from left to right releases a surge of endorphins, which include beta-endorphins (pain numbing) and enkephalins. Endorphins are structurally identical to opium and its derivatives (morphine, codeine, heroin, etc.). Activities that release endorphins (also called opioid peptides) are usually habit-forming. External opiates act on the same receptor sites (opioid receptors) as endorphins, so there is little difference between the two.
Just like any addiction, people regularly overestimate their control over television watching. When people estimate how much TV they watch, their guesses are usually far lower than the reality.
There are further implications of the left-to-right hemisphere blood flow effect.
Further research by Krugman revealed that our brain’s left hemisphere, which processes information logically and analytically, tunes out while we are watching television. The left hemisphere is the critical region for organizing, analyzing, and judging incoming data. This tuning-out allows the right hemisphere of our brain, which processes information emotionally and uncritically, to function unimpeded.
In other words, we switch off our critical thinking abilities and just absorb anything thrown at us. We watch emotionally, not intelligently.