Tuned In, Tuned Out


Over the past 5 years, I’ve noticed a growing phenomenon: apparently we can’t eat dinner on a special night out without multiple televisions pulling our attention away from our family and/or friends. And the need to check email and Facebook and Instagram has taken over the need to spend quality time with our family.

The television in restaurants culture first got my attention at one of those chain restaurants you find all grouped together at exits on interstates and major highways. In 2006 traveling became a big part of my life. I would spend several months on the mainland (I lived in Maui) traveling to various places and exploring. It was on one of these trips that I stopped in at one of those restaurants described above.

I sat at the bar as I was alone and service was always quicker. As I settled in I realized there were no less than 12 televisions within my view. Six or seven were lined up around the inside of the bar area, the others scattered throughout the restaurant. All had their sound on. As a special feature, there was a little control box that allowed me to change the channel of the closest television AND to adjust the sound so I could hear. Now, that was odd enough. All the televisions had volume control and the ramifications of that could be quite deafening. On top of that, there was music piped into the restaurant, and a different music system piped into the bar. So you had televisions all tuned in to channels of various types at various volumes, and two piped in music systems.

That trip I found a few restaurants that had this going on. Now, every restaurant I go into there is at least one television. Those with just one are oddities. The one I was in last night with my fella on a date that topped off a day filled with visiting friends and then a movie, had a television at every booth and several placed strategically around the room. Fortunately, the booth we were at, and I assume at all, there was a remote control. I turned ours off. But there were several still on in our view, in particular one right in the line of sight of my date. Now, we had a lovely visit, and enjoyed the food, but every few moments his attention was pulled away and into the screen of that television, which was broadcasting a program with captions.

Then there is the iPhone culture. In the last few years, for some reason we find it impossible to leave the house without knowing every text, email and Facebook or Twitter post that happens during out time out with family and/or friends. And we now have a new traffic accident statistic: accidents caused by drivers texting while driving.

Funny thing is, I remember not too long ago when we had no qualms about leaving the house and not knowing if there was an email coming in on our computer, and it was still considered rude to answer your phone while visiting with family and friends. Heck, not so long ago we didn’t travel with a phone! I love my phone, don’t get me wrong. And I am also guilty of checking texts while visiting with folks. But the photo above got me to thinking about the ramifications of that and I want to break that habit.

Maybe this missive will get some folks to thinking and make comments to their favorite restaurants that the televisions blaring while trying to eat are not appreciated or needed. Maybe this missive will help those daddies out with their kiddies and their wife all dressed up, realize that his attention is needed outside of his palm. Maybe.

And I’m really curious as to what these restaurants think they are achieving by bringing in televisions. Do they really think that folks will stop coming to their restaurant if there is no television???


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