by Kenneth Justice
~ In 1940 Lowell Thomas began broadcasting television NEWS live in what would eventually change Western Culture in ways unimaginable at the time. In the course of the next sixty years Western Culture would go from a society based on reading to an aliterate society, that is, people have the ability to read nowadays, but simply choose not to read.
A friend of mine who used to think of himself as an intellectual told me recently, “Kenneth, why do I need to read a history book when I can just watch the History Channel?” Sadly I believe my friend represents a great majority of people who have found reading a book much too laborious and would rather turn on something to amuse themselves as oppose to more serious though and reflection.
I was in a used bookstore over the weekend and a young couple walked in and I couldn’t help hear the dude tell his girlfriend, “Yea, I guess with the Internet I don’t really have time for books anymore. Actually, I can’t even remember the last time I even held a book, probably back grammar school”.
Television changed the way we process information; instead of learning things in the linear fashion of reading the newspaper or a book, we were taught to ingest information via visual stimulation. “Zoning” out in front of the “Boob-Tube” became a nightly ritual all across Europe and the North Americas .
With the advent of the Internet, people started reading a little bit more, but as more and more studies are being released, researchers are finding that people aren’t reading much depth of content. Short blurbs, and Facebook status updates contain such little substance that one is left to wonder if we were better off getting our information from the television than off the Internet (even writing that sentence gave me chills).
As Internet speeds got faster and technology improved, a little website called Netflix started streaming movies, and before we realized what happened, it’s now safe to say that Netflix has changed the world. With over 50 million subscribers and more every day, a new phenomenon has occurred in which people are ditching cable and traditional television in favor of only having the Internet in their house.
I myself gave up cable nearly five years ago and haven’t thought about going back even for a minute. With the ability to read the news on a million different Internet sites, the option to live stream user created channels, and the availability of movies on demand via Netflix and other sites, going back to traditional television would seem rather strange to me at this point.
Over the weekend I binged watched the newest season of the Netflix original show House of Cards. While I won’t give away any of the spoilers, I believe its important to note that it had been some time since I looked forward with such anticipation to a “TV” show as I did with House of Cards. For more than a generation big TV networks like BBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS had a stranglehold on how we processed information, NEWS, and entertainment. The TV networks were as much responsible for shaping Western Culture as the music industry. However, with the success of Netflix, even those non-readers, those people who spend their evenings in front of the TV, are starting to cut the cable cords in search of cheaper options.
Netflix is changing the world because it is causing people to leave cable and traditional television. Instead of spending every Thursday night for six months watching each new episode of our favorite TV show, we can merely spend the weekend watching the entire season on Netflix, and then feel free to spend the next few months pursuing other endeavors.
Netflix is changing the world because they are setting a precedent for lower costs of entertainment. Instead of paying more than a $100 a month on cable, Netflix costs under $10. The people who ran the big TV networks are losing their grip on influencing society; as more people move to the Internet, the ability of a single blogger, writer, or video producer to get their own ideas out to people is becoming the norm.
Now we’re only left with one simple question, will people ever start reading books again?
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society