My daughter and I share the same sense of humor. We find the same jokes funny and whether it is Jim’s pranks on ‘The Office’ or Shawn’s crazy hijinks in the criminally underrated ‘Psych’. This got me thinking about programming and how they shape an individual’s personality.

Having grown up in the 80s and 90s in India, watching TV was the only source of entertainment. We didn’t have access to many museums or public parks so our whole and sole form of gaining outside knowledge and molding our worldview was through the content we viewed on the idiot box. As a teen, I remember enjoying MAS*H, Chitrahaar(a half-hour show featuring songs from Hindi movies), Smurfs, The Flintstones, and Mahabharat.

Now that we have access to programs from all over the world, I see how instrumental these programs have been in determining what kind of an individual I am today.

When Star TV was introduced in India, I remember us middle-class urbanites getting excited over the diverse programming; Soap Operas, Game Shows, and Cartoons, we had it all. But somewhere in the melee, in the craze for 24*7 programming, we lost touch with quality.

High-Quality programming can stimulate one’s mind, and entertain at the same time. However, when we binge-watch something comfortable, after the day’s hard work, more often than not, we succumb to the temptation of not exercising and stimulating our minds.

Research has shown that what we watch influences our social behavior, our interactions, our political beliefs, and thereby our personality. What we watch helps us form ideas about the people and the world around us. I was fascinated and appalled by the Magic Bullet theory which states that the news channels fire information at us and we the passive viewers fall prey to it by consuming it without thought.

It is not just the concern of misinformation or ‘fake news’ that should bother us but what we give up for the sake of entertainment. We give up social interactions, reading books, and going to museums and art galleries. TV and OTT platforms have not only shaped the way we process information but have also caused a massive cultural shift. Our retention and attention spans are rapidly shrinking. In 2013 attention spans were up to 75 seconds. In a matter of 10 years, it has shrunk to 47 seconds.

Before it is too late, bring back the books or consume media in medium doses. After all, as Buddha said, ‘Excess of anything is poison’.

Author Roopa Rajesh is a bibliophile, a ‘chai’ophile, and a chocoholic who is passionate about teaching, books, music, family, and friends, and definitely not in that order.

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