I recently read an article by David Hopkins titled, “How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization,” in which he writes about the long-running show “Friends” and how the characters would make fun of Ross whenever he said something intelligent. He related this to a movement in society where it is okay to make fun of intelligence. Could TV shows that highlight such mockery be the lemming leading society to a cliff?
Many studies confirm that media and TV do impact society. While I agree, we must still take responsibility for ourselves. We have to understand that TV sitcoms are in it for money and to provide entertainment, not to serve the greater good of humanity. But this doesn’t make it right.
What I really like about the Hopkins article was it didn’t whine about bullies. Instead, it offered the following solutions:
1. Read a book. Hopkins says, “The New School for Social Research in New York proved that reading literature improves empathy. It’s true. Reading makes you less of a jerk. So, read often.”
2. Learn something. I agree, if you don’t use it, you lose it. How many of us remember differential equations? I am sick and tired of hearing, “it’s hard” or “it’s really complicated” as excuses for why things don’t work properly. What happened to the people that followed JFK’s words, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”? Nothing worth doing is easy, and the first step is to do something new. I suggest we try something the hard way if for no other reason than to avoid becoming complacent.
3. Stop buying so much stuff. Hopkins believes consumer culture and idiot culture are closely linked. As a minimalist in New York City myself, I think my life is simpler, easier, and happier. In addition to the financial benefits, I have time to cook my own meals and read books, because I’m not messing around with some new thing I bought.
4. Protect the nerds. I would expand this to say “empower nerds, celebrate nerds, become a nerd!” I don’t mean to get into anime or chess (but if you want to, that’s cool, too). What I mean is: change the world. A great influence in my life was a TV show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” Speaking at my commencement, he said that, under the objectives of the show he wrote, “To change the world.” He then challenged my graduating class to do the same. Nerds change the world, and we can’t let TV get in our way. We must be stronger than those who make fun of us. We must also try to co-exist and perhaps make friends with them. Changing the world isn’t going to be easy, but then again, nothing worth doing is.