Essay on How Television Has Changed

Has the world really shifted over the past years going from typographical to more image-centric content? Do images now have more meanings than many letters on a paper? In some point of views, America who was once very literate and dependent on print forms of communication which included books, pamphlets, and public lecture has now become something of a culture of the image. Now, newspapers have added photographs alongside their headlines making the news and journalism into an image-centric format. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman brings this rising conflict into view in his age and what this new beginning era of image based content is going to do to the world. With this in mind, Neil Postman has very accurate thoughts that are seen in the world in his age while some of his other claims made can’t be related at all in the present, especially since the digital age of the internet, smartphones, and social media has come out.

Television and other media have been changing the way Americans understand, behave, and believe than ever before. For example, Postman compares the attention given between a writer and television star when stating “When Charles Dickens visited America in 1842, his reception equaled the adulation we offer today to television stars, quarter- backs, and Michael Jackson” (Postman 75). This statement illuminates the vast changes a century can make. Charles Dickens, a famous English writer and social critic who visited America was widely known and given attention on but through the rise of technology and television, people who did everything in an old-style fashion were slowly being unrecognized and appreciated and instead all the attention of peoples eyes went to the screens that featured sports, news, and more. All it took for society to shift was a new invention to gather everyone up and glue them to a new way of living. 

This prospired a new way for communication and interaction between people. Furthermore, Postman has more reasonings on how the image-centric world is a bad idea and brings negative consequences for society. For instance, this is shown when he states that "The written word, and an oratory based upon it, has a content: a semantic, paraphrasable, propositional content. This may sound odd, but since I shall be arguing soon enough that much of our discourse today has only a marginal propositional content, I must stress the point here” (Postman 50). He also includes that “Whenever language is the principal medium of communication - especially language controlled by the rigors of print - an idea, a fact, a claim is the inevitable result” (Postman 51). 

These two statements that Postman claim are saying that the audience can’t easily judge if the content is being accurately presented. Therefore, we are unable to know when someone such as politician lies, but also don’t have the claims to validate or doubt it. In contrasting between the Age of Exposition and the Age of Show Business, these statements also show the inspiration of rational epistemology through the public viewed ways as a means to create propositions that had some sort of content to judge. On the other hand, televisions don’t make any claims but still entertain us, especially when psychologically influencing us to buy products. We have now grown to no longer be skeptical on the things being shown on television. The discourse provided by television clears away from the actual content so that the public loses when judging its accuracy and truthness. 

Although many of Postmans claims are valid, many cannot apply today and aren’t resulting in negative consequences for society. In 1985, it might not have been wrong to prove that the television was dangerous and had hazardous effects of passively receiving information instead of engaging with it. But now we are in 2019, and the situation of the media has changed quite drastically in the past thirty-five years. 

The amount of viewers has shown a substantial decrease over the years. In the article, “New Pew study says local TV news viewing dropping fast,” Al Tompkins provides data and information regarding the decreased viewership in the news when reporting that “Americans are relying less on television for their news. Just 50% of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57% a year prior in early 2016… getting from online sources” (Tompkins 1). From this statement, it goes to show how one particular interest of people’s time has been seen suffering over the past couple of years. 

All it took to lose seven more percent of viewers was a year. In addition, the viewers who have stopped using television/watching the news have now gone to the Internet. It has been approved that the Internet has a disruptive force to other media forms that came before it (such as books, news, music and film). Television, though, has not only a quantitative difference, but a qualitative one in the mass use of Internet and the television. Moreover, the point being made also shows how others are getting their things done online due to its diversity. There is so much to do and learn from the internet, even if it isn’t the perfect solution to the problems which Postman suggests. However, it is quite different to not apply in the majority of some circumstances. What people do with the internet though is the real major point of debate. 

In conclusion, In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman details the dangers of television and the movement towards the image-centric world but in a perspective, his stance cannot hold up today. With this in mind, although most of Postman’s claims were very relevant and true to his day of age, most of his claims do not really matter now and aren’t posing any negative consequences for society. This is because of the proven decrease of viewership in television and the rise of the Internet which brings us to new interactions with the world and media, whether good or bad.



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