"Screen Life is Very Shallow"

In a brilliant  interview with Salon.com, embattled hip hop artist Gil Scott-Heron describes the effects of TV this way:

"What [TV] does is it keeps people from reading, and therefore from learning. Screen life is very shallow, and it speaks to the fact that most people don't want to know themselves, especially the dark parts. So they learn how to push these buttons in a certain order. But that's just your life becoming a video game, baby." 

How shallow is screen life, exactly? 

Television screens have red, blue and green pixels that flicker at a high rate when bombarded with fast-moving electrons. And the brain responds immediately to this radiant light by essentially "shutting down the mid-brain and neo-cortex" (higher regions).

You're not asleep, and you're not exactly awake, either. It's like being somewhere between a coma and a trance.

Studies have proven that, in the long run, too much activity in the lower brain leads to atrophy in the higher brain regions.

Digital entertainment allows us to escape from and avoid rather than contemplate, says Sven Birkerts in his book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age:  

A sense of the deep and natural connectedness of things is a function of vertical consciousness. Its apotheosis is what was once called wisdom. Wisdom: the knowing not of facts but of truths about human nature and the processes of life. (74)

Unlike texts, tweets and TV, books pull us back "from the onslaught" and help us distance ourselves "from the present as a way of reconnecting with a more elemental sense of who we are".

The Center for Screen-Time Awareness is a non-profit advocacy group that helps families reduce time spent watching TV and surfing the Net. They do this by organizing community events and distributing fact sheets about the links between sedentary lives and poor health. Their mission is to "encourage real experiences with real people in real time." They've recently joined forces with Barnes & Noble to promote their cause. 

Turn off the TV this weekend and read.