I think someday when my wife and I have a large house with multiple rooms, we should have a dedicated media room.
As it is now, it seems people generally plug media into nearly every room of the house. There’s a TV in the bedroom or even bathroom, another nice big one surrounded by couches in the living room, iPod docks and speakers all over and the laptop goes wherever it wants. While these things are fancy and convenient, I think people spend more time plugged into entertainment just because it’s available rather than because they have a purpose for watching or listening. This is passive consumption.
Nicholas Carr just published a book called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, and he wrote a much-discussed article in The Atlantic called Is Google Making Us Stupid?
He talks about the neurological impact of a lifetime spent connected to the internet; that by essentially practicing this hunt and peck and search and glance and skim and click and move-on behavior for hours of every day, we’re re-training the functions of our brains. It’s not that we’re killing brain cells, like our mothers warned us against television and beer, but we’re strengthening this shallower level of thought and neglecting our deeper intellect. Skills of deep reading, contemplation and long reflection were more common when books were the primary media. Now these skills go largely unused. When was the last time you deeply contemplated anything?
All this to say that I don’t think it’s good enough to set aside a small parlor or a front room as the only media-free zone in the house. Who’s going to intentionally avoid the pretty TV, sleek laptop, and comfy couch — when they all live in the nicest room together? Nobody.
Instead, we’ll flip the whole concept. We’ll design the most comfortable and inviting living spaces around conversation, hosting, reading, and real relaxation; where the chairs face one another instead of a screen. Then we’ll set aside a decent-sized media room with enough space for people to sit comfortably and take in a movie or favorite show. This way, we have to go out of our way to consume media, rather than placing it in the path of least resistance. We’ll probably be more intentional about what we consume and how much time we spend consuming.
Because, let’s face it, we’ll still go out of our way to hang out in the media room. But this way there’s a fighting chance that maybe half of the time we’ll actually sit in chairs across from one another, beverage or book in-hand, and really soak up life together. I’d rather look back on 20 years of this than 20 years of CNN, sit-coms and facebooking.