So, the other day I switched on the television, and experienced something strange.
I was watching the TV after almost 2 months, and only because I wanted to do something I don’t usually do when I’m at home. So, the TV.
It’s an LG wall mount LCD and was a big deal when dad bought it, back in 2007; enough to have a few neighbourhood heads pop into the living room. It was grand for all of us, as was evident in the exclaimed concerns we screamed at the man who had come to install it.
It is a flat-screen, 42-inch and with maroon speakers that would automatically slide back in when it was switched off. It doesn’t slide back in anymore and has to be pushed instead. But focus on this love for automation for just a moment. This TV was specifically advertised highlighting the sliding speakers as its USP. And we bought it.
It arrived to replace a jumbo Cathode Ray Tube Videocon television set with a local cable connection that played Shah Rukh Khan’s Devdas a record 21 nights at a stretch. I know, because I watched it that many times.
With this new TV, however, we had evolved as an audience with finer tastes, and the Tata Sky connection was used to watch Comedy Central, Animal Planet, and space shows on Nat Geo. Though my dad must have made his own record with repeat watching a movie, Hera Pheri. We validate each other like that; me and my dad.
Now, more than a decade later, our beloved, enthusiasm-inducing TV set has been reduced to a dormant monolith on the wall, covered with black cloth; a fat bat forever sleeping. It’s not because the speakers have stopped giving us the moves. More because a smaller monolith replaced it.
I got my first smartphone the same year as this TV, and remember clicking pictures of my family making jubilant faces before the flat screen. No, let me correct myself. This was still not a smartphone. It was a Panasonic flip with a colour screen and a very grainy camera.
Most of us were still community TV consumers at the time. But it wouldn’t be long before our preferences switched to the individual screens ushering in trends of individual consumptions. The smartphone arrived and raised a storm, and before anyone knew it, everyone had a smartphone in their hand. And no one was talking about what film is on air at 9 pm anymore. Instead, viral videos started to keep us busy.
And that day, it was to take a break from those very viral videos that I had switched on the TV. Work involves too much Googling, YouTubeing, and Instagramming, and I just wanted to not return to it for a while. So, I switched on the TV and was enjoying a particularly endearing film on BBC Travel when I realized I’m missing the like and share button.
It was a momentary desire. I saw something particularly awesome, and I clicked the remote twice. It was a reflex action that ended up changing the channel. I wanted to like it and share it, and was immediately relieved that I couldn’t.
The way I watch something, and the way I interact with what I witness have changed.
It was such a multi-layered eye-opening moment. My brain has changed! The way I watch something, and the way I interact with what I witness have changed. In just a little more than 10 years. And more noticeably – what’s with that pressure to react, to have an opinion, and to want to and to be able to, and to need to share that opinion or reaction with everyone else.
This led to more eye-opening thoughts.
Community interactions have changed. We are no longer watching together. We are watching individually and reacting individually. And ‘sharing’ is the string which connects us now.
The other day, mom WhatsApped me a YouTube link of the film, Little Terrorist, from the other room. You know what I mean? We could have watched it together on TV. But it’s not on TV. It’s on the small screens stuck to our palms.
It’s not to sound as though all other forms of human interactions have been nullified. Instead, I’m talking about entertainment. Entertainment was a community concept. Folk performances, theater, and dance, and later, films were all consumed by a large number of people together. I think that has changed now. And it’s not just because of technology. It’s also because of the way technology has impacted the business of entertainment. More and more number of views mean successful production.
Having possibly sensed the changing times, the LG LCD is now reluctant to perform its duties. It switches off every 15-20 minutes. Sometimes, the remote stops working. Sometimes, when all else has given up, the speaker slide in automatically reminding us of its glory days.
Yesterday, I called the customer care support, and an LG authorized personnel will come to visit the ailing patient this Saturday. We all hope it would be diagnosed with some small inconsequential ailment, and can resume its activities full swing again, soon. From our end, we’ll try to keep up the community watching, and fighting over remote for different episodes more sincerely this time.
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