Point & Click...& Click...& Click...& Click...
We recently celebrated a landmark in our history, one that has changed our culture forever. No, not some election, war, or space launch; I'm talking about the 27th anniversary of the television remote control. Yes, The Clicker, The Box; instrument of channel-surfer and couch potato alike. The miracle device that saves us that grueling 15-foot journey to our TV's console channel-changer.
Sure, it makes TV watching easier, but are the side effects worth it?
Some of us don't need another excuse to further reduce our lack of activity. People complain they don't get enough exercise, then use the remote enough to give themselves carpal tunnel syndrome. There must be special circuits inside the box that send messages through the nerves in our fingertips to keep us immobile while the TV's on...probably invented by the Jenny Craig people. Even when there's nothing on anyone with a triple-digit IQ would watch, we cycle through all 137 channels, remote in hand, looking for something worthwhile, and if at first we don't succeed, we lower our standards and try again. ("I can't be paying $40 a month for this!")
Though not scientifically proven with surveys, polls, and court documents, the remote is likely the second most reason for divorce, and probably rapidly gaining on adultery. After all, have you ever see a man fondle his wife the way he fondles that remote. Have you ever seen him go berserk if he lost his wife somewhere? "Oh my God, she must have slipped into the couch cushions! Oh...NO...did the dog take her someplace? WHERE IS MY WIFE?" Nah...such emotions are reserved for his clicker.
The real problem, though, is the effect the remote control has on our collective attention span. We're so comfy with our clickers, we zap ANYTHING that doesn't titillate us for more than 30 seconds: "I was going to finish the debates on CNN, but there's a good 'Seinfeld' rerun I've only seen 17 times..." TV programmers realized this downward spiral in the 1980s, and gave us short-attention-span, lowest-common-denominator, passive-viewing theater like MTV, "Baywatch", and "Nick at Night." And now the Internet gives us the exact same thing: Point & click, ZAP! You're checking White House press releases. Bored? ZAP! You're in Hollywood checking out new movies. ZAP! You're at "A Current Affair" Online, checking out the latest "Melrose" couplings.
But Clicker Culture doesn't stop there, according to phone and cable companies. The future's coming, pals, and it's carrying a Mastercharge. We're shopping through our TVs, zapping clothes, food, and people out of our lives like Captain Kirk zapping Klingons. Will this make our condition worse, as we sit on our collectively expanding duffs, burning out our glazed-over retinas as we surf deeper into the consumer's undertow? Will we turn into a world of reclusive, weak-eyed Couch Commandos that can't concentrate on something for more than 8 seconds?
Will we...er, what was I talking about again?