Generally speaking it’s good advice for highly motivated students to severely limit their TV intake. The worst thing for a late-night study session is the siren call of Netflix and the knowledge that you still have episodes 3-12 of a new favorite series…
My firm and time-earned advice is to avoid watching TV by yourself. During the semester, you should do your best to not invite the kinds of distractions that binge-watching represent: the endless “just one more” and soul-crushing quality of time lost behind a screen.
TV will not help you with your studies.
It will not build a network.
It will not provide those once-in-a-lifetime stories college years should provide.
All that being said, I still believe that college students should watch TV.
Aside from the debatable benefits of TV as “downtime,” I think sharing TV shows with friends is one of the nicest and easily-achievable traditions you can easily throw together. My freshman year in the dorms we watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report every Monday-Wednesday, and Sunday evenings for that glorious season we watched Planet Earth.
Those evening sessions crammed into a dorm room were formative for my group of college buddies, and lasted (through Scrubs, 30 Rock, The Office, and later Firefly and Battlestar Galactica) right through our college graduation. We gathered for regular Wednesday night TV sessions that often began with TV and tea and ended in long evenings chatting and generally having a blast. Of the core group of eight, we almost always managed to pull together a solid group of six for these TV evenings.
Aside from the TV ritual with that group of friends, I also regularly went to a different friend’s house to watch various movies or TV series (the absolute culmination of this experience being The Wire, which I have subsequently watched in full with two other friends on separate occasions). When a friend of mine moved away, I stretched the art of TV with others almost over the line: she and I would synch up a TV show and then text each other constantly through the episode, and call each other at the end to compare notes. Another friend and I bonded over Battlestar, resulting in several all-night discussions of storytelling, society, and science fiction as a genre. Maybe that’s the nerdiest possible way on earth to sit around and watch TV. But I absolutely would not trade those long evenings for the world.
So I guess the point is that, handled correctly, TV can make you friends.
A shared TV show gives you a shared vocabulary and a regular touchstone activity. It de-stresses and recalibrates. And, unlike TV watched alone (or mindlessly surfing channels), I think the experience of sitting around and watching a show you truly love in the company of people you love is a deeply enriching experience. It’s the consummate storytelling venue for our generation, and modern TV has the capacity to out-perform movies for quality of production and depth of plot (again, I cite The Wire).
So there you have it: the most bookish nerd of an advice blogger telling you to go ahead and watch more TV. Don’t let it keep you from the hikes and snowball fights and mid-afternoon sociology class. Try not to watch it alone. Watch TV with friends, and then get out into the world for some adventures.
So readers, do you agree? Disagree? Do you watch TV with friends? Are you (like my mother) a complete abstainer from the media? And—always a fun question—when you gather with friends for an evening of TV binge-watching, what do you watch?