On demand and on your ownSince we got NTL at Christmas, I have stopped watching TV. This is because it now requires three remote controls to operate the TV. If I was single, this would probably not be a problem. However, with a three and a half (god forbid we'd forget the half!) year old and an adult with short-term memory deficiency in the house, the chances of all three remote controls being in the same place at the same time are nil. So what do I do? I don't get mad, I get online.
Why sit through a whole news bulletin when a quick scan of the headlines can sift out the best stories? Why waste half an hour of my life watching a soap when an online source can relay the damage in a few lines? And what about multi-tasking? I can watch a news report whilst writing an email whilst trolling a message board whilst waiting for an MP3 to download! And if I really want to watch that soap, I can do it where I want, when I want.
So why do I still feel like I'm missing out? The Internet offers every (and I mean every) aspect of entertainment on demand, in any room of the house, at any hour of the day or night. If the water cooler kids are talking about last night's episode of ER (I have never seen ER), I can go and check it out on my lunchbreak and join in the chat. What's the problem?
For me, the missing ingredient is the timing and its communal consciousness. It's the comfort of knowing that, at 7.30 on a Monday evening, the nation is sitting down to watch Coronation St with their bellies full and the sun slowly setting in the west. We are doing it together, the way it should be done. And Saturday evening telly can only be watched on a Saturday evening with a curry and a few cans of beer, and the knowledge that we are all nodes in the great Saturday evening telly-curry-party network. Who would have thought that slouching on the sofa, watching X-Factor on your own could be such a shared experience? It's because you know that there are others out there, millions of them, having the same feelings at the same time, and you can store up all of those feelings and share them out with everyone else later.
I look forward to getting sucked back into another round of Big Brother, once we ditch the remote controls.