More bad news from the economic depression.
The most recent “Three Screen Report” from the Nielsen Co. tracks TV watching across the three screens of television, computers and cellphones. The average amount of TV watched a month is a staggering 5 hours a day on average (151 hours a month), up 3.6% from 12 months ago.
As the L.A. Times put it: “Television executives (and space aliens) have the recession and the heightened interest in election coverage to thank for the increase in TV watching. People are staying in and watching the boob tube rather than spending money outside the house….”
And another depressing factoid for those who claim that at least if Americans are watching, they are watching together. There are now more TVs than people in an average American household, suggesting that more and more Americans are watching alone.
This is bad news because Robert Putnam has chronicled how lethal commercial, entertainment television has been to social capital in Bowling Alone. Basically, television has more than consumed all the increase in our leisure time since the 1960s, and is the only activity in which doing more of this is associated with doing less of everything else civicly (e.g., joining a group, or volunteering, or socializing with neighbors). Other activities (e.g., playing an instrument or going to a sporting event) are associated with doing more of other social and civic activities.
And it suggests that David Brooks’ prognosis that the recession may be bad for middle class social capital because it will lead to more cocooning may be true. Note: the NY Times is planning a story for next Thursday (3/5) on the social and civic impact of the recession.