By Cece Jane
Seventeen-year-old California-based Cece Jane regularly reports on sports and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times. This is her first look at the way teens consume TV for Cynsiders.
On an average Tuesday night, after finishing my homework and going to track practice, I always make sure to relax as I watch “TV” before I go to bed. Night is really the only time I watch TV during the week. But the concept of “television” has changed so much that I am not sure what to call what I perceive as “TV.” Sometimes I watch “TV” on an actual television with DirecTV, but that is usually with my Mom. I watch Netflix on a television and mostly on my computer or iPad. I watch YouTube on a computer or my phone and movies from any electronic medium where I can find them, and TV shows on any of these devices. I seem to use the term “watching TV” as the process of watching a screen (not an interactive screen – more on that in a minute) of any electronic device.
For example, I watch Parks and Rec on Netflix with my mom while I relax on the couch. While I “watch” this show, I will also be scrolling through my iPhone looking at photos on Tumblr, or scrolling to see what my friends have posted on Instagram or Snapchat; at the same time I will be texting multiple people and snapchatting many more. While the traditional TV is on, I am interacting with a multitude of people at the same time, quickly switching between media (Tumbr, Instagram, Snapchat, text) as I view, post, and reply. “Watching TV” for me basically means having background noise on a traditional TV set while I am on my phone. On the occasions in which my phone is dead, watching TV feels so odd. I’ve noticed that my perception of “watching TV” is listening to something that relaxes me and makes me laugh, while I do something else on my phone.
Most of the time I am not actually watching the TV, which means I’m also not watching ads. Ads that are not straightforward usually catch my attention. For example, ads to get teens to stop smoking tell a story that is interesting and talks directly to teens, and also surprises you at the end with the message. Another example is ESPN, which has an ad featuring L.A. Dodgers player Yasiel Puig ad that is highly comedic and highlights a celebrity athlete teens relate to.
Teens no longer watch TV to see a story. Of course, we listen to the plot and follow along, but TV is no longer as much a single version of entertainment as it is a way to relax and feel carefree as you consume interactive content on your phone. Even when the TV show is over, I continue on my phone for another hour or more prior to falling asleep. I answer texts and Snapchats on my phone for many hours until I finally fall asleep with my phone under my pillow.
When I watch television with my friends instead of my Mom, we are all on our phones. Everyone is eating and talking while “watching TV” and interacting with our phones at the same time. When watching TV in person with my friends, they are so talkative that I cannot even hear the TV. One might ask, “Why do we even have the TV on?”
When I really think about it, I realize that TV is comfort. When the TV is on, I would say I feel safer. When my friends and I get home from a party, or from being somewhere, and it’s late and the parents are sleeping, we turn on the TV right away … always. When you get home late, and your parents are asleep, by turning on the TV it does not feel so silent. It feels as though it’s daytime, and there’s no need to be scared.
I feel that the old way of consuming shows/movies is always going to be important. There’s nothing like watching a movie on a big screen TV, or even better yet, at the movie theater. The large screen allows us to enjoy as a family an experience together, not as separate entities. But I see in the future fewer actual televisions and a radical change in ads. I think we will see a proliferation of more platforms like Netflix, where everyone can watch their own show when they want, alongside others who are watching that they want.
The Simpsons once suggested in an episode that there will be a chip in our head for viewing. Perhaps there won’t be an actual chip, but I can see viewing becoming more individualized, with ads that speak to my interests directly – just like Facebook does.
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