Arguing Against Television Addiction

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The Television Habit

Marie Winn classifies television watching as an addictive and destructive behavior, drawing similarities between it and the abuse of drugs and alcohol. On the surface, this claim seems justifiable and arguments can be made in its favor. However it is Winn’s equating television with drugs and alcohol that is ultimately the downfall of her argument, demonstrating a misapplication of the term “addiction” and all of its conditions to television watching.

First, let us define addiction in the sense that Winn interprets it. She claims, “The essence of any serious addiction is a pursuit of pleasure, a search for a ‘high’ that normal life does not supply. It is only the inability to function without the addictive substance that is dismaying.” This claim, made only three paragraphs into the piece, immediately casts doubt on her interpretation of addiction. The addiction Winn is speaking of sounds similar enough to dependence upon drugs and alcohol, but the consequences do not. The inability to function normally without the substance in question is not the only “dismaying” consequence. Alcoholics drink themselves into early graves through liver and kidney failure or elevated blood pressure and heart attack. Heroin addicts frequently overdose as they naturally build an immunity to the drug and require more for the same high. Television lacks any of these direct physical detriments that are associated with addictive substances. The only similarity left when taking her skewed frame of the term “addiction” into account is that television is a pleasurable experience, hardly grounds for labeling as addictive.

But lets accept, for the moment, that Winn’s definition of addiction is adequate. One might respond to my claim that television has no physical side effects with the opposing claim: Your avid television watcher is likely to be overweight and pale, physical symptoms resulting from sitting indoors and watching television...
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