Television makes us spend more. Well, that makes sense. Look at all the ads we’re exposed to on a daily basis. The admen aren’t being paid the big bucks because they don’t know how to produce ads that appeal to buyers. In fact, there’s a tremendous amount of research that goes into details like preferred colors, various voice appeal (loud and demanding versus gentle and authoritative,) amount of movement on screen, and endless minutiae we never even think about-but that reaches our subconscious.
Okay, that’s understandable. This has been going on since Og strutted around with a new style of sharpened stick, trading his inside info about how to achieve the new, streamlined look, in return for a haunch of meat.
Only it turns out that it isn’t the ads that are getting to us, at least not getting at us as much as something else. It seems that we’re envying the life-style of fictional characters. Nobody on television lives in a tiny one-room apartment. Nobody is so busy scrounging for a dollar that he/she doesn’t have plenty of spare time to share fun and games, or drama and danger, with the other characters. They live well, those TV creatures. If the plot calls for buying a new car, they manage to come up with the money-and they never seem to be scrimping in future episodes as a result.
Dr. Schor (Harvard) wrote a book called, „The Overspent American.“ In it she concluded that it really is the shows themselves that have the most influence on us. She conducted a large-scale study on the American habits of spending and saving. Correlated with other life-style factors, she came up with predictable-and unpredictable-results.
For every hour we spend watching television, she decided, we spend an extra two hundred dollars annually. The higher up the living scale a person is, the less likely he is to save anything. The heaviest shoppers turned out to be women with graduate degrees. Dr. Schor feels that might be because they are the most aware of the importance of social trappings (i.e. the clothes make the man. Or in this case, the woman.)
The most likely to save are less-well educated people who have built up their own businesses. They probably don’t have the time to watch TV until they’re firmly established the habit of thriftiness.
A report in JAMA claims that American kids, between the ages of two and seventeen, watch 15,000-18,000 hours of television. They only have 12,000 hours of school in that stretch of time. Watching TV is also linked with child obesity. If it doesn’t help cause it directly, it hinders weight loss.
We adults tend to become depressed from too much television. We’re probably feeling down that we can’t live like those soap-opera characters.