Friday, March 28, 2008

TiVo review: for better or worse (Part 2 - Viewing Habits)

Welcome to Part 2 of my review of the TiVo experience. In Part 1 I described how easy everything was to set up. It is definitely easy to get everything up and running out of the box. It's not all a bed of roses beyond that, though, if you're not prepared -- it can change your viewing habits and behaviour.

I'd grown accustomed to Springsteen's old "57 Channels and Nothin's On" when it came to watching TV. There are a couple of shows I enjoy watching to the point that they can hold my attention. Beyond that, though, I would often simply put on The Learning Channel, Discovery or news as background noise (or some ridiculous reality show if the mood struck) while going about doing other things...occasionally a tidbit on the tube would catch my eye, I'd pay attention for a minute or so, then I'd turn my focus back to whatever I'd been doing.

Not any more.

If you have a relatively busy schedule and a few regular shows you'd like to watch but can't always squeeze in, you could be heading for trouble. Even if you're not that busy but have a longer list of viewing desires, you may be on the same path.

When it's so easy to set TiVo up to record things for you, you can quickly wind up with a backlog of those shows that can hold your attention, ready to watch when it suits you. In that case, any time that there's not much to watch on "live" TV, it's all too easy to watch one of the shows that's been saved for you.

By the time a couple of weeks had passed, I had a backlog of several hours of shows I could watch. I'd recorded them, so all were of reasonable interest to me. The first evening I had to sit back and relax to do the random things I do, it was all too easy to start watching those recordings. By the time the third show was on, I'd noticed the difference: During that time where I'd normally do my thing with the TV as background filler, instead everything on was attention getting. Those other activities and passtimes were left pretty much untouched that evening.

With my attention back in the real world, I took a bit of time to reflect.

If you don't take the time to pay attention to what you're doing and what you're watching, it's all too easy to miss out on those other activities -- it's very easy to simply focus on those shows that were interesting enough to record, since they're now easily at your fingertips.

Unless you want to spend hours on end watching TV, take a moment to evaluate what's really of interest or of importance to you. TiVo's a great convenience -- use it responsibly.

The programs I'm really interested in, well they're still readily available now. It didn't take me long to filter out those shows that would have been more interesting than others -- if nothing else had been on.

There's an initial reaction to focus more intently on a show you've recorded by the very act of you choosing to play it back -- you're in control, you can fast-forward through commercials and whatever else, and so it has your attention. Once you're aware of this tendency, it's relatively easy to reclaim that time for yourself -- enjoy other pursuits, be more in the "Here. Now." and not miss out on things in life and the real world which could just as easily be filled by "57 channels, and there's always something on."

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