Amusing Ourselves to Death

Jan 12, 2024

As relevant today as when it was written decades ago. The need for amusement in all aspects of an individual's life is to their detriment. Awareness and action must then be taken.


While originally about the rise of television and it's pervasive ideal of entertainment in everything, society has since advanced to create more disruptive forms of entertainment media: bigger, more vibrant TVs, Social Media & Short-Form content platforms designed to maximize user engagement. The prevalence of entertainment has never been greater, and so the following has never been more relevant.

The medium in which information is conveyed matters. Where the Age of Typography fostered a culture of reading, thinking, and engaging with complex concepts, the Age of Television and Beyond fosters mindless consumption of information as entertainment, and in so doing devalues the very information it is conveying.

It is then no surprise that information conveyed through entertainment media has little permanence and is rarely actionable, and so has little outside of it's entertainment value. But it does all it can to ensure the watcher is engaged and continues to be. Television becomes the lens in which you view the world and in so doing inhibits you from other, more constructive pursuits.

The pervasive nature of entertainment is such that it has worked its way into all facets of life: news, politics, shopping, and discourse, to name a few. Distinct lessons are then taught to the observer, not in anything meaningful, but that sequencing in education is unnecessary, that which is difficult should be avoided, bite-sized snippets of unconnected and irrelevant matters are crucial, and that this new product is just what you need.

Actionable Takeaways

  1. Evaluate your use of media critically to discern whether or not it is excessive and has overstayed it's welcome.
  2. Limit exposure to entertainment to ensure that it does not become excessively pervasive.
  3. Engage with slower forms of media that are focused more towards education and allow for comprehensive digestion.
  4. Seek depth in education, through increased time and effort spent, for better understanding and permanence, such that what is learned can be later applied.

Favourite Quotes

To engage the written word means to follow a line of though, which requires considerable powers of classifying, inference-making and reasoning. It means to uncover lies, confusions, and overgeneralizations, to detect abuses of logic and common sense. It also means to weigh ideas, to compare and contrast assertionsm to connect one generalization to another.

Neil Postman

Almost all of the characteristics we associate with mature discourse were amplified by typography, which has the strongest possible bias toward exposition: a sophisticated ability to think conceptually, deductively and sequentially; a high valuation of reason and order; an abhorrence of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response.

Neil Postman

How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken, or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve?

Neil Postman

The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining, which is another issue altogether.

Neil Postman

In courtrooms, classrooms, operating rooms, board rooms, churches and even airplanes, Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.

Neil Postman

It is simply not possible to convey a sense of seriousness about any event if its implications are exhausted in less than one minute's time.

Neil Postman

Television is the soma of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.