Who leaves their TV on when hosting guests? The answer should be “no one.” Unfortunately, in real life the answer is “lots of people.”
I have lost count of how often I’ve arrived at someone’s home as an invited guest while they were watching TV. Common courtesy suggests that the TV set should be switched off once a guest walks into the room, but increasingly it remains on. Sometimes the volume isn’t even reduced.
Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, is emphatic that leaving your TV on when hosting guests is rude. In her book, Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, she writes that engaging in this practice will “make it clear to people that you expect to be so bored by them that you have taken the precaution of supplying yourself with other entertainment in your presence.”
Miss Manners is right to come down hard. But perhaps she is ascribing too much intentionality. People leave their TVs on when guests arrive because their TVs are simply always on – no matter what. They are not even aware of it anymore. American households watch nearly eight hours of TV per day. And that’s only counting traditional TV – not DVDs or Netflix or other online videos.
If you are in the habit of watching eight hours a day, it’s hard to imagine that there are other people out there who don’t. But they do exist. I’m one of them and I know plenty of others like me.
It’s okay to leave your TV on if the visit was arranged for the stated purpose of watching something together. But if not, there are many reasons why it is important to switch off your TV when guests arrive. For starters, doing so shows basic consideration. It demonstrates that you understand that other people’s needs or preferences might be different from your own.
If your guests are the type of people who don’t watch TV constantly, the noise and flickering lights can be very distracting and off-putting. It can cause sensory overload – particularly from those giant flat-screen TVs that are becoming the norm in American living rooms.
Another reason to switch off your TV is that the content might offend your guests. Even if you think it’s an innocuous show, you don’t know what might be in the commercials or the program that comes on next. This is particularly important if your guests bring their children along. On several occasions, I’ve been hosted by people who left age-inappropriate content on their TVs in full sight of my kids (currently aged two and four.) What were they thinking?
Beyond looking out for others, leaving your TV on also deprives yourself. You could have better conversations and deeper connections with your guests if you switched it off. Loneliness in our time is often described with the term “epidemic.” According to a study by Cigna, nearly half of Americans sometimes or even always feel alone. If you’ve invited other real-life human beings into your home and they’ve actually shown up, you should make it count. Why not liberate everyone from distractions, so you can focus on talking and sharing what is going on in your lives?
Switching your TV off when guests arrive should be automatic. It doesn’t matter how much you leave it on the rest of the day. It’s just that simple.
[Image Credit: Pixabay]
Emma Freire is a writer living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has also been published in The Federalist and The American Conservative.