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News Link • Self-Help: Rational Living

The Personal Television Revolution Is Horrifying — And Brilliant


But now that the shared TV experience is declining, many thinkers want it back. Only now can they appreciate its value and see what it gave us: The communal bonding that occurs when people sit down and watch the same thing.

We’ve begun a steady migration to personal screens, be they iPads, Android phones, or laptops — and to personalized programming, algorithmically selected content suggested to us on Hulu, iTunes, and YouTube. Just last week, Netflix announced a slick new tool that lets each member of your family establish a separate profile on a shared Netflix account, so that each of you can receive personal recommendations.

Netflix profiles are just one of the superpowers I’ve craved in my pursuit of perfectly customized TV. But I’ve begun to realize that overindulgence in personal television can leave me feeling isolated from those I care about most. Several times a week, my wife and I will share a couch but lose ourselves in different screens. We’re physically proximate, but to some extent, we’re off in our own worlds of personally chosen video games, sitcoms, documentaries, dramatic series, and so on.

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