The Prune: It may seem remote, but change is just a click away

THE PRUNE CHANGES the channel with his remote submitted photo

by Todd Sharp

How many of you were the human channel changer?

The family remote control.

I was restless and jumpy, so it was my job to spin the dial to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Flip Wilson,” “60 Minutes,” “All in the Family,” “Laugh-In,” “Emergency” or whatever show we were going to watch next.

My parents sat back in comfortable chairs and my brother and I laid on our bellies in front of the TV with the dogs and cats. After a show would end, dad would command a change in channels and I’d scramble up to the TV set and “click” the knob to one of the three choices we had available — 2, 5 and 11, with the antenna focused always toward Green Bay.

Now, we get thousands of entertainment options and each choice can be selected with a simple remote touch of the button. Each media provider offers hundreds of choices and channels.

Hulu, Amazon, Google TV, Apple TV, Showtime, HBO, ESPN, CBS, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN — a gigantic bowl full of awesome alphabetically stirred soup to sift through.

It’s more complicated now.

Sometimes I wish we still had only three channels, one daily local paper delivered to our door and one scratchy AM radio station to listen to. Somehow, I think we may have been better informed with less.

The openness and expanded choice for all forms of entertainment and news has offered us an infinite opportunity to absorb and explore the world through someone else’s lens and storyline.

Yet, many times, the media channels we “click” reinforce what we already are interested in, agree with and know all about.

With so many targeted media outlets choices, I fear we are becoming myopic in our understanding of the world rather than expansive.

As our options have multiplied, we have focused on less.

We singularly press on issues and ideas, and surround and insulate ourselves instead of expanding our empathy and trust to be more inclusive.

How many times do you seek out, read, watch and listen to subjects you know absolutely nothing about?

As a diehard Packer fan, I don’t think I’ve spent much time reading up on the intricacies of the Minnesota Vikings. I find myself reading more about Aaron Rodgers’ love interests than expanding my knowledge on the tedious, confusing concept of opposing teams’ defensive schemes.

Who’s got the time?

I’m sure the Packers players and coaches are constantly changing their channels and seeking out everything they can on their opponents’ views and news; soaking in everything they can to best understand the opposition’s viewpoints.

Where is the serendipity of looking through the paper, turning the page, reading all the headlines and finding an interesting topic which you know very little about?

That is vastly different than doing a Google search or watching a channel you already have interest in or know about.

How do we get out of this vicious circle of only consuming what we already know?

I’ve always been restless. I’m going to be “clicking” my soft-soled sneakers on the sidewalk to Ripon Drug and get a copy of the Sunday New York Times.

I will serendipitously read each article with little or no expectation of what I already think I know, and spend the rest of the week identifying ways my life changed and viewpoints have expanded from consuming something new.


Editor’s note: When not spraining his finger from pressing his remote,Todd Sharp is selling advertising for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.