Talking while watching TV: The secret art of media literacy

We’ve all had that experience at some point in our lives. We’re sitting at home, watching our favorite show (perhaps a family comedy or teen drama) and suddenly the person or people next to us start a dialogue. A rather LOUD one. You might smile back in politeness, but inside you are really annoyed. You might quietly shush them or try to redirect them back to what’s going on the TV. Or you might be the person who yells at them because quite frankly, you’re pissed off. Any way you put it, your night did not turn out the way you thought it would.

What exactly makes people talk during television shows, anyway? In my experience, I know of two major reasons.

  1. They are confused because they are not following the show, and they are asking you questions to catch up.
  2. Whatever is on screen has caused such strong emotions to stir inside them that they cannot contain themselves. They must speak about it.


I must admit, I have not had as much experience with the first scenario than I had with the second. For the people who have experienced the first, you have my deepest sympathies. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to explain something to someone who clearly IS NOT paying attention. But the second category of people seems different. First of all, we know that these people are paying attention. Close attention. It is obvious by their reactions. They are clearly upset about they are watching. But why?

The reasons are wide-ranging, but I found that the types of people who talk while watching TV most likely disagree with what they are seeing. It may not line up with their life experiences, so they do not relate to it. They may make fun of it because it seems cheesy. Or the plot may not make sense to them at all.

I know that in these situations, as a bystander, we may feel irritated by their reactions. Sure, they have the right to be upset, but they are distracting us from our programming. We feel like we will never have a chance to see it again. But wait a minute; is that necessarily true?

Nowadays, most TV shows are available to watch online the day after they air. So, as much as we think we are missing out on our “TV Time,” we do have other opportunities to catch up as well.

What is more important in that moment of frustration is not the fact that they are talking but instead what they are talking about. What is it about the content that makes them gawk in disbelief? Many shows are meant to a reflection of our lives. But these people do not think so. Why? While they may be loud or even obnoxious in their reactions, they might be raising an important question: are sitcoms doing their jobs? Is what I’m watching an accurate depiction of society? Of family? Of my own life?

Before we give into the urge of yelling at the “talkers,” we should first ask ourselves if they are right in their opinions. If you disagree with them, then say so. If you agree with them, then maybe there is more to the conversation than we realize. Either way, it could be a good idea to join the conversation. You might end up leaving with a few good insights.

With all the shows and other content available on media, it is nearly impossible not to talk about it. Media literacy is taking everything that we see in media and looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes. It goes beyond just watching but actually questioning what we see. Now is the time to start asking ourselves: why do we like (or dislike) the shows we see on TV? And do others agree? The answer might shock or pleasantly surprise you…


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