The Symptoms Behind Cord-Cutting
When we cut the cable TV cord two years ago, I thought we were trend-setters. However, judging by several conversations with people younger than me, we were late to the party. An increasing number talk about how they long ago cut cable or satellite service.
In its place, they watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, computer clips or any other variety of video options. Video and smart phone games are likely part of the mix for the younger guys.
And, with the recent cover story in Time magazine about the onrushing developments in virtual reality, one can envision increasing fragmenting of audiences.
Worst Loss Ever
Given such developments, I wasn’t surprised to see the recent story in Variety about cable, satellite and telco TV companies recently suffering their worst-ever quarterly subscriber decline.
During the three-month period that ended June 30, more than 560,000 customers “cut the cord,” creating more pressure on companies involved in the pay TV business.
What’s more, the number of households cutting cable and satellite is seven times the rate it was a year ago. It is still miniscule, at 0.7 percent. Yet, as I learned during the years my work involved keeping up with the stock market, it’s the percentages that make all the difference.
“That may not seem like a mass exodus,” the magazine quoted analyst Craig Moffett, “but it is a big change in a short period of time.”
Now, I am all in favor of cutting cable. It freed me from some time-wasting habits, such as checking pro football results on Sunday afternoons (a relevant topic with the NFL season kicking off this week).
And, every month when there is no cable bill to pay—a charge that kept creeping higher like algae-feeding amoeba—I appreciate the small relief valve for our budget.
Yet, there is another development to this trend that disturbs me. I believe it is yet one more indication of the increasing loss in our nation’s shared language. In fact, coupled with the ever-increasing assortment of distractions, I see it as a threat to the welfare of our republic.
The loss of social glue is particularly disturbing. I see it as a major reason for the increased class and racial divisions, polarization, and other negative developments in American society.
Since we can’t understand each other, we spend most of our time talking past each other. I fear where this all will lead.
Lower Social Capital
Harvard professor Robert Putnam addressed this loss of social capital 15 years ago in his landmark book, Bowling Alone. In it, he reviewed such megatrends as more people bowling than ever, but fewer participating in leagues.
Over the 25-year period he studied, fewer people belonged to fewer organizations, meet with friends less, and socialize less with family.
If that wasn’t disturbing enough, earlier this year Putnam released his newest book, Our Kids, which traces an “opportunity gap” that sees fewer people able to move up the economic ladder.
Given the far-reaching nature of this problem, I can’t offer solutions in a short space. But I do believe one will come from rediscovering the value of community. Not just in trading cable service for some other viewing options, but turning away from our screens—no matter what their size—to spend more time in real-life, human interaction.