The Truth About TV at University

Eleanor Metcalf 12 November 2013

As a baby-faced fresher, one of the questions my mum asked on my first skype call home was whether I watched any TV at university. Back in the Stone Age when she attended Cambridge, having a TV was an easy way to make friends: everyone would crowd into a room and watch University Challenge together  every week (it seems some things never change). But for the majority of students nowadays, TV is available anywhere at any time on laptops/phones/iPads using online catch-up services: very few people even bring proper TVs to university any more.

Paradoxically, despite being instantly accessible, TV has become less of a priority for students, serving more as a distraction from work than something for which people set aside allocated time. Walking through the library, I spy at least 3 people with 4od or YouTube up on their laptop – but ask your friends to spend an hour after dinner watching Homeland, and they’ll likely opt out, pleading work as an excuse. TV has become a solo activity; a snatched half-hour spent flicking between iPlayer and Facebook in bed before falling asleep.

But the isolated nature of modern TV-watching means that occasions of shared viewing have become even more special. Last exam term, my friends and I made a point of spending an hour or so together after work watching a few episodes of The Thick Of It. Hearing Peter Capaldi swear solidly for 30 minutes was an oddly cathartic way of relieving revision stress, but more significant was sharing the experience with friends. Cambridge can be a lonely place to live, especially in Easter term, and watching TV in a group is a low-effort but enjoyable way to stay social even at the most stressful times. For that reason I refuse to take any criticism for my continued love of Made in Chelsea. It may lower my IQ, but it always raises my morale.