What Used The Darling Ones To Do?

Back in 1964, when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published, Mike Teavee’s obsession with being on TV, led to him exiting the scene with this Oompa Loompa sung verse (add “adults” to the mix every time you see the word “children” and substitute “TV” with “social media”):

“The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can’t–it serves him right.”

A good question: “’What used the darling ones to do?”

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love it for the ease of connecting with others. I hate it for the timesuck and addictions it has spawned.

On the hate side, I find myself channeling the Oompa Loompas, asking, “How used they all did share? Aside from the books our darling ones did read, how did they share? How did they learn about those books?

Think about the wheel, perhaps one of the most popular backlist bestsellers of all time. It was good. It solved a problem. It got shared — all without the Michelin Man and a marketing team.

How? The wheel didn’t explode on the scene, as readily available in one part of the world as it was in another during the same era. It grew in popularity. According to Smithsonian.com:

Researchers believe that the wheelbarrow first appeared in classical Greece, sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C., then sprung up in China four centuries later and ended up in medieval Europe, perhaps by way of Byzantium or the Islamic world.

Maybe a few different individuals had wheel ideas sparked around the same time. Wouldn’t be a first. But . . . There wasn’t a mother sharing her son’s invention on Facebook, telling her friends “You gotta get yourselves one of these.” It got around on its own, picked up by others who recognized its value, perhaps with the help of a father whose life became the envy of the other dads due to the increased amount of work he could accomplish.

While social media has made sharing easier, allowing us to connect with the rest of the world, I often think about what would happen if people stopped trying to connect with the rest of the world and instead spent their time 1) creating value and 2) sharing value, rather than generations of Mike Teavee’s creating crap and sharing crap. Sharing would be a slower process, but that might not be a bad thing.

Going back to what the darling ones did do has its positives.


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  1. Joel D Canfield on September 11, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Poor Penelope.

    If we could just learn to use tools wisely instead of giving in to the Dark Side so easily.

    I read 2 or 3 books a week when I’m reading fiction, about 1 a week if I’m doing nonfiction. If it’s in my head it probably came from a book.

    But without social media, how would I have ever come to know you, Cassie dear? Or to count Shawn as a friend, though we’ve never met?

    And I’ve met upwards of 3 dozen online “friends” in real life who’ve lost their quotes and become just friends.

    We cannot uninvent social media. We cannot go backwards.

    But we can go forward better than we have thus far.

  2. Maureen Anderson on September 11, 2015 at 6:53 am

    One of the things I most loved hearing about our college kid’s routine? How often she puts her phone away to read. She’ll love this post, Callie!

  3. Mary Doyle on September 11, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Laughed out loud reading this one! I agree – Social Media giveth and taketh away. I probably spend less than fifteen minutes a day on FB, and I don’t have a Twitter or Instagram (or whatever the latest thing is) account. But I think Joel raises a good point – I’d have missed a lot of great posts had I not had access to you, Steve and Shawn through your blogs. It’s definitely been a win-win for me! Thanks Callie!

  4. Brian on September 11, 2015 at 7:27 am

    It is decided. Kelly and I are watching the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tonight!

    This week I started consulting for a new startup, that happens to be a networking company designed for military and veterans. I think the idea could be powerful for military/veterans/companies…my job is to build the network from my own network of contacts/connections etc.

    Founder said, “We have found FB to be the best way…”

    I don’t have a FB account. I have a LinkedIn, but that’s it.

    I told him that I’d try my method of emailing and calling my friends to ask them to join. Certainly slower than a 140 character post, but at least a phone call is true connection.

    Called one of my former troops yesterday, we chatted for 30 min while I was driving and he said, “Sir, thank you so much for calling. It was great to hear from you. Send me the link, I’ll join.”

    I think that is how the darlings used to do it. Slow, deliberate, but the action was more personal.

    My cyber vernacular may be stunted, but I do not consider this site to be ‘Social Media’. I do get an email every Wed/Fri (miss the Monday “Lion’s Gate” BTW), and this is usually the first thing I read in the morning.

  5. Curtis on September 11, 2015 at 7:45 am

    When I was in school one prof. was fond of reminding us.

    “The wind is indiscriminate. Even a fresh breeze tosses up its share of irritating dust, even trash.”

    ” Yeah, Dr. Boyd! But, how many more pics of half eaten lasagna
    do want rolling through your timeline?”

    Callie, thanks for giving it it’s rightful name.

  6. BING on September 11, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Interesting responsives. My wife and I do not have a TV because we both turn into those kids whose eyeballs fall on the floor. What shocked me a week ago was I know a wonderful smart fourteen year old boy who does not know cursive writing. His writing looked like an old man’s writing, all shaky looking. All his classes this year are done on the computer. I’ve heard that penmanship informs the brain on many levels.
    Thanks Callie,

    • Mary Doyle on September 11, 2015 at 8:59 am

      Bing, I tip my hat to you and your wife – I wish I had the guts to get rid of my own TV. As for cursive, it’s going to become an arcane art form. I’ve been told that it is disappearing from the public schools.

      • Marvin Waschke on September 11, 2015 at 4:55 pm

        But maybe not. Cursive is easier than printing for computers to convert to type.

        I’ve lived in front of a keyboard for close to 50 years, but I still think a pen, pencil, or stylus is a better tool for writing than a keyboard, although I don’t care for paper.

        I have a cheap Windows Tablet running W10 and Office. I use the W10 handwriting interface with Word to give my arthritic fingers a rest. It works amazingly well for me. The interface has some quirks, but you get used to them.

        I think on-screen and bluetooth keyboards for tablets are a lame kludge. But a handwriting interface works. It’s civilized– just a stylus in your pocket and your tablet. You don’t need a desk or a lap. You can write on your tablet standing up or lying down. And my Palmer cursive hand is more reliable than block letters. This could catch on, and cursive could rise again!

  7. Sonja on September 11, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Oh this is great! Stephen King says in On Writing that his imagination took root having lots of free time and no TV for long periods. This from the master himself…:)

  8. Erik Dolson on September 11, 2015 at 11:32 am

    The impact of this unplanned, uncontrolled, and enormous experiment on the psyche of human society may be far worse than we can imagine.

    The mechanisms that create bonds between people evolved over millions of years. We are changing them within less than a generation.

    Parents preoccupied with gadgets, and rejecting bids for physical and emotional contact by children from birth to about 36 months, raise ambivalent and avoidant children who will pass their disabilities on to future generations.

    We are looking at a future of planet-wide attachment disorder.

  9. Dick Yaeger on September 11, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    If TV vanished, what a fright,
    I’d miss nothing. It is no lie.
    But Thursday, Sunday, Monday night,
    Without NFL, I’d surely die.

  10. Dave H. on September 14, 2015 at 1:43 am

    As the father of a teen, pre-teen, and a seven-year-old, I battle this daily. We did get rid of cable & satellite, and now just have on-demand streaming service. This alone has cut down our TV watching. However, we all tend to fill the down time with personal electronics… me included.

    So I am very cognizant of the time I spend on electronics at home, as well as do my best to balance the kids’ media presence. The best idea we’ve had is to just get out of the house! Anything, even long drives.. away from free wifi.

    In many families, I also find it’s an easy distraction from more pressing family issues and conversations. But that’s another issue…

  11. richarlison on November 7, 2023 at 6:02 pm

    You can learn more about live TV on channels like Sat 1 Live to see how diverse it is.

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