Channel Surfers on the Hunt

September 25, 2008

Channel Surfers on the Hunt
My Proposed Explanation for Why Men Channel Surf More Than Women

The human being has always been an explorer, eager to find out what lies beyond distant plains and far-away mountains. A human’s finest trait is their curiosity and it was what encouraged them, many millennia ago, to spread across the globe. The descendants of these first explorers have carried on their legacy; the world has been charted, and the universe is now greater than a starry sky. Each day new discoveries are made and the future holds countless more.

Before man settled down and allowed his perfectionist nature to flourish through the construction of square buildings and never-ending stretches of tarmac, he roamed the vast expanses of a now lost world, as his nature was—and still is—evolved to do. Back during the dawn of the age of man those men with a hunter’s instincts were those most successful and who went on to father the most children. As our forefathers, their innate nature is also ours.

Though most modern men are not hunters, their bodies and psyches have nevertheless evolved to perfectly carry out a hunter’s tasks. To many it is at first glance an alien concept, but contrary to what many women wish to believe, a man with a remote control in his hand is only true to his hunter past.

One question which remains for evolutionary psychologists to answer is the one which asks why men “hog the remote control and typically channel surf more than women”, to quote Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa’s book Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters. It is an intriguing observation that men and remote controls have such a faithful relationship, and I wish to propose a possible explanation of why this is so.

There is no denying that early men were hunters, and this coupled with man’s curious nature, makes him predisposed to explore. In the ancestral environment—the one in which man evolved—there was no such thing as televisions, or even remote controls. As suggested by the Savannah Principle a man’s (or woman’s) brain can thus not understand that watching TV does not equal exploring, their minds simply cannot grasp that the scenes before their eyes are nothing more but the projections of a back-lit screen. Because a real landscape and one depicted by a TV are the same, as far as a human’s “stone-age” brain can understand, a man derives the same satisfaction from a real adventure as one he saw on TV.

Throughout history man has been an explorer. Though he hardly can be attributed the honour of being the first discoverer of the Americas, Christopher Columbus was no woman. In the human being’s evolutionary past women were the gatherers, the ones who stayed close to home. The most precious of tasks was instead theirs to carry out, that of raising the young, the little creatures that are the point of all human life. Any woman disregarding from the wellbeing of her children, any woman who preferred to roam distant lands in search for prey, was unlikely to leave any genetic legacy behind. The women who cared for their children—and allowed the men to hunt—were those whose genes were the most successful. We are all descended from the men who explored and the women who stayed at home.

I have claimed that men are explorers and women are not, but is that really so? Studies have shown that young men are xenophobic and unlikely to travel abroad, much unlike their female counterparts who desire little else. This was a point raised by a friend, and a point which also appears in Miller and Kanazawa’s book.  What must be kept in mind, when this concern is considered, is that it is not the young single men who slouch in front of a TV. Indeed, those who most commonly are blamed of channel surfing in excess are the men whose fingers are the home of a wedding band.

Young men are believed to be xenophobic because their status, their appeal to women, is closely associated with the culture into which they have been born. Young women, on the other hand, have been gifted with a universal appeal; their beauty and youth will be recognised wherever they go. In traditional societies it is the young women who leave their home for another and the men who remain in the group. This is the most efficient way of avoiding inbreeding and a strategy which has evolved to serve that cause. What is interesting, however, is that once a man has married he is more likely to travel abroad. This explains why the remote control becomes one of his associates and why channel surfing gains such appeal. As young women desire to travel abroad, and find a match with genes vastly different from her own, I believe she derives greater satisfaction from watching TV than does her young male counterpart. Once a woman is married, and has children to care for, channel surfing loses its appeal. The goal of her life has been attained, and nothing is more important than honing that.

Even if the status of a man’s symbols—cars, suits, money etc.—depends upon the cultures of his society, this changes once he marries as a woman’s reassurance of his quality as a mate very well may attract the attention of other women. So, once a man has married he is free to seek mates of a different set of genes in locations far away from where he was born. This, in addition to his hunter past, makes it no surprise that a married man and his TV are good friends. Perhaps they even are best friends as the electronic device allows him to meet more women through the blink of an eye than any other contact in his social network will ever be able to do. For, remember, there were no TVs back in ages past, and any woman a man beholds must thus be real and an opportunity for him to further secure his reproductive success.

Though it brings no relief to the woman whose husband’s mistress is the TV, the men cannot be blamed as it is all part of their hunter past and their genes’ desire to live on for one generation more. As with many aspects of modern life, exploring once filled an important purpose, one which now has become a liability as no difference is made by men (or women) between a real plain and one lit from behind. But as the human brain and its mind evolved in an environment where televisions were scarce, no-one can hardly be blamed for succumbing to the sweet allure of a screen with countless adventures playing before its one eye. In the end, what it all comes down to is the survival of the successful and selfish genes.

However, for this hypothesis of mine—of men’s hunter past and the desire of their genes being the reason for why the TV at times is their best friend—to be true, a man’s nature must also be predisposed to derive satisfaction from other, related tasks. This was a valid point raised by someone who knows their area well, and until it can be shown that men are more curios than women, with a greater desire to explore and experience a change of scenery, as well as a wife being a universal symbol of status, my layman explanation is little more sophisticated than what is the above.