Allow me to act as if I can peer into your living room or wherever you are watching TV on this Christmas Day.
Odds are, someone in your family received a tablet – an iPad, an iPad mini, a Kindle Fire, a Samsung Tab 2.0, a Barnes & Noble Nook HD, a Microsoft Surface.
And someone, or someones, are now watching TV with a tablet perched on their lap. In fact, you may well be reading this on your tablet, watching Dr. Phil or the Knicks-Lakers game simultaneously on the big screen.
This phenomena – fiddling with a tablet or smartphone while watching TV – is known in the business as "media stacking." According to Nielsen, nearly 90 percent of us media stack at least once a month, nearly half of us media stack daily, and more than a quarter of us media stack multiple times a day.
Considering how many of you either gave or received a tablet today, I have a feeling these percentages will zoom in 2013.
Media stacking: Evil or good?
But as with all behavioral challenges wrought by technological, media stacking has its pros and cons.
I just spent a week with my own family, for instance. Each night, someone would turn on the TV. But instead of fighting over what to watch or the remote, I noticed all my siblings were clutching tablets, paying more attention to Scrabble or Free Cell or Web surfing on the small screen. The TV relegated to soundtrack rather than main attraction.
Instead of constant bickering, the room was silent except for the TV sound and a few stray glinks and pings from the tablets.
The quiet was nice.
Except when someone tablet-distracted did speak, it was to get caught up on what was going on in whatever we were watching. I was the most experienced media stacker in the room, pretty good at paying attention to the activities of both screens. As such, it was up to me to keep my siblings appraised of key action and plot points – a role I soon grew tired of.
"Either watch the movie or play Scrabble – not both!" I scolded.
It occurred to me that someone in a media-stacking family ought to be appointed a designated TV watcher – the one person who couldn't media stack and could keep everyone up-to-speed on what was going on on the TV – as least as far as movie or TV show is concerned.
Sports on TV, however, practically screams out for media stacking. A tablet or smartphone can provide up-to-date statistics, answer questions about players or resolve disputes while the game plays out. Media stacking adds immeasurably to the normal give-and-take of group game watching.
Personally, I feel naked without a second screen in my hands or lap while watching a bigger screen a few feet away. If I'm not playing games, I work – check email, research, even write – I'm tapping this out while watching a PBS documentary, for instance.
You can, like me, grow proficient at paying somewhat equal attention to both tablet and TV – as long as your media stacking tablet activity is limited to surfing the Web, e-reading a book, checking email or playing a game.
Periodically, though, I actually watch a video while watching TV.
For instance, we were watching the Star Trek movie marathon on SyFy (a fellow NBC Universal property) last weekend and my wife asked me about the new Star Trek film, Into Darkness. When a commercial came on, I muted the TV and played her the Star Trek: Into Darkness trailer on my iPad.
I'm not alone in this dual video media stacking.
According to a recent report from Ooyala, a video streaming company, tablet owners spent 71 percent of their total tablet video viewing time watching videos 10 minutes or longer, while 30 percent of total tablet viewing time was spent watching content over an hour long.
With all this tablet TV over Internet video watching, some of it has be going on while we watch TV.
That's right, many of us are watching two things at once on two different screens.
The scary thing is this dual video watching trend is growing – the overall share of tablet video viewing grew 90 percent in the past six months, according to Ooyala.
Which means more and more of us will be doing dual video watching. I don't know – maybe all this media stacking multi-tasking will serve to increase our mental acuity. Or shrink our already short-attention span. Make us more attentive. Or, make us less attentive.
Or, our tablet video watching will increase to the point where we don't even bother watching TV on a TV anymore.
In all events, enjoy your new tablet and Merry Christmas.