Tim Bornholdt

Why Gen Z Loves Closed Captioning

“Everyone does it.”

These were the words from my college-aged daughter when I caught her lounging on our couch, streaming Friends with 24-point closed captioning on. She has no hearing impairment, and I wanted to know what she was up to.

Does “everyone” do it? My wife and I turned to Facebook and a private, nationwide group for parents with near-adult children. “Anyone else’s college student (without a hearing disability) watch TV with the closed captioning on and insist that everyone does it?” my wife posted. Seven hundred responses (and counting) later, we had our answer.

I remember when I got my first TV in my bedroom. I was in fifth grade, and for my birthday, I received a 19” tube TV.

After opening the box and plugging it in, I spent an hour reading the instruction manual, learning everything I possibly could about this amazing machine.

One thing that stood out to me was “closed captioning.” I had never heard of this before, so of course, I enabled it, then closed the menu to see what it did.

I was absolutely blown away. How was this TV able to understand the words that were spoken on the screen and type them out to read?

As I got older, I started to understand why this technology existed and how it actually worked. At the same time, I never turned off that setting on my tube TV.

My friends thought I was weird for having it on, but there was something about seeing the words along with hearing them that helped me process the information a little bit easier.

My wife and I now permanently have closed captions on our TVs. It really comes in handy as we watch Game of Thrones late at night, but even as we are binging The Office for the eightieth time, the captions only enhance the situation.

One thing I appreciate about captions are how different content providers approach them. Some caption the words verbatim, while some (especially, but not exclusively, live events) take liberties with the words they caption.

It’s interesting to see how they are able to take someone’s stream of consciousness from their head and summarize the essence of it for someone to read on one or two lines.

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of captions, and I appreciate the hard work that goes into generating them.