One of the main messages in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is that people often trade a meaningful literary experience for the entertainment of television and that the trade often leaves them feeling empty.
Mildred stands as the epitome of this dystopian society which relies on television to fill free time. She and her friends spend the great majority of their time consumed with vapid shows, and they become so obsessed with screen time that they don't care about much else. When Montag tries to talk to them about their husbands going to war, they laugh off the conversation:
The three women fidgeted and looked nervously at the empty mud-coloured walls.
"I'm not worried," said Mrs. Phelps. "I'll let Pete do all the worrying." She giggled. "I'll let old Pete do all the worrying. Not me. I'm not worried."
"Yes," said Millie. "Let old Pete do the worrying."
"It's always someone else's husband dies, they say."
"I've heard that, too. I've never known any dead man killed in a war. Killed jumping off buildings, yes, like Gloria's husband last week, but from wars? No."
"Not from wars," said Mrs. Phelps.
In this brief conversation, the women can't help but grow anxious about the missing entertainment, their eyes turning to the now-empty walls in hopes that their show will return. After this exchange, their conversation quickly turns back to the programs they had watched the previous evening. They are unable to hold a sustained discussion about anything except a world of make-believe and fiction.
On one level, Mildred and her friends feel busy. With their schedule of entertainment, there is always something new to watch and do. Yet there is little to actually sustain them, because their lives are devoid of literature and meaning. When Mildred faces internal conflict, she becomes desperate. She lacks the inner strength of Clarisse, who is an avid reader. The contrasts in these two women is a powerful indication of the impact of quality literature on people's abilities to reason and to truly enjoy life.
This message could be extended in our society today to include other forms of screen time. Bradbury examined his society and determined that "people [were] being turned into morons by TV," and he therefore might be concerned about other forms of screen usage today: smart phones, laptops, tablets, gaming systems, and handheld gaming devices.
Research tells us that those who spend excessive amounts of time looking at screens are overall less happy and more depressed, reminding us of Mildred's suicide attempt in Fahrenheit 451. Thus, Bradbury's reminder to turn off our screens in order to live better lives is a message that has become increasingly important in a technologically diverse society.