Being Television-free


When I ditched TV ten years ago, it wasn’t for moral reasons. It wasn’t because I was worried that TV was rotting my brain, and it wasn’t because I couldn’t afford the cable bills. It was, purely and simply, a time-management decision. I never would have gotten through grad school if I had continued wasting spending 3 or 4 hours a day in front of the tube. But it took me awhile to pull the plug because I honestly believed that I loved TV. As a latchkey kid, I’d grown up with television, logging 25+ hours a week. The television was a pseudo parent and friend. Even after ten years of living television-free, I still can’t ignore it. If a TV is turned on anywhere near me, I am helplessly drawn to it.

So, when I canceled our cable account, I braced myself for a long painful withdrawl process. I fully expected to wander the apartment as a half-crazed shell of a person desperately longing for TV veg-out time. But it didn’t happen that way. After a few days of no TV, I kind of…forgot about it. Incredibly, I preferred quiet evenings spent reading (note: grad school = lots of reading), surfing the web, or talking to my husband. I also liked getting my homework done. And now, ten years later, I’m using what would have been television time to do stuff that matters to me like writing this blog, talking to friends, hanging out with my family, gardening, or fixing stuff around the house.

Turning off the TV had other unexpected perks. First, my outlook improved. Now, when I do watch TV (on airplanes, in hotel rooms, etc…) I notice how negative and degrading some of the shows are. And even though I still enjoy an occasional wallow in the reality show mud pits, after a few hours of it I feel pretty gross. Television exploits negativity because it is a downward spiral from which there is no escape addictive. Take a look at this blog post and ponder how your psyche might be impacted by television: Have You Fallen for these 7 Negative Attitudes Pushed by the Media?

Second, since I stopped watching shows with ridiculously good looking actors who live in beautiful homes, wear incredible clothes, have perfect hair, and enjoy outrageous adventures, I find myself increasingly satisfied with my own life. Not that I don’t still fantasize about being an international spy with amazing karate moves, but those daydreams are on my terms and I have them with both feet firmly planted on my own Walter Mitty-ish turf.

Third, I don’t watch commercials, so I don’t even know about all the stuff that I should want. There are whole boatloads of Chinese consumer goods that I’ve never even heard of. And more importantly, my child doesn’t know about these things. If he watches a show, it’s on DVD, so no commercials, no nagging me to get that plastic thingamabob. No TV = less nagging, that is a scientifically-proven fact:

In 2001, the Nag Factor was used to influence an estimated $300 billion in sales. That amounts to over $4,000 per pestering child per year.

I eliminated TV because I was time starved. The tube was a non-essential and getting rid of it was an easy way to gain a few hours a day. But the decision turned out to be a great lifestyle-enhancer. If you are considering doing the same, here are a few websites to check out:
Trash Your TV! The Complete Guide to a Television-free Lifestyle
Unplug Your Kids
Escape Your Television — Diary of an Addict

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