Response to - Questions for those who have given up TV
I responded to a post list night. I spent a considerable amount of time writing the response, and I'm not sure the author has seen it. Additionally, I think this an important subject that should receive more attention, so I am re-posting my response.
My wife and I have been without a TV for about 4 years now. I don’t miss it. We have a small 15” TV that we can get out if we want to. I pulled it out to watch the debates and election results. It was left out for a few nights and I turned it on a few times to see what sort of “programming” was popular. I seriously can’t understand what people are watching it for. I realize that I used to be one of the drooling tv zombies, so I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but seriously, people need to cut free of it. To say it’s dumbed down entertainment is an incredible understatement.
Let’s talk about two aspects of your inquiry. First, what does it take to get off of this addiction? It’s not easy. It’s like a cow that grazes in a pasture, giving up grass. There’s nothing else to eat, and so she goes hungry until she finally decides to return to grazing. If there were something else in the pasture to eat, say corn and oats, then she might be ok. When a person spends four hours a night watching TV, and then suddenly stops, what do you suppose that person can do to occupy his mind? You’ll quickly find that your house is not set up to keep you engaged in stimulating activities. This is a bigger problem than you might think. You will soon be asking yourself, “What did people do before TV?” The answer is, that before TV, nobody had TV. Now, everyone does except you. 200 years ago you would walk outside and find your neighbors engaged in work or play, but always there to talk to. Today if you walk outside, you’ll see the giant big screen shining out of your neighbor’s window as he feeds his face and allows his mind to be programmed while it rots in his scull like a big soft tomato on a dried up vine. Finding something for yourself to do is difficult when you and your family are the only ones looking. For this reason, I recommend not going cold turkey. There’s no point in it. Sitting in a quiet room listening to crickets is not much better than TV, and it’ll frustrate you. You may not make it this way. Be the cow that gets the oats first.
The proper approach is to cut out an hour a night for the first month, then cut out another hour on the second month, and so on. There’s a rule here though. Be honest with yourself. What time do you normally sit down and start watching TV? If it’s 5:00, then start by cutting out 5:00 to 6:00. Don’t cut out 3:00 to 4:00 when you don’t even watch tv in the first place. Now, let’s suppose that you normally start watching at 5:00. So for the first month, no TV until 6:00. Don’t play the game so that you can watch until 5:00 and then have to stop until 6:00. Next rule: don’t start by cutting the late hours first. Don’t allow yourself to watch from 5:00 till 10:00 and then cut out 10:00 to 11:00. The whole idea is that you’ll start to find ways to fill your time besides watching TV. You won’t do this if you wait until 10:00 to pry yourself away from the tube. You’ll be too tired, and even if you do turn off your TV at 10:00, you won’t do anything but wait for bedtime. Cut the early hours first and allow yourself to start filling your time with other interests. You may find, after a couple months, you can simply cut out the TV altogether. Also, don’t fool yourself into believing that the news is actually edifying, and good for you. It’s not. You don’t need ABC news telling you about a puppy caught in a sewer pipe, and a bus on the other side of the country that got a flat on the e-way. Read your news online. It’s better news, and takes less time.
The second aspect of your inquiry is the benefits. The rewards are amazing! Of course my interests are not going to excite you necessarily, but let me tell you a few things that I managed while working 40 plus hours a week this past year. I bought a property last year that I completely gutted. I replaced the downstairs floors including the joists – water damage. I moved the front door, I added a sliding glass door where there was a man door. I moved a window, I am rewiring the place, I took out a wall and replaced it with a 16ft beam to make two rooms into one. I replaced the dining room ceiling joists. This, and more, I did to this house after getting home from work this past year, and after spending time with my kids before they went to be at 7:00. In addition, I kept the grass at this place mowed while keeping up the yard at the house I am living in. I installed a furnace in my garage. I do my own work on my vehicles. I have replaced two radiators, a water pump, a fuel pump, and did minor body work on my car. I am cataloging herbal remedies and learning to identify local plants with medicinal qualities. I plan to spend time this spring hiking through several area woods to practice identifying them. My wife and I have my mother over every Wednesday night to eat with us, and to spend time with the kids. I just got home from dropping her off at her house as a matter of fact. My sister and brother-in-law stop over every Wednesday too. It’s a small party every week. On Saturday evenings we have friends over. We sit in my heated garage till about midnight talking about current events and how Obama is ruining the country. I built a chicken coup at the property that we are fixing up, and I bought 30 chickens to raise for meat last spring. I made feeders out of 50 gal barrels so that they would have food for up to three days if I couldn’t make it out there. I bought a horse trailer and rewired the lights, and use it to haul material for the house I am working on.
I could go on, but I think you get the drift. If you watch 4 hours of TV every night, then you waste 1460 hours per year. How many days is that worth? Well, don’t simply divide by 24, because, although that will tell you how many days you wasted, it’s not really a good representation. Your TV watching time comes out of your waking hours. There are not 24 hours a day that you are awake. If you sleep 8 hours each night, then there are 16 hours that you are awake. So divide 1460 by 16. That’s the equivalent of the days you are wasting. It would be like having 91 days a year that you could spend any way you like. Are you beginning to see how TV is steeling your very life away?
An added benefit is that you escape the programming that occurs to the TV watchers. You’ll begin to feel like you don’t belong, but it’s a good thing. You’ll have different views because yours won’t be influenced by Hollywood and the popular news media. You’ll watch others continue to be desensitized by TV, and you’ll wonder how they can be so base, cruel, and uncaring. It takes a while for the divergence to happen. But in a few years, I promise, you’ll notice it.
Finally, your brain will begin to function better, while others continue to decline. I always considered myself to be of average intelligence. That has always been a fair and honest assessment. I don’t mean to brag, only pointing out the truth because it needs to be said here. My performance is in the top 10 percent at work. I have had the job I am working at right now for a relatively short time, and I am getting rave reviews, and offers for promotion from several directions. I don't think I have gotten any more intelligent. I suppose I am staying rather sharp by keeping my mind occupied, but the other side of the coin is that everyone else's mind is dulling from lack of use. The difference is striking. Like I said, I have never been considered exceptionally smart. But I think people are getting that impression of me as they contrast my work to the work of others.
In conclusion, I would like to say, that I have not stopped watching movies. My wife and I will often watch a movie on Saturday night, and sometimes we’ll watch two a week. We’re not legalistic about it. We might even watch a show on a weeknight on the computer too, but our lives are full enough from having broken away from TV that we don’t need it, and fill our time very well without it. When we watch something, it’s because we want to see it; it’s engaging or interesting. We’re not watching it because nothing else is on.
This took some time to write, so I hope it edifies. I hope it encourages and not discourages.