May 4, 2012

Going TV-Free
For much of our time together Linda and I have not had a TV, but we have had one for the past several years. For most of that time it did not get used much. It wasn't because we didn't like TV, but because we liked it too much. We knew to be wary of its mesmerizing, time-sucking qualities.

Since we have never had cable, we usually only had one fuzzy channel, our national broadcaster, the CBC. Our viewing time was minimal.

Then I got the bright idea of hooking up the TV to the cable outlet just to see what would happen. Big mistake - about 10 free channels came in clearly, and they immediately began their near-irresistible screen seduction. We were drawn in and soon the remote was never far away.

As viewing time increased, so did our exposure to advertising, and programming that is advertising thinly disguised as 'entertainment'. HGTV, MTV, and programs like My Super Sweet 16, where clueless kids born into wealth throw lavish, over the top parties for themselves, were perversely hypnotic.

Television pushes 'the good life' on passive viewers 24 hours a day. I didn't like how quickly I became one of those slack-jawed vessels. It was scary looking in to the dark side, a skewed view of the world where everyone wants more everything as soon as possible.

Eventually we started to feel tainted by what we were seeing on our mass-indoctrination device. Advertising and excessive lifestyles - and damn the consequences - plus all the negative news, were like dystopic hallucinations.

We had to ask, "Is owning a television adding quality to our lives?" It did not take long to arrive at our answer - "No."

We changed our minds several times, but when it came time to retire our microwave recently, we garnered our bravery and gave away our TV at the same time. We are feeling much better now.

The time that has been freed up will be spent in activities that do add quality to our lives - listening to music, reading, cooking, napping, getting outside, singing and playing guitar, enjoying nature, gardening, and participating in real life with our friends, family and community.

"So, please, oh please, 
we beg, we pray,
go throw your TV set away, 
and in its place you can install, 
a lovely bookcase on the wall.  

~Roald Dahl


  1. AnonymousMay 04, 2012

    That was a good decision! We put ours in the attick 3 years ago and we have not missed it. First we still watched Bones and Top Gear, but after we while we stopped doing that too.

    I do watch youtube with the kids, but than at least you have a choice what not to watch and we do not have to look at the stupid annoying braindamaging advertisements. Which makes that my kids do not want all kinds of useless toys or overpriced and unhealthy foods in the supermarket.

    1. Congratulations on saving your children from TV! It is bad for adults, but even worse for children.

      You have made a very good choice for you and your family, and one that is not easy to make.

  2. AnonymousMay 04, 2012

    Several years ago I moved back home with my mom. At first I had a tv in my room, but eventually realized that it didn't add anything to my life and gave it away. I haven't missed it one bit. I do sometimes watch our PBS station in the living room. Mostly I stick to my own room known as "Marla World" around here :-) Thankfully Mom is a voracious reader, so the tv has limited use. I don't even like to hear the distraction from another room.

    This week I also deactivated my face book account and got rid of a second email address.

    Too much visual and audio noise seems to keep me from being present and mindful. I actually get cranky!

    1. Way to go on removing sources of mental clutter from your life - so important.

      We are on the same wavelength - this past week we have removed a whole truckload of stuff from our home.

      We are enjoying a quieter home, and are also focusing on being in the moment. Hi to your mom - read on!

  3. My husband is a cable guy. We get the bundle package - cable, phone, and internet - for a very minimal fee (probably 1/4 of what the average subscriber pays!). We never had cable before he got that job (I never had it when I was single either). This worried me somewhat, because I didn't want to be sucked into the allure of 500 channels, and still not finding anything worthy of watching. We watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report nightly. PBS and a few other channels are watched occasionally. We subscribe to Netflix streaming (movies as well as TV shows that are hard to find on channels anymore, such as The X-Files and Twin Peaks, two of my all-time faves). If you're conscious of what you're watching, set a time limit, and don't pay attention to ads (we fast-forward thru them since we have a DVR), I think it could be kept in check. It's working for me so far. :-)

    1. If you have the self-control to use TV, rather than have the TV use you, this is good.

      We have similar tastes in programming. I am finding that a lot of content is available free online, including many of my favorites (no commercials!).

      You certainly give some excellent suggestions for exercising control over your viewing for those who want to change their habits, but don't want to get rid of the TV altogether. Thank you.

  4. AnonymousMay 05, 2012

    I haven't had TV for 3 years and I stopped buying cable about 8 years ago. I can honestly say I don't miss it. I house sit for a friend, and this past summer when I was house sitting I decided to do a little TV watching.

    About the third day I was there I realized was unusually nervous. I just felt incredible agitated. Then I realized that TV was the problem. I shut it off and left it off for the remainder of the week.

    TV is just a bombardment of information, noise, demands (the ads - buy this buy that - even some of the show - home improvement shows and cooking shows for example are just one big ad). It is really too much for me. I don't miss it. I read, listen to music, knit, etc. . . anything but watch TV

    One of the benefits is that I sleep better.

    Thanks for writing and inspiring us.


    1. Thanks Karen - it is a mutual inspiration thing because of all these comments, including yours.

      I like ABWTV (anything but watch TV). There are so many other worthy things to do. Things that are productive and good for your mental health. Not to mention the physical benefits, environmental benefits...

  5. there isn't much on t.v. worth watching is the problem. the "reality" shows with housewives does nothing for society. They give people a very false impression of women. The "survival" shows do nothing but demonstrate how low people will stopp for money.
    The majority of t.v. shows have no story line, are full of ads, etc. The comedy isn't funny. PBS, CBC news, Stewart & Colbert & a few other shows are about all that are on & many can now be picked up on computer so why pay the cable companies money we could save & use for something more beneficial to society.

    1. Am I noticing a growing anti-TV/propaganda movement? I love it!

      Kill your TV.

  6. I grew up without TV (except what I watched at the babysitters, which was a fair bit seeing as I spent a lot of time there). And I really haven't had a TV since. But we do enjoy watching a couple of shows each year (online or on Netflix). Lately it was the BBC Sherlock Holmes series and Downton Abbey, both excellent. And our little weakness - Glee ;-)

    I do find that I spend a bit too much time on the computer though. It's the new TV for me. Between Facebook and YouTube, I waste a fair chunk of time. It could be worse.

    Congrats on getting rid of the TV!

    1. When I was a kid we had long stretches without a TV. When we had one it was usually black and white, and we never had cable. We called it 'peasant vision' back then.

      We also watch programs on the computer, but it is not as passive as turning on the television and just watching the crap that they offer (and no annoying super-loud commercials).

      Cutting computer time will be the next project we work on!

  7. I offed the TV (aka: "The DreamKiller!") about three years ago. It was an expense that I did not need and after making some serious changes in my life (divorce, sobriety, etc.) I felt like I needed to just let it go.

    Best decision ever. My daughter understands that there is no TV at dad's house but when she is with me it is not missed. We actually "do" things. Things like ride bicycles, walk, talk, read, cook and make meaningful decisions based on our own wants and needs and not based on what the television tells us what we need.

    I knew I was out of the DreamKiller loop when I had to ask someone what a "Snookie" was.

    1. We love doing things, which usually entails getting off the couch. Easier to do when not hypnotized by 'DreamKiller'. Your daughter is a lucky gal.

      I saw a study that showed how commercials make us feel like we have memories of things that have never happened to us, and lead us to want their products. Creepy...

      You are definitely on the right track if you don't know what a Snookie is. Nothing to see there.

      Thanks for offing your TV and telling us about it.

  8. AnonymousMay 13, 2012

    I have not owned a TV since I left home to go to university. I am now in my mid-40s. I think life is too short to waste sitting in front of a tv set being bombarded by mass marketing messages, and in any event I will have plenty of time to sit in front of a tv when I am old and lacking in mobility, if I so choose. Although I suspect that even then, I will probably prefer sitting in front of a computer, controlling the content that I am exposed to.

    In any event, upon reflection, even if I did own a tv, I would never have time to watch it....I am too busy with other things, and I am continually amazed at my friends who seem to be able to watch hours and hours of it every day.

    1. Most people 'don't have time' to do things like exercise or spend time with the kids, but spend hours, like you say, watching TV.

      It's an addiction, and one you seem to have avoided.


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