Sometimes I envy the people who don’t have televisions. I definitely respect them. Somedays I wish I could be just like them, especially when I listen to the song “Throw It All Away” by one of the best bands ever, Toad the Wet Sprocket:
burn your tv in your yard
and gather ’round it with your friends
and warm your hands upon the fire
and start again
But alas, I do have a TV. A nice one. With cable. Maybe I really don’t believe that TV is evil. Or maybe I’m just too weak to be television independent. Perhaps a little of both.
I do know this: TV is easy. Not only as a way to unwind, but as a way to get lost. According to a 2009 analysis by Nielsen, the average American watches approximately 153 hours of TV every month at home. That’s over 5 hours a day, or 35 hours a week. Again, that’s the average. That means some people are watching even MORE than that.
Here’s a guarantee: ask anyone how much TV they watch per week and it will always be less than the reality. Not because they’re lying, but because it’s so easy to lose track of time when you’re watching it.
It can be awfully hard to be mindful about how you consume mindless entertainment.
I watched about 6 hours of TV last week. I know, because I actually kept track. (Seinfeld and Parenthood have been recent regulars.) Most of it is watched on DVD or online with limited or no commercials. After a long day, sometimes that’s all Kim and I have the energy for. But I can’t help but wonder if I couldn’t have put at least a few of those hours to better use.
Provocative sales expert Jeffery Gitomer has been quoted as saying, “How much money did you make last year watching TV?”
I think that’s a pretty interesting question that cuts to the heart of the matter. Some people might chafe at the question, claiming that there’s more to life than making money. For those people, I’ll rephrase it.
How many people did you help last year watching TV?
Or how about this:
How did you make the world a better place by watching TV?
I’m not advocating that we all burn our TVs in the yard. But assuming you don’t watch anymore TV than the average American, what could you do with anywhere from 5 to 35 extra hours a week? Could you take some classes to make yourself more employable? Spend more time having a real conversation with your kid? Start that business? Write that novel? Compose a masterpiece? Learn how to cook? Read through the Bible? Volunteer to help your favorite charity?
Interesting questions worth wrestling with.
Great post Jason. My husband and I first turned off our cable when we were getting out of debt w/ the Dave Ramsey plan. As a result of that experience we came to realize how much of our free time we spent in front of the tv. Since then we have put our cable on hold for the summer months of March-September. This time has allowed us to read those books that continue to pill up on our night stand, work on projects around the house and spend time outside. It has become a great blessing in our marriage and life.
I wonder what would happen if the entire nationwide television system went down for a week or two. It would probably be weird at first, but I bet people would find new stuff to do. I wonder how many would be inspired to change their ways after tv came back online vs. those who would slide back into their same routine?
Watching TV does provide entertainment and relieves us of our boredom. However, we have become lazy of looking for others ways to entertain ourselves. There’s much we can do if we give our creativity a chance to flourish, and one way of doing this is to turn off the television. :-)
I have not had TV for almost 7 years. Due to having children (and not having much money) I decided to forgo TV. We do have a television and when I’m just trying to get dinner on the table after a long day at work in the winter an episode of Dora on DVD makes dinner possible in 30 mintues. I love our Sunday night movie night with my girls cuddled on either side watching classics like Singing in the Rain, Pollyanna, or Dumbo. But I am very happy my girls (4 and 6) can’t just turn on a TV and watch what is on (mostly bad stuff anyways).
Ah, Sunday night movie night sounds cool. I can’t wait to watch some old classics with Lucy when she gets older. I think a big key with television and kids is watching it with them. Too many kids these days have TVs in their rooms and get free reign to watch whatever they want, which I think is very dangerous…
Here’s a vote for TV! I was recently watching Life on the Discovery channel where they have the fabulous scences of wildlife in nature. It’s amazing. Enchanting. Eye-opening. And I’d never see it without TV. I also have learned a lot about history and other cultures with the TV. TV is like anything else – use it in moderation. It can be a source of fascinating insight to the world around you – it all depends on how you use it. :)
Totally agree, Shirley. (Probably why I still have one.) I caught a neat show on History the other day about Abraham Lincoln. t really gave me a new appreciation for all he did for this country!
For many, the TV has become (at the very least) an ambient, background element of household living. It’s as if, when the TV is off, that something is not right — too quiet, some sort of discomfort. I believe it’s a good conditioning practice to get more used to the TV being off first, then to better utilize that free time with it off.
Thanks for this post and your insight.
Dave, good point. I think we as a society are becoming ever more uncomfortable with “quiet.” Not only just auditory, but visual and even activity as well. We’re bombarded with images and our schedules are jammed with activity. I think we all need more work at practicing quiet. (With the possible exception of cloistered monks.)
P.S. I like the “Renegadism” thing you’ve got going on your site. Rock on.
I understand what you are saying Jason!
I think it would be a great idea to just get rid of both our TV’s but my husband would have a fit. ;-)
I am reminded of a book “The Berenstain Bears & Too Much TV”
I read to my daughters – and we did take a week off from the TV – we had some good long walks & trips to the park. :-) Trips to the Library and Zoo.
But now – we have too many computers – and the kids spend way too much time on the computer. :-/
Thanks for the comment, Sarah. The nice thing about being the parent is that YOU get to decide how much time the kids spend on the computer ;) Glad to hear you had some good times during your weeklong TV break!
Lisa Braithwaite says
I wrote a little rant defending my TV habit, directed at those who judge and look down their noses at us TV-watchers — “Standing up for television:” http://twitwall.com/view/?what=070E060D0A
Like Shirley said, there’s a lot to be learned on TV, and I love it for that, and I love it for what it brings to my blog. But I’m not going to say I only watch TV for educational purposes. It’s a form of entertainment I enjoy. It’s not my only form of entertainment, and it’s not the only thing I do in my spare time.
So nope, not burning my TV any time soon!
Thanks for sharing the link to that post. It was an eloquent way to show a thoughtful, healthy and responsible use of television. Also a great reminder that TV is not an all or nothing proposition. Were everyone as mindful about their viewing habits as you, I doubt we’d have ANY posts decrying the “evils of TV.” Hopefully this post (as well as yours) serve to get people thinking about where they sit on this issue. As with most issues, I’m not so concerned about WHAT people choose as long as they are thoughtfully aware of the choice they’re making!
I went off cable a few years ago to save money and am now an “antenna TV” watcher. Once I went off cable I was shocked to realize how much I had just been channel surfing to see “what might be on” when I could have been doing other things (even reading a book). I don’t watch as much now and tend to watch some of the crime shows and a couple reality shows that hold my interest. When I travel, I sometimes “check back” on cable but rarely find something that’s really interesting to watch.
Channel surfing = America’s number one sport.