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.