I've never been a huge TV fan myself. There are certain shows that I think are great, but by and large I've managed to not get sucked into the routine of TV (you know...crashing on the couch and turning on the set to watch anything just because you're tired or bored). DVRs have certainly brought about a great revolution in how people watch TV. I've had one for several years and they've helped filter out a lot of the junk. Even so, in my mind, ever since the advent of the reality show and the preponderance of news programs that seem to focus on nothing but the worst in humanity, TV is like a portal to the land of stress and brain rot.
Don't get me wrong. I think there are some shows that have a lot of value. I always liked stuff on PBS, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, etc. Plus, there are excellent sci-fi shows ("Firefly", anyone?), dramas, and so forth. Hey, I'm far from a prude. I must confess a love for shows like "Family Guy", "South Park" and yes, even "Drawn Together" (oh man does that show try to offend every demographic possible! :-D
But...and this is a big but...I think the majority of what is on is just not worth my time to sit down and consume and this goes double for my kids. As parents, my wife and I never let the kids sit and veg for hours in front of the boob tube, but as they've gotten older, the shows that they want to watch have started straining the limits of what I want them to see. Reality shows are really what broke the camel's back for me. Most of these shows feature completely hollow, vacuous people that are held up as examples of celebrity and success. I am trying to raise intelligent, thoughtful and caring children and most reality shows glamorize the opposite of this. I have no illusions at this point that my influence as a parent is the main one in their lives. Basically, as soon as they hit school, their peers become a huge influence on them and I know this. It becomes my job then to counteract the negative stuff as much as possible and guide them in making appropriate choices. Having these crappy shows readily available at the flick of a switch (and let's face it...they seem to *always* be on) doesn't help, so one motivation for turning TV off is to remove the temptation. Another motivating factor is that TV is addicting (good article
here). I started to see the kids want to switch on the box whenever they felt like there was nothing to do. Rather than cultivate this behavior, I wanted to teach them to find other ways of entertaining themselves.
Last summer, we did an experiment and disconnected the satellite box for three months. I told the kids that they weren't going to just sit around and watch TV all the time and that they needed to figure out other activities to occupy themselves. Honestly, the first four or five days were hard for them. They kept complaining about how bored they were. We soon started to see, however, a change in what they were doing. Once they realized I was resigned to carrying out my plan, they did start finding new forms of recreation. They started playing games together, they went outdoors a lot more ("I'm going outside to play"...wow, it was great to hear that so much), and they devoured even more books than usual (we're very happy to have instilled in them a love of reading since they were small). It was a great success to have them break the TV habit so quickly and we actually kept it off for longer than just the summer. Once the long, cold winter came, though, they all (my wife included) talked me into hooking it back up. I did so reluctantly, and with a promise that I would be returning to this experiment soon enough.
Unfortunately, I was under contract to Dish Network until the middle of January this year, so I resigned myself to waiting until the time expired. After returning from Lotusphere, I did the deed. A brief call to customer service and then a slightly longer call with the folks that try to retain you did not deter me and soon my goal was achieved...we were TV free!
As expected, there was some initial resistance on the kids' part, but we did avoid an all out mutiny. I do recall comments like "You've ruined my life. Now I can't talk about shows with my friends!", but otherwise it wasn't too bad. :-) We're now a little over a month in and I am very happy. My wife seems happier too. She watched a lot of news before, and like me, the general tone of the various news programs usually left her grumpy, if not all out pissed about a certain news item. We've been making frequent trips to the library to stockpile books and the kids have plenty of time to do homework, play their sports and participate in activities, all without feeling that they are really missing anything.
Oh yeah...one more great benefit. I'm saving about $70 a month not paying for cable or satellite service. Cha-ching!
Lest you think that giving up TV means giving up watching the shows you like, think again. Between internet downloads (iTunes and the like), services like Netflix and the general availability of so many TV programs on DVD, you can still get your fix of quality programming, all without the channel surfing (which tends to waste *a lot* of time) and the insidious commercials. We've been enjoying watching "Firefly", "Buffy", "The Profiler", etc. We also watch movies as a family, something we've always liked doing, especially since I built a home theater in the basement.
To recap...killing off the TV has been a huge success for my household. For those of you that like lists, here are the pros and cons in bullet form:
- More time to spend on fulfilling activities with the family
- Less stress from TV news and related programs
- Immediate monetary savings
- Less exposure to brain-dead, rich, silicon-enhanced bimbos (for the kids)
- NO MORE COMMERCIALS!!!
NONELess exposure to brain-dead, rich, silicon-enhanced bimbos (for me ;-)
(Editor's note: Before the advent of the Internet, I might have listed missing out on popular culture/being less aware of the zeitgeist as a con, but being connected in an always on world certainly negates this con).
Wow...I didn't intend to ramble on so much, but I wanted to write this as much to chronicle the experience for my future self as to perhaps inspire some other people to give it a try. It really does feel great to be free of TV and I don't think we'll ever go back!