Sunday, March 02, 2008

I Killed My TV!

Kill Your TVOK...well, I didn't really kill it, but I did do something I've been threatening to do for a couple of years. I cut the hardline. Yep, no more signal getting to any of the TVs in my house unless they are coming via DVD or a related component (I still have my LaserDisc player! :-) We're free of so much of the complete and utter crap being beamed into our house and I have to say it is one of the best things I've ever done. Let me explain.

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
). 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", 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 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)



  • NONE Less 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!


Rob McDonagh said...

I'm with you, especially on the reality TV. I haven't cut the line, but I don't watch anything that doesn't get recorded on the TiVo. And I don't let it auto-record stuff for me, so that means I only get the specific shows I ask for (which turns out to be a few sci-fi shows and the football shows when that's in season). Once my daughter gets older and can program the TiVo herself, I'll have to decide what to do - but the one thing I won't do is let her become a TV zombie...

Congratulations on your bold move, sir!

Mika Heinonen said...

Yeah, I was also thinking what I can't get on DVD what I can get from TV cable. There was really nothing much important, maybe news, but I can see them on the net too.

All movies are much better to watch from DVD since there are no commercials, and you can have your breaks whenever you want, and rewind parts if you missed some details.

And since the TV in Finland switched from analog to digital, the quality has become so horrible that's almost as worse as youtube. I can see JPG style square blocks on plain surfaces and the picture stops for several millisecons from time to time. The TV companies promised to improve it, when all analog channels are shutdown (due to bandwidth they said).

And on top of that we have to pay TV fees, which are so high that I could buy a new DVD every day for the whole year. But now I can, since I have no TV anymore!

Dan said...

Congrats. I think it's a matter of kill it before it kills you. There was an attitude in some hacker circles in the '80s when someone would ask "Why don't you watch TV (play videos games etc.)?" Hacker: "That would be entertainment."

Do, don't watch.

Roland Reddekop said...

Great decision! We disconnected ours 5 years ago for the sole purpose to save some money during the one month period between selling our house and moving into a new one. At first I kept walking over to the TV out of habit and felt a little lost, but then I realized all the things I really needed to do instead. After moving, we just said no to the cable/satellite hassle calls. The only downside is that the guys at work once in a while begin to talk among themselves about their favorite shows during lunch and I just have to sit there. Meanwhile, I just think about how much I can do tonight while most people sit down tune out for the evening. said...

@Chris ... Good for you !!! I wish I had the balls to do it but the rest of the family....I fear it may be too late for them :(

The only saving graces of the "box in the corner" over here is the Beeb which still has a modicum of quality in it programs and RTE which takes it's "irishness" seriously enough to have an Irish Language channel.

What gets me is the gall of the cable and satellite companies charging you £40 a month ($80) and then you sit down for a watch at something any for every hour you get 15 minutes of F*****g adverts. Which you have just paid to watch.. GRRRRRRRRRR!

@Mika .. I am in Salo at least once a year (what customer of ours could that be? :-) ) and i had noticed that your TV was a bit ... odd. I put it down to the shock I got when I bought a pint of beer at the hotel bar !

Elf said...

I rarely watch tv myself. I either record what I want to see, or I download it or buy it on DVD. And even then it happens that I don't take the time to watch it. I've got loads of dvds with the plastic still on.

As you have with your kids, I've experienced that my son has no clue what to do if he can't play computer games or watch tv. However, when I've said enough is enough, he has started doing other things.

But the best thing for me has been that I've almost completely eliminated commercials from my life. That is soooo great :)

Anonymous said...

YAY Chris!! way to to. We have NEVEr had cable UNTIL this past january when, while I was away at Lotupshere 2008, my husband signed us up for it (same price as cable internet was his excuse). We boud 3.5 acres on purpose. Kids shoud be out playing in the woods, the stream, pickig off ticks so that they don't die of a debilitating desease like Lyme . None of this TV crap :)
Mary Beth Raven

Gregg said...

Sounds like the basis for a book. :-)

My kids wonder how I am able to read so many books, and they didn't like my answer: "I don't watch very much television." It is amazing the number of hours you have when you don't spend it on the couch watching TV.

Good for you!

quintessens said...

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

Anonymous said...

Congratulations !
Thats a smart move ... I kicked my TV out of the house 15 Years ago when i started University and never rued it.

You will be amazed on the amount of time you save for yourself and your loved ones :-)

Take care

Joanne said...

Excellent-lee stated :-)

When I think of all the tv channels we have now-a-days... it's hard to believe we grew up with only channels 3, 5, 8, 43, and when my dad had time to climb on the roof of our house to fix the antenna - we'd sometimes get channel 61.

On football nights... my dad got "the tv" - yes... the one tv... ONE tv... only one - until he connected a really old black-n-white tv (I can't even remember where he got it). Then my mom, sister, and I would watch movies like "The Wizard of Oz" on the "big" colorful screen (and big back then was, well, not all that big)...unless it was crappy weather outside...and all we could see was "fuzz" - colorful fuzz....

How o' how did we survive ;-D

tlbriley said...

Instead of watching a tv channel, you watch the DVD.

At first I thought, "I could do that, I love Netflix".

But then I remembered, "Oh wait, that's not going to work for sports. Chris must not watch sports."

No kids, so that's not an issue, although the cats watch it every now and then.

Now if I could find a way to put a lock on anything not sports related...oh forget it.

Go Tech, Go Braves, Go Jaguars!

Eric Mack said...

Intelligent move, Chris.

We did the same things seven years ago and haven't regretted it. In fact, we only regret that we did not shut off the tube when we got married.

William said...

Alright, so I think that the decision made sense. I couldn't do it-The sporting events only come out on DVD years later (if it was a championship season). But the argument is well thought out.

That said, the good cousin in me says that I should rally behind my oppressed poor little cousins. Viva la resistencia! But in order to fight a benevolent dictator, you need an effective strategy.

I mean, my favorite weapon has always been the "You're the meanest Mom/Dad in the whole world." But as kids, one must watch out for the smartass reply, "Have you met every Mom/Dad in the world?"

Others, such as the oft quoted "Soap Poisoning" from A Christmas Story, can also be effective. The key there is to be able to link the actions of the parent with great personal tragedy. The greater the hyperbole the better. e.g. "Dad, because we don't have TV, I have been reading a lot more and I think my eyes are degenerating. Could you pick me up some large print books from the library?" After two weeks of large print, repeat, but substitute "large print" with "braille".

Or, and this probably can only work if you are a boy, buy some fuzzy felt coloring posters. But get the ones with unicorns and rainbows, dolphins are also a plus. Dinosaurs won't help your cause. And Pick up a bedazzling kit. Bedazzle EVERYTHING, the more the better.

When your Dad questions why you are coloring fuzzy unicorns and bedazzling the dog, tell him that you really enjoy these newfound hobbies and hope the TV never returns... If I was a Dad, the next phone call would be to Time Warner. Good luck Blatnick kids!

Ashram said...

That's awesome dude!! In case you ever want to watch some show...try best thing after sliced bread!! Enjoy - Ashwin

JustinDiaz said...

Well put Chris, I enjoyed the post very much! Way to take control, I'm in a similar boat. Under contract for a few more months, but as soon as that baby is up, SEE YA! We don't even watch a bit of it now.

What vodka did to the Russians, TV is doing to the Americans... KILL YOUR TV, GET OUT & LIVE!!

Anonymous said...

Fan Tastic ! The very idea that lots of people out there are actually choosing what a/v they consume is truly heartwarming !!! Here's my boring catalogue (warning: it does go on a bit), hope some1 finds it inspiring: I've had a kind of vague battle with myself and those with whom "I share space with" for approximately two and a half decades. I moved into my own flat sometime in the early to mid-eighties & the guy I moved in with was a telly-addict, so when he moved out I let him take the only tv with him. This was much to the confusion & dismay of friends & family. Eventually my mother bought me a small b&w portable so she could watch soaps when she came over to visit (nice). I eventually got rid of the blasted thing. Later when another mate moved in I got a telly again, but only so I could subsidise my existence with his board money, since he didn't want to live in a building that didn't have a slime-box. When I left the flat & then (a bit later) moved into a place with my (now) missus, she brought a tv with her, & I'd sit there with headphones on listening to music & reading, while she glared at the goggle-box (occasionally, but not too often, there'd be stuff on it we shared a liking for (vhs machines were too expensive at the time, nevermind laserdisc)). I also thought that a certain amount of tv was educationally stimulating for our lil' one every now & then. Eventually tho' as our daughter grew up & realised that tv wasn't a necessity (& my missus gradually came to agree that we spend too much time brain-washing & vegetating ourselves with the infernal device) we got rid of the tv from our living room (our daughter had her own portable for vhs/dvd/video games etc in her bedroom but no aerial attached, she had more than her belly could take whenever she visited friends). We have LIVED now for about 6 or 7 years without the damned things. I do have an enormous collection of a/v from all over the world on various HDDs. (some) TV, (we love (good)) film, comedy, documentary both commercial and independant, and there's youtube, undercurrents, isohunt & many many more other sources to keep one informed, entertained & tittilated for eternity (tho' it'd probably be a bit boring towards the end) Some people think we (me & mine) are barmy, or weird, & I say thx for the compliment ! Hate tv love the internet !