"American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television, more than any other activity except sleeping. By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching TV." -- The Kaiser Family Foundation
"You watch television to turn your brain off and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on." -- Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer Pulling the Plug
On September 2nd we cancelled our cable service and are now a no-television household. The set is still there if we want to watch a DVD or video, but the actual connection to the outside world via TV is gone.
I'll admit, the first couple of days were weird and we did miss it. Although my husband and I aren't compulsive tv watchers, we've had a long-standing ritual of sitting down around 7 p.m. and letting the busy day melt away by watching a show or two...or three or four depending on our level of fatigue. Ever notice how it sucks you in when you're especially tired (read: vulnerable)? James and I began to observe how we were numbing ourselves with tv and the ease with which we slipped into mindlessly watching one show after another, even when we weren't particularly interested.
What about "good" TV like the Discovery Channel or PBS? TurnOffYourTV.com has this to say: "All TV is passive, sedentary and non-experiential. Most viewers tend to watch show after show--not individual programs. Instead of watching a documentary about birds, go out (with binoculars if you have them) and see how many real birds you can identify in your neighborhood." The purpose of National TV-Turnoff Week is to leave behind judgments about the quality of television and focus instead on creating, discovering, building, participating and doing."
So, what is different for us now?
Well, the immediate difference is that we read more. A lot more. We have more conversations in the evening, go to bed earlier and rest better. My husband would frequently fall asleep in front of the tv after a long day. Now he goes to bed, which is where one should be when they're worn out, isn't it? We are beginning to work on creative projects. I spent one evening just sorting my jewelry then made an earring holder out of an old frame with a window screen glued to the back and hung my earrings on the screen. This might sound deadly boring, but was so satisfying and I can now locate earrings easily. If I'd watched another re-run of Bones or CSI, my earrings would still be all over the place. After years of wanting to try mindmapping, I got on mindmeister.com one evening and created five different mindmaps: my website, my youtube channel, my finances, my weightloss goals and personal life goals.
Oh, and one very unexpected benefit. I eat less!
In the interest of full disclosure, I have watched the current episodes of Modern Family and The Office on hulu.com. And you know what? It wasn't nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be. I imagine even that, too, will end eventually.
What we've lost in mind-numbing "entertainment", we've gained in freedom over our brains and our time plus a whole lot more quiet.
What about you?
Could you live without your connection to the television?
SOME SCARY FACTS ABOUT TV
Number of 30-second commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000
Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
Percentage of children ages 6-17 who have TV's in their bedrooms: 50
Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500
Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66