Putting Television In Its Place

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Suburban stockade introduction Soon after Bill and I got married, we became television less. Our one, lone TV had broken down. Older son, a tot at the time, was finding it increasingly difficult to do anything BUT watch TV. It zombified him. Bill and I rarely turned it on for ourselves. We didn’t have the money to replace it so we didn’t. Older son found other things to do and we never missed it. It certainly freed up time.

banning television

TV underestimates the pleasures of regular, bill-paying, responsible, considerate lives.

This distressed some friends and family: how could we live without a television?!?! A number of years later, we were given a TV by one of those concerned souls. We made the command decision to keep it isolated from the outside world. Our TV is attached to a DVD player, a VCR, a PlayStation II, and a Wii. As the TV is in our finished basement, it cannot receive any signals from the outside world. It can only play movies that we select and games we choose. This has saved us thousands of dollars over the years in cable bills. It has probably saved us even more money because we are not bombarded by constant ads.

Television is never free. It is paid for by advertising or subscription or both. Advertising is designed to make you dissatisfied with what you have. Why would you replace perfectly functional dishes or clothes or cars if you weren’t subtly made unhappy with them? The underlying purpose of TV is to sell you things. The stories are to rope you in so you see the ads. Often, they are for things you don’t really need or are not really good for you. You will notice that there are far more ads for potato chips than potatoes on TV.

Television is educational. Every second of it is educational. The question is, do you want your family to be educated that way. Happy, happy, joy, joy; no consequences or costs are ever associated with the beyond thrilling lives you let into your home. Your own life is so drab compared to what you see, and no-one you know has witty writers feeding them clever, cutting lines. Who could not notice the lack of flavor in the real world?

banning television

TV encourages dissatisfaction with the real world.

TV encourages dissatisfaction with the real world. Why isn’t your spouse as attractive as that TV husband? Why aren’t your children as clever and cute? Everyone is better dressed than you are and lives in better decorated homes. Their problems are solvable, often quite quickly. TV overestimates the dangers of modern lives (how often do you see a car chase through your town?) pounding a news story at you until something bloodier comes along. It underestimates the pleasures of regular, bill-paying, responsible, considerate lives. Those are dull and don’t make for good storytelling. Interestingly, these dramatic lives rarely seem to lead to grief, suffering or psychiatric care for trauma. Again, consequence-free living.

We are always affected by what we see and hear around us. Television can be deeply involving; if it wasn’t, no advertiser would spend as much as they do on thirty-second commercials. Not seeing the tidal wave of consumer goods pouring into my home keeps my own materialistic desires more in check. I don’t feel the need to go shopping just to get something I saw on TV.

Make It Harder To Watch

Our children are all readers and not TV freaks; it is easier to pick up a book than to choose a movie from our collection (which they had seen multiple times before), turn on the vampire-blocking power strip to allow electricity flow to the TV and DVD player and find the remotes. If they want something we don’t own, it has to be requested from the library and then they wait for it. Easier to play outside or draw or read. Not having the TV also meant not having to hear a lot of “I want this” and “I must have that.” It isn’t just cable bills you avoid, and they total up to a lot over the years. It is bills for all the junk being sold on the television.

I think we have the best of both worlds. We can see movies, although not when everyone else does. I have to wait for the library to acquire it. We can even sometimes see television programs, after the library buys a season long set. Does this mean I miss a lot of must-see TV? You bet it does! Does this free up oodles of time for other activities? Oh my, yes. Remember that every hour you spend in front of that set is an hour you aren’t doing something else. It is true you can do a lot of handwork while watching TV; knitting, rug-hooking, needlepoint and the like. But that isn’t much. It is hard to weed the garden while sitting in front of the TV.

I am, by the way, including the television you can watch on-line like Hulu or YouTube videos or tv show streaming. It isn’t that different: someone else is being creative while you passively absorb it. I can see the point of instructional how-to videos. Some things just have to be seen in action to understand how to do them. But after you finish watching the demonstration, you have to do it yourself.

Competing Against the Kardashians

The television is so much a dominating force that it doesn’t get turned off even when company arrives. I have visited many households where the TV is never turned off. The noise is irritating and difficult to for me to hear over. Even more annoying are the constant ads. Worst of all is the realization that the person I am speaking with is trying to watch the TV at the same time. Clearly, I am boring compared to the television. This just seems rude. The barrage of ads and stimuli do remind me of all the reasons why my TV stays isolated, so there is some benefit.

If you are looking for a way to cut back on expenses, disconnecting your TV from the outside world may be just the ticket. Add up all your TV-Related costs for a year, both dollars spent and hours per day. Now think what you could do with that money. Think what you could do with that time. If you are really serious about preparing for an uncertain future, then do you really want to put this much money and time into … what? Watching Kim Kardashian? Talk shows? Other people being creative with food and landscaping? Shoot-em-up cop shows?

Think of it as another opportunity to live what you say you value.

Next Week: Choreographing the Window Dance