Maybe if TVs still looked like they did in the 1960’s I might still have one.
No. Maybe if television still ran the kinds of shows as it did then, and in black and white, I would not have felt an urge to “get rid” of our TV.
Getting rid of your television is a big deal.
Stripping away unnecessary furniture and clutter from your home is all well and good. But television’s phenomenal power over us is so subtle I think most people don’t even think of a television set as a piece of furniture. In fact, even I buy into the idea that those super-slim, wall-hung plasma screens are like art on your wall.
And yet getting rid of my television set has been the absolute, far and away, single most stupendously rewarding aspect of embracing my inner minimalist, my purist spirit, my inner wildness.
Adopting a simplifying attitude to your life, de-cluttering your home and stripping away unnecessary material things in your environment gets talked about a lot, because those things are obvious. But as a personal development attitude the concept of minimalism covers much more, including simplifying what you’re exposing your Self to in the bigger picture. And that includes media.
So I ditched television, I listen to one or two radio stations, read one paper once a week and go where instinct leads me on the world wide web.
I feel I have my life back. After several years of not having a TV I feel I’ve already gained millions of minutes that add up to years that would otherwise have been spent watching other people doing stuff. Now I wonder how I managed to do anything at all when I had a TV.
I first thought of becoming TV-free about 8 years ago. This was when I lived in New Zealand where the quality of TV shows is excellent. You get the best American, Australian and British shows plus great local content.
What I didn’t like was my slavish addiction to it. I found it difficult to turn the damn thing off. It was nice escapism. It was company. It kept me constantly ‘entertained’. I felt ‘connected’ to characters in sitcoms and series.
I stopped watching the news – I had read something about detaching from a desire to keep track of the international news media’s negative take on everything. Then I read an article about how TV is like having a stranger in the room who can pretty much say whatever they like. I muted the volume on every ad break – I couldn’t stand the intrusion of commercial hype. (And I was an advertising creative at the time!)
The whole TV abcess burst for me when I became a parent. I didn’t want my child to be a TV zombie. I wanted her to be a child. I wanted her to live life, not watch it. Simple.
So I only switched the TV on while she was sleeping. And then I kept forgetting to switch it on, not least because I became more appreciative of quiet. I can see now that this was a weaning period.
But actually picking up the TV and giving it to charity was an ambition beyond me until we moved countries. I was very attached to my television set. I had had it for years. Buying it was somehow a modern adult rite of passage. But we moved. It stayed, at the local charity shop – and I was so relieved.
I decided not to buy another TV in our new home and see how that went. That was about 3 years ago.
By now I’m used to the horrified expressions on people’s faces when they ask me if I saw the news last night or some other thing on the TV and I say ‘no, I don’t have a TV’. (People talk a lot about what they’ve seen other people do or say on TV!)
I really wish there were more people who didn’t have a TV. I would feel a lot less weird. People are kinda threatened by the idea of someone not having a TV. Yeah, I am dangerous – I have no telly, so there!
Now, please don’t think I’m some kind of guru because I managed to pull out the mass media IV cord and give up TV. I do still occasionally watch TV shows on BBC iPlayer. But since 6 weeks can go by without my having watched any moving picture I have to be prepared for things like sobbing over a scene with Kenneth Branagh in Wallander (which previously wouldn’t have affected me so dramatically) and being scared rigid by Damages because the effect of these dramas is magnified for me.
If you’re beginning to question having a TV, hold my hand and just get rid of it. You will not regret it for a moment. You will feel free. You may have to ride out some withdrawal symptoms, but it’s worth it. And you don’t have to go cold turkey on it. You will revel in your new active, selective viewing. And not accidentally scheduling your life around what time your favorite TV show comes on.
I’m sure there are loads of articles online that outline the benefits of unplugging from broadcast media – you get more stuff done, connect with your family more, talk more, are not mainlined into believing what other people believe, you’re not vulnerable to sophisticated advertising messages, whatever … and the drawbacks do include people thinking you’re a freak, because let’s face it, you are a freak if you don’t have a TV.
Quite apart from all the usual criticisms directed at TV nowadays, desensitizing us to violence and all the rest, as well as being persuaded to buy goods and services we didn’t even realize we wanted so badly before the ad came on, the thing I find poignant about TV is the empty streets and parks of our neighbourhood in the evening, the flickering of TV screens in every living room and people sitting staring.
Not out for an evening constitutional, not meeting each other, not talking to each other No. Sitting in little boxes staring at a piece of furniture in the corner. I find it really sad. But I guess the powers that be are real happy about this state of affairs.
I have to say I don’t agree with you on this one. TV can be a great thing, as long as it is enjoyed in moderation, like everything else. I think we should embrace technology and not fend it off- I just don’t at all understand this ‘Oh, we were so much more happier before TVs and the internet and modern technology’ rubbish. It’s just nostalgia for a nonexistent utopian low-tech world than in reality was not very pleasant.
One thing I agree with though- ads are damn annoying, luckily for me most of the TV I watch is on the BBC, but when I flick over to another station with ads it really gets on my nerves.
15/05/2010 — 6:19 pm
No, I love what you said and really appreciate you making those points, thanks Dylan.
I agree with you entirely.
Some TV shows are brilliant – invaluable even – for lots of reasons. That’s why I really love that technology now allows us to not be passive viewers of broadcast TV but active and selective viewers using online services like BBC iPlayer.
I wondered why you possibly thought of me as someone who wished for a low-tech world (me who wishes she could just implant her darling computer in her right arm!) but I now realize I have stupidly given that impression by saying if TV was like it was in the 60’s I might still have one etc.
My thinking on that point was around my child, really. I was thinking that I would “trust” the TV producers from that era more than I would the ones from this era (especially the ones I’ve known). Definitely nostalgic, you are right, but not to the extent that I don’t love modern movies and TV shows.
I think the people who imagine we were happier before modern technology and try to fend off changes are afraid of everything really. I value how the internet is allowing human connections the like of which has never been known before both in depth and affinity – like you and I right now, for example. It’s amazing!
15/05/2010 — 10:00 pm
Thank you for confirming my decision to ditch the TV. My only diversion is college football and I’m ok listening to it on the radio. Folks need to get a clue that watching TV is mass programming. Its all garbage. Turning off the Tv gave me the gift of time.
15/05/2010 — 11:07 pm
I love the synchronicity of the interwebs!
I wrote about this last week – we got rid of our TV in October, and couldn’t be happier with our decision.
If there’s anything we’re desperate to watch, we watch it online. There’s only been two shows so far.
Thanks for your article! I hope you feel less alone : )
16/05/2010 — 5:46 am
ron ostlund jr says:
What?? No TV???? I grew up without one!! Thats where my creativity came from! I ended up building most of my toys or making new toys from ones I had. I was always rebuilding or re purposing anything I could in anyway I saw fit! And now I am doing it to try and make money instead of playing with toys. Instead of watching tv i tought myself electronics and built a radio. Instead of watching bart simpson (the hotness in that day) I figured out how to rewind motors. Instead of blankly stairing at a CRT absorbing radiation I was cutting wood and attaching motors and making little cars. I built my parents little things that they still have to this day and use! Looking back I think what i did was like the alchemists of their day! I didnt know what I was doing but I experimented and learned! I found out the hard way what happens when you short circuit a battery! I melted the wire right into my skin! OOOWWWWWWWW damn! Oh I learned so much tinkering and playing instead of turning of my mind like these kids and adults today. Wasting there life away with mindless content! Oh I do watch TV just not much! But i am happy i didnt grow up with one!
16/05/2010 — 2:10 pm
*standing on my chair, clapping madly and whistling* Whoop-whooop! YEAH!
Ron, you’re a legend!
I’m so grateful to you for saying all that, and so enthusiastically. See, you also strengthen the resolve of me and other parents who’re raising children without TV.
Plus, you nailed two of my posts in one comment, the other one being “Why have men stopped making things” Excellent! Thank you SO much!
(Also, may I say, your Etsy shop is awesome!)
16/05/2010 — 3:01 pm
Batman Lot says:
Wonderful journey and experience.
19/05/2010 — 4:40 am
Thank you Batman – for everything!
19/05/2010 — 10:28 am
Television is a black hole that sucks your soul into it. The only thing worth watching are some documentaries, which are there not to entertain but to inform. I got rid of tv and im much happier without it. Besides whatever is worth your viewing time can always be downloaded. …
20/05/2010 — 8:24 pm
Meira, you remind me of a friend who years ago said to me, “why are you watching that cancer for the brain”? when I was watching a pretty lame soap opera.
Programs are definitely pandering more to our primal rubber-necking tendencies nowadays. And you’ll notice most current affairs shows can be classed as “victim TV” which is what the TV stations refer to them as – like 60 minutes etc. They know people love victim TV so they get more advertisers dollars for it.
20/05/2010 — 10:02 pm
Even my kids have noticed that after an hour of ‘kid’ programming mixed with loud commercials, we all get a little owly.
I have suggested (not threatened) that we ditch the T.V.
That is met with panic on the parts of my kids. Funny, they don’t get to watch much. One watches golf. One watches whatever I’ll let her.
We’re getting closer. Summer is the best time to ditch!
22/05/2010 — 3:40 pm
I don’t watch television either – I don’t even watch it online – and for most of my life haven’t owned one. My husband has a TV that he uses mostly for his XBox, but when I’ve lived alone I’ve never had one in the house. I’d be quite happy to declutter his but I don’t think it would make me popular 😉
I have never regretted not watching television or movies. I love the amount of time I have to read, to write, to tackle art projects and the like. I’m still quite informed – I read a lot of news, and of course my friends are always telling me about things they’ve seen on TV – whether I want to hear it or not it seems!
25/05/2010 — 2:57 am
All my friends moved to another town for university just like me and only very few have actually bothered to get a TV..
What works quite well for me when I’m at my parents is the DVD-Recorder my parents have. Just have a look at the paper at the weekend, chose one or two movies and make the recorder record them – especially nice for the good stuff they only show at very odd times (old movies, documentaries and the like) -AND it will just stop when the film is over, and you have to act to continue watching, as opposed to having to act to stop.
I think this will work well for people that complain about the program and that are trying to watch less. 🙂
13/09/2010 — 4:57 pm
David Krauser says:
Great and well written! I used to be massively addicted to television, and now I don’t know where I had the time to watch it at all! I must confess, I’m not completely TV free (I still use one to watch the occasional DVD and Netflix), but I haven’t had cable in two years.
14/12/2010 — 11:47 pm
Fed up because you can not see Canadian Television online whilst travelling? Well this video shows you how to easily avoid those ignorant country blocks.
23/04/2014 — 7:00 pm