I have read a couple of blog posts recently about not watching TV, reducing TV time, getting rid of one’s TV, so I thought I’d link to them and add my experience.

Is the TV-free life for you? from Surviving and Thriving

Why Ditching Your TV Will Save You More Than Money from Money Crashers

As a kid, I was your typical TV-watcher. Saturday morning cartoons (the ones I didn’t sleep through), prime time sitcoms — I knew them all.

When I got to high school, I was insanely involved: band, choir, orchestra, plays, musicals, sports, art lessons, student council my freshman year. Between homework, rehearsals, practices, performances, games, etc. I didn’t have time to watch TV. When I went to college, I didn’t have a TV and neither did my roommates. By the time I lived in a place with a TV, it was totally off my radar — I didn’t even think about watching it.

I guess you could say that the habit of not watching TV has stuck.

While it occasionally would be nice to have a clue about what’s on for more ease of small talk, I don’t typically regret not watching TV.

A few things about this are interesting to me.

When I tell people I don’t watch TV (or, before I got married, that I didn’t have a TV), the response almost always fell into one of two categories:

  1. “I don’t really watch much TV, either. I just watch [list of shows].”
  2. “How do you live without TV? What do you do?”

I’ve found the first response is similar whether I am telling someone I don’t watch TV, don’t eat meat, don’t drink, don’t engage in whatever activity. I think sometimes it’s a slightly self-conscious or defensive response. “I shouldn’t do that either, but I’m sure I don’t do it much.” Really, I don’t care if you watch TV all day or not at all — it’s not a judgement. But there are things we all get self-conscious about, whether we’re actually being judged or not.

The second response is the one that makes me sad. Really? There’s nothing you can think of that you would like do with hours and hours of your day? Do you want/need to exercise? Like to read? Want to take a class? Pursue a hobby? Spend time with friends and/or family? Cook meals?

I wonder how many of these same people complain that they don’t have time to do other things.

(OK, yes, some judgement there. Don’t watch TV for three hours a day and then complain you don’t have time to do other things.)

(As an aside, something I just remembered… When I was in fourth grade, we had to come up with an invention. My invention was the TV Blocker — basically a TV-screen-sized piece of cardboard (to cover the TV) covered in paper (to make it pretty) with an envelope on the front full of slips of paper of ideas for other things to do.)

I remember several years ago, I was visiting a friend who I’d not seen in a long time — I had moved away and she had moved farther and we were both in town for a visit, meeting at her mom’s. Our visit came to a complete standstill when some reality show came on that she had to watch. I will admit that is something that is really off-putting to me.

When I was going through chemo, I often didn’t have the mental capacity to read. (Chemo brain is real. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.) So I watched a lot of TV. I was thrilled when my brain started to function and I could do things besides watch TV. My minor worry that TV-watching would become a habit was laid to rest quickly and easily.

How much TV do you watch? What else do you do instead? Do you schedule events around shows?


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy on 11 October 2010 at 04:26

    I politely suggested to Jim that we cancel our cable service and was shot down. I also suggested we move the living room television into our room and not have one in the living room at all. I haven’t gotten an answer on that one yet. I’ve been making an effort to not turn it on at all during the day when the kids are up. I’d say it’s off about 4-5 days a week, but I do sometimes use a dvd as a “sitter” for Jake so I can clean while the other two are sleeping.
    Instead of tv we’ve been going to the park several times a week. Jake also has preschool now, and I’m back at the gym almost every day. After dinner we sit and read books. Jim still puts cartoons on every time he’s home. Drives me nuts.

    • Reading books and going to the park are both great substitutions!

      You can save a lot of money axing cable…

  2. I do watch tv – but only if I am doing something else… It isn’t enough to interest me by itself. I used to read A LOT but ED brain took that away — my hope is it will come back, and I have started listening to books and that is pretty good so I think it will

    • I’m sorry you’re not able to read, and I hope your brain comes back, too! (I don’t know what ED brain is.) Mine is still not back to where it was before, but it’s definitely better than it was during and right after treatment.

      I have started listening to audiobooks when I’m driving — makes my commute much nicer.

  3. Posted by Shawn on 11 October 2010 at 15:25

    I watch prett much two things: the Phillies, and Stargate. I can get a season pass from iTunes for Stargate. If only the MLB.TV package could get me Phillies games, I could cancel my cable – but they have some a TV deal where they will only show you out-of-market games. Terrible for the consumer, good for Comcast…

  4. Posted by Lisa on 13 October 2010 at 05:43

    I do watch some TV, though I went through a spell for about three years when I didn’t. I enjoy it though, and wouldn’t give it up. I do have weird TV “rules” for myself though. For instance, I hate to have the TV on as background noise. If it’s on, it’s because I’m focusing on something I want to watch. I also don’t watch TV until after the kids are in bed and I’m “done” for the day. Nowadays I watch mostly Netflix or the DVR so it’s on my schedule.

    It can be mindless brain-fluff (which is fine if that’s what people are looking for, I suppose) or it can be another means of consuming media (not too unlike reading), depending on how you treat it. I’ve participated in some awesome online fandoms discussing, reading and writing about TV shows. Turning TV into something thoughtful and social is fun, too. It’s only the “boob tube” if you make it that, I think.

    • Your second paragraph is a perspective I’ve not seen/heard before and was interesting to read. Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Hi Heather,
    Thanks for the link to Surviving and Thriving. What do I do instead of television? I read, walk, cook, write to friends, do the New York Times crossword puzzle, sometimes go to a play or the symphony, visit the library, and of course meet my day-job deadlines for MSN Money and work on Surviving and Thriving….The days fill up pretty quickly.
    As I pointed out in the MSN Money column to which the S&T piece links, giving up your TV doesn’t mean you can never watch television again. You just change how (and how often) you access it.
    I’ve been TV-free for more than six years. I don’t miss it.

    • There’s so much to do, isn’t there? I still have a list of things I’d like to do that there’s just not time in the day/week to get done.

      Thanks for the comment!

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