Although the internet is beginning to close in, television is still my primary distractor. It's a big problem when I am feeling particularly lonely. Books are fine companions, but sometimes I really want the added noise of voices on the TV. Some days, like today, I'll hardly watch any TV, but others, I may get sucked in. It was a bigger problem when I had a DVR in my old apartment in Atlanta, because there was always something ready to be watched. Now that I don't have a constant supply of desirable programming, my viewing time has decreased, but it's still often more that I'd like. I think about the piles of books that are constantly growing and I cringe at the wasted time.
Confession: The source of some of these thoughts can be found in the book that I am currently reading. The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn. Although I am only about half-way through, I have already changed my attitude about television. I have never thought it to be a great thing for small children in large quantities, but this book gives extensive scientific and anecdotal evidence of the damage caused by excessive (or even moderate, in some cases) television viewing by young people. I will go into the book in greater detail when I have finished it, but I would like to share one rather obvious observation at this time.
According to Ms. Winn and others, a significant amount of the damage caused by television viewing is not necessarily the programming or the act of viewing itself, but rather by the lack of other activities which have been displaced. Certainly, the author does discuss some damages caused by various aspects of TV itself, but many of the problems stem from less time spend reading, playing, thinking, and socializing. This made me think.
What am I not doing when I watch TV? Exercising? Reading? Writing? Socializing? Organizing? Photographing? Crafting? Blogging? Sleeping? The list goes on and on. I often watch when I am feeling extremely tired, so exercising may not always be the answer, there are plenty of other quiet, low-impact activities I could engage in instead of turning on the TV and plopping onto the couch.
These new thoughts have spurred a radical idea. When I move to Austin, I might skip cable in my apartment. Crazy? Perhaps. I've already decided to forgo a DVR, but why not take it another step? I could certainly save money. I'm not suggesting that all TV is bad, or that I'll give up on it entirely, but why not cut back? Most of the shows I might really care about are available online if I must watch them and I might even find that I don't miss them at all. I'll probably keep my Netflix subscription as well. I'd like to get to a point to where I watch TV because there is something specific that I want to watch, and not simply because I want to be watching something.
I am going to finish Winn's book and continue to monitor my own TV/reading balance. I may even try to start keeping a TV log. Perhaps I will post it on here for a bit of accountability. Should I establish a guideline for weekly television viewing? A maximum number of hours? And if so, do movies count? This will require some more thought. In the meantime, do you have thoughts on the subject?