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TURNING OFF THE TV… FOR GOOD

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself answering a question that, nine months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d be answering.

Before my mum has a meltdown over my not telling her that a) I got pregnant, and b) had a child (I didn’t, and I haven’t), I’ll disclose that for nearly a year now, I’ve lived TV-free.

“You what?!” is generally the shocked response I’m met with.

“I don’t watch television,” I reply. And I begin my explanation hoping the person opposite me hasn’t already written me off as some wanker-yuppy who thinks they’re too good for popular culture. (I think in some suburbs those people are called hipsters.)

It began as an experiment. My man (let’s call him Steve) gently pitched the idea to me one summer evening.

“What do you think about not watching TV for a month?” he asked.

My racing brain knew the correct answer should be a resounding ‘yes!’ but I hesitated. It sounded like a big commitment.

We never really flicked on the telly to watch commercial TV for the sake of it. We’d mainly watch movies and documentaries… the cycling whenever it was on. But we’d grown into a comfortable habit of relying on the box perhaps a little too much.

I imagined post-dinner walks down to the park on balmy nights and adventures to the cinema on Saturdays.

“No TV for 30 days? Not even films?” I tested him.

“I want to unplug it and put it away,” Steve answered. (I promise I could hear in his voice a hint of delight at seeing me squirm.)

Deciding it was best not to over-think the situation, I agreed, and after the last… God-damned. Cricket. Match…aired, our unsuspecting television was ripped from the wall and stowed away.

We rearranged the living room – setting up the furniture to suit the space and our weekends, rather than to face the box.

It instantly felt like a room; more a place for reading and relaxing than fighting with rabbit ears and yelling at cringe-worthy commercials (I have a bad habit of yelling at the TV).

We ate dinner at the dining table. Eating meals became more about the food I’d spent time preparing, and less about the ingenuity of 30 Rock (as ingenious as it is).

We had conversations. And I remembered that while there’s no feeling quite like that of laugh-choking on a forkful of roast lamb at a classic Tina Fey one-liner, an even better feeling comes from sharing a meal with the person you love most.

We read more; period. I’ve read more books this past nine months than I have in the last two years. After spending my days staring at a screen, I’ve found that turning fibre pages has become one of the best ways to slow… down… and… unwind.

But what am I missing out on? Surely there are downsides to a TV-free life?

While I think about the answer to that, I’ll quickly disclose that we don’t forgo all moving picture fun…

We do stream the latest episodes of Modern Family and 30 Rock on the laptop (we call it Ghetto-Vision) as they air in the US. I’ll often be re-quoting Jack Donaghy before you even knew there was a new season…

(Jack: How many Pokemons are there? Zarena: Jack, the plural of Pokemon is Pokemon! And, Liz: How do you sleep at night, Jack? Jack: I don’t. I take thousands of micro-naps during the day.)

I don’t mind this so much because we’re actively seeking out what we want to watch – not flicking on mindlessly and watching ‘whatever’s on’ for the sake of it.

 

Even Liz Lemon’s cheering for my giving up TV…
 

Back to the downsides…

And I’m yet to come up with one. I’m no less able to contribute to conversations socially. Between Facebook and Twitter I know enough about the latest flop reality TV shows, politician fails and sports match victories to get by.

I always know what’s going on in the world because I get news online (and it’s kind of my job to stay on top of it.)

And if I absolutely can’t go on without seeing something that was televised, most networks have catch-up options for online viewing.

You might have worked out that what started as a 30-day experiment has evolved into a lifestyle change.

It’s not that I think I’m above TV. I don’t have anything against people who do enjoy it. Rather, it’s something I’ve realised I don’t actually need.

And in this busy, distracting world of overconsumption, minimising even a little excess ‘noise’ certainly makes for a more peaceful life.

To humour myself, I dug up a few quick facts about television that caught my attention (you can fill your mind with some amazing stuff when you’re not just tickling it with US sitcoms!):

  • Australians spend an average of 100 hours a month watching TV. According to Nielsen, this figure is still on the rise.
  • In 1992, Newsweek reported that TV was used to ‘babysit’ prison inmates. Similarly, it was used as a disciplinary tool and was awarded or removed depending on prisoners’ behaviour.
  • Television can improve learning and cognitive development in children who come from non-English-speaking households and whose parents have lower levels of education. (I, for one will vouch for Sesame Street having had a positive influence on my childhood. I still ‘Sing Myself Silly’.)
  • It was found that introducing cable TV to rural India improved the status of women. Evidence suggests that communities with TV encouraged greater autonomy in women and were less tolerant of violence towards women.
  • In 2009, the Australian Government launched Get Up & Grow: a five year initiative designed to tackle obesity in early childhood through recommending guidelines around eating and physical activity. It is advised that children under 5 spend no more than one hour per day sitting and watching TV.
  • And, if you’re a number-cruncher, Australian researchers found that every hour of television you watch reduces your life expectancy by 22 minutes.

 

Have you considered giving up TV? Have you already?

Perhaps it’s something you might try… just as an experiment?

 

 

hayley-headshot*Hayley (The Hoopla’s Managing Editor) is passionate about publishing positive, real content for women and girls. Her background in marketing, advertising and design has seen her work closely with many brands for women over the past six years, including a collection of titles at Pacific Magazines. She f*cking loves science, cycling, cats, sloths, fibre media, eating and cooking good food, and women doing great things. You can follow her on Twitter: @Hayley_Gleeson.

 

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17 Comments

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Lee-Anne

    Back in the 1990s, I quit television for several years. My life certainly didn’t fall apart – it got better! These days, with TV again, I record what I want to watch, and watch it when I want. Very rarely do I watch something as it goes to air.

    What to do instead of watching the TV? Walk, read, talk, cook, bake, sew, crochet, go to movies, theatre, restaurants.

    Hmmm, which gives a better quality of life?

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Alex

    Ha! Easy. I’ve got the Internet turned off at home at the moment. That’s a change in lifestyle.

    I think I’ll keep going though. I’m getting my concentration back.

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Lydia

    Yes, I agree with Alex – turning off from the internet/facebook etc etc etc would be the hard thing for most people. The tv is really very marginal to our lives now, but what do you do if you have kids? We’ve got a 7yo and she would be quite livid if she couldn’t watch wildlife shows like ‘Deadly 60′ on the ABC (she only really watches the ABC, as I don’t like the commercials on the other channels – last night she wanted to stay up to watch Annabel Crabb doing the swing-state US election special).

    I don’t think that tv is necessarily harmful, if it is restricted to reasonable shows and not too many of them!

    Does that make us one of those wanker-yuppy … er um… sorry….’hipster’ families….? ;-)

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Hayley Gleeson

    Turning off the internet would literally be turning off my income – my work revolves around being online!

    But I do agree that monitoring how much time we spend with media is important. I think it pays to be aware of how, and how much of what we consume makes us feel.

    It’s so easy to fall into habits and grow comfortable doing what we know. As someone who’s highly resistant to change, I think doing stuff like this is important.

    Keep shaking stuff up and observing how you react. You learn a lot about yourself when you push yourself away from your own comfort zone.

    @Lydia: I LOVE that your daughter wanted to stay up for the election coverage!

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Linda

    Enjoyed that article Hayley! I have almost given up on televison myself, mainly due to limited time, but suspect in many ways that both the time and activity have been replaced by another monitor???? But I do still use the TV to watch DVDs.

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Sarah

    I LOVE TV and am just a TV serial nut… but can’t really be bothered watching just whatever’s on. I will correct one thing in this article though :-P Liz Lemon would never applaud anyone giving up TV, she is the biggest TV lover in the world! I think Liz Lemon contemplating the thought of living without TV would probably put her in a state of shock and panic haha!

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Kym

    My grandmother got one of the first TVs in the coutry but didn’t watch so we ended up with it. So my earliest years were with TV. When we moved 9 years ago we left the TV behind and said we would get a new one if we wanted it. We now occasionaly watch DVDson the computer. It is so good to have a living room without a box. When I’m staying with people who have TV, I feel that I’m being screamed at. Rarely do I feel out of the loop though – long live the internet.

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Rhoda

    I turned it off a couple of years ago. Never got the set top box. Much quieter – no ads – no everyday drama to to cluck about – peace.

    Replaced lately by an ereader but up till then with conversation, long walks and books. My husband and I got to know each other again while watching the sun go down. If bored I can always skype the grandkids or play scrabble with a friend on my ipad.

    Bliss!

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    Sarah

    I only just realised that I still have the TV on behind me as I am reading this…

  • Reply November 7, 2012

    JessB

    Ooh, I am seriously tempted by this idea! My parents made the whole household give up TV when my sister and I each did year 12, and thinking back, it was great – after a few weeks to get used to it.

    I just constantly have the TV on, even as I’m writing this. Hmm, something to consider.

  • Reply November 9, 2012

    Amanda

    I inadvertantly gave up TV about a year ago. Can’t remember why initially, but one day realised that I didn’t miss it all-prior to that I watched most evenings and until late. I just decided that most things were missable and even missing the good shows, I thought . . . I’ll get over it. Now do more reading, family interaction and listen to music in the evenings instead. ( I was never a day viewer) Even the kids have forgotten all about it and only want to watch a movie now and then. I have three teenagers. Poor TV just sits there gathering dust and supporting the stereo, which does get hammered! No wish to go back to old ways, life is better now.

  • Reply November 9, 2012

    Adrian

    People interested in this should check out a book by Susan Maushart; The Winter of Our Discconect. She and her family gave up not just TV but all technology.

  • Reply November 9, 2012

    ro.watson

    I think you are on to something here….but checkout “Redfern Now” on ABC…

  • Reply November 9, 2012

    Robin Storey

    Our TV rarely goes on – Friday nights during footy season (for my partner) and that’s it. I work part-time and most of my spare time is spent writing fiction, which is my passion. If I allowed myself to watch TV I’d never get any writing done. And when I’m not writing I’m reading. I don’t feel as if I’m missing out an anything, even at work when everyone is talking about Big Brother or Masterchef (neither of which I’ve ever seen). It does mean I’m often a bit behind in world affairs as I don’t read a lot of newspapers either, but what the hell! I can’t be an expert on everything!

  • Reply November 12, 2012

    Marnie

    Maybe I can learn from this that I should propose a 30 trial first not just suggest throwing it out all together! What fun reading so many books but most excitedly rearranging the lounge room furniture.

  • Reply November 19, 2012

    Thomas Brookes

    I disconnected the TV from the Antenna over 5 years ago. I can still watch DVD movies.

    Why did I do this?.

    I was watching my favourite TV show two and a half men. It is funny witty, well written and I had been watching it for donkeys years. All of a sudden that night, I realised I was laughing at a show about a sexist pig, who spends the entire show putting down and bullying his brother….

    No wonder we have a dysfunctional society… if that is the most popular show on TV.

    That was it, I got a pair of side cutters and cut the antenna lead.

    My partner and I have got used to doing other things… like talking to each other, reading…… I even now have my own researched opinion about things, instead of repeating the propaganda peddled by media TV.

    I now find TV, when I am at friends houses to be quite annoying how pervasive it is… but isnt that the idea…..

  • Reply January 23, 2013

    I SHOP LIKE A MAN

    […] Turning Off the TV… For Good […]

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