Is TV stealing your life? 3 ways to kick the TV habit

“So why do people keep on watching? The answer, by now, should be perfectly obvious: we love television because television brings us a world in which television does not exist. In fact, deep in their hearts, this is what the spuds crave most: a rich, new, participatory life.” – Barbara Ehrenreich

How much time do you spend in front of that rectangular box?
How many favourite T.V. shows do you have?
Are they adding value to your life or stealing it?
Have you ever really wondered about the impact TV has on your life?

 

How much TV time is unhealthy?
My TV Habit over the last 2 years is unhealthy.

A grand total of 865 hours in 2 years!  This is not a healthy amount of TV time!

[Editors note] -  I excuse The Big Bang Theory from the above list because it makes me laugh out loud. And because laughter is healthy, 20 minutes of laughter here and there is a good thing.

 

How much time do you have?

Yours will be unique to you, but below gives you a rough idea how much time I have.

So with only 28 hours a week free time, the T.V. time above means I have spent approximately 31 weeks watching T.V!

If it wasn’t for T.V. I could now be a qualified Yoga instructor

I have recently started a bucket list. All of the things I would like to do in life. One of the items on that list is to become a certified yoga instructor. The total time to do this is 660 hours. Instead of watching all of that TV I could now be a qualified yoga instructor. I would be healthier, more flexible, have met new and interesting people, and have a new skill that could make me a bit of extra cash if things get tough. I would also not have had to endure the pain and disappointment of that bloody awful ending in Lost!

 

But we all need a break from reality you cry!

Of course we do: if we aren’t living. But if life has focus and purpose, if you are enjoying quality time with loved ones, doing something that fills you with passion and you feel alive then why do you need a break from that? This is the big deception we have all bought into. An unconscious thinking habit!

 

Look at it this way. You are watching a movie. It has you engrossed. It is past your bedtime. But you continue to watch. Enthralled. You don’t feel like you need a break from that, do you? Why? Because it is engaging. Why can’t your life be engaging?  It is time to snap out of it and be excited by your life and its possibilities. Make your life the movie.

 

3 ways to take charge of your T.V. habit

There are some questions you should ask yourself before continuing to allow T.V. to be the centre of your life:

1.     Do I really need to watch this?

I see a need as something that either sustains your life or adds value to it. You need to eat. You need to sleep. You need to breathe. You need love and affection from others. Do you need to watch T.V?

Even if you spent only an hour a day doing something like the suggestions below, I guarantee you would feel better (and less guilty) than if you watched TV. You can take small steps towards your more engaging life:

  • Exercise
  • Learn about something you have always wanted to know more about
  • Do those things around the house you have been putting off
  • Talk or write to friends and family
  • Learn Spanish because you are going on holiday to Spain next year
  • Research one of your dreams
  • Cook  – rather than eating processed foods
  • Do a budget

 

2.     Am I going to feel better about myself after watching T.V. or by doing [insert action here]?

It is OK to escape sometimes. The thing is, the longer you spend escaping, the less time you have to change what you are escaping from!

 

If you are honest with yourself, you will know there are other things you wish you had done rather than stare at the TV. How often do you say, “I didn’t have the time” after spending time in front of the box?

 

Just asking this question and answering honestly has made a difference to my T.V. habit. Try It. See if it makes a difference to yours.

 

3.     Am I looking after my future self by watching TV now?

Tomorrow, the next day, a week or a month later, are you more likely to thank yourself for watching that T.V. show, or for doing something that added value to your life. Something that maybe gave you less to escape from?

 

This is another question that has helped me change my habit. An hour or two here and there used as recharge time does help the future me. But I know the slave habit doesn’t.

 

Is TV Evil?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that TV should be banished to the depths of hell. All I am saying is that when you look back from your death-bed, do you want to say ‘I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time watching TV and done [insert something you always wanted to do] instead?’

 

Being selective in what you watch, avoiding the channel surfing, not staying up late to see the end of a bad movie (or worse – one that you have seen before),  and being conscious of why you are watching the TV means you can get some enjoyment and R&R from it. Hey, you may learn some stuff too. I am not for throwing the baby out with the bath water. I just ask that you have a look at it. I did and it scared the bejesus out of me!

 

This is about the unconscious habits. Are we present or have we switched off? If you have asked the questions and considered the repercussions and consciously decide that yes, this is what I want to do, then fine. One last question though – are you really being honest with yourself?

 

I know it isn’t all as black and white as that. The numbers are not an exact science. But it makes me think about how I am using my time. And I am shocked. We don’t get TV time back. The hours have gone. Kaput! History!

 

How much time do you spend watching TV? What else would you like to do that you haven’t because you don’t have the time: your TV does? Leave a comment below with your views on your TV Habits.

 

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22 Responses to Is TV stealing your life? 3 ways to kick the TV habit

  1. TV. A substitute for living. A distraction from the fact that I don’t have the life I want. Still, not giving up Breaking Bad. Going to watch Dexter. Not missing Damages. Addicted? Probably.

    But I DID trade in my remote today for my computer, accomplishing some things I’ve been saying I’d do forEVER. Good timing…

      

    • Keith says:

      Hey,

      Thanks for the comment :)

      Any move away from it being the main focus of our lives is a step forward. Small little steps each day are probably more successful than a big bang approach (nothing to do with the show ;) )

      And I will probably be watching the next series of Dexter at some point too, lol

        

      • There are people who worked long and hard to entertain us with Dexter; I would be ashamed to deny them an audience. But yeah, there’s a difference between mindlessly flipping through channels in desperate pursuit of the least-crappiest-crap to watch — and allowing yourself a few favorite shows.

        P. S. Barbara Ehrenreich is the sh*t. People who know quote Barbara Ehrenreich = also the sh*t.

          

        • Keith says:

          Hi Bri,

          I have had some comments so far on email where I think people are taking this post as a black and white statement (as opposed to in glorious technicolour, lol).

          You are right. Allowing ourselves a few favourite shows does no harm whatsoever (and Dexter is brilliant). The main thing is are we consciously aware of what we are doing, and is TV stopping us from doing other things we would look back on later and wish we had done instead? It is the same for any distraction or escape, and not just TV.

          I have to come clean and say I don’t know Barbara Ehrenreich that well. But the quote for me was perfect for this post. I will have to look into her a bit more :)

            

    • Izzy says:

      Hi Bri,
      I had to respond to your comment for 2 reasons.

      1. It made me laugh.
      2. But more importantly you TRADED IN YOUR REMOTE FOR A COMPUTER!?

      That is crazy! What type of remote was it? What type of computer was it?

      Do you have insanely incredible bartering skills? Can you write a blog post about how barter like a master!

      I want to learn how to trade a remote for a computer. In fact, I have a fan remote that I never use… Do you think I can get a computer for that?

        

      • Keith says:

        I would definitely read ‘How to barter like a master’!

          

        • This is going to be sooo disappointing, but:
          1. Your responses made ME laugh because-
          2. I did not actually take my remote into a store and walk out with a laptop.

          That would be f***ing badass if I could pull that off, but really all I did was put the TV remote down and get on my computer to work on my blog. So I can’t help you get anything with your fan remote ;)

          I mentioned a book of Barbara’s in one of my posts: http://www.downfromtheledge.com/2012/05/life-is-pain-and-other-life-lessons.html%22

          Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.” Basically it gets into more of how we have to ‘fake it’ for others because society shuns us if we’re not giddy and optimistic. This was after she went through cancer.

            

          • Keith says:

            Ha Ha. Brilliant. Although it was Izzy who owns the fan remote :)

            I may have to check out Barbara’s book. Sounds very interesting.

              

  2. Vishnu says:

    Keith – great to see Bri drop by here – got to check out her blog!! She’s a witty and insightful writer!

    I gave up the tv habit years ago although the long island medium is sucking me back into tv land. lol do you wonder why all the rage is in reality tv now a days? especially in the us. it’s kind of addictive although i’ve thought real reality is living life not watching someone else’s life!

    Cutting out tv has helped me be more productive, helped me start writing more and doing stuff in my life that doesn’t require brainless tuning in to a box…where I used to regularly ask myself – what am I doing with my life!?! and it’s a battle too isn’t it? Cause on tv’s side, they have professional agents, marketers producers who are figuring out every day how to keep our attention:) We got to fight back and take back our lives! steal back our lives:) lol

      

    • Keith says:

      Hi Vishnu,

      Yes it is good to see Bri here. I am already reader of and subscriber to her blog and I agree with your points.

      I never really got sucked into the reality TV thing for some reason. I think when I go for escape I go all out for far fetched fiction, lol. Agree totally that reality is better living than watching. Glad to see you have a handle on it :)

      I have definitely become more productive since I cut out the TV. But it is so easy to get pulled back in, so it is as you say a constant ‘battle’. The fight is on!

        

  3. I grew up with parental imposed TV curfews during a time when there were only 3 (rising to 4) channels and they were only on for part of the day. So TV has never been a big part of my life.

    However, it’s always a joy to find an unexpected Columbo or Poirot or Miss Marple on and I’ll always stop what I am doing to watch them (again and again).

    Habits and addictions… a subconscious or deliberate attempt to avoid the stresses of not knowing how to deal with a rubbish job, strained relationships, lack of life fulfilment. It’s hard to judge how people spend their own time because of their underlying motives that only they themselves can overcome (with help and encouragement from blogs like yours Keith).

    What bothers me is the use of TV as an easy way to keep the kids quiet. And now the internet and iPads etc. As well as all the health problems from not getting any movement, there’s also the mental limitations that come from not exploring the world or experimenting with hobbies and crafts.

    Everything is okay in moderation, it’s always the extremes of excess or deprivation that cause a problem.

    Anyway, must go… want to see if there’s a Columbo on…

      

    • Keith says:

      Hi Reeta,

      Agreed. Everything in moderation (including moderation).

      Sounds like you never got sucked into the TV habit, and kudos to you parents for helping with that. I also remember the days of only 3 or 4 channels and having to sit through episodes of Dallas and Rich Man, Poor Man lol.

      You have it exactly though. Are there other underlying motives or is it some well-earned R&R? Is does no harm to ask ourselves the question.

      I also think we are beginning to see the downside of using the TV as a baby-sitter and the other side-effects you pointed out.

      Enjoy Columbo…

        

  4. Izzy says:

    Keith,
    I must say I am a huge fan of the quit tv all together club. Once I got out of college I had a really stressful job and had zero time for television. I was paying for cable tv but after about a month I realized I never watched it.

    I was also trying to live really cheap at the time so it was a pretty easy decision. The thing that surprised me the most was that I never missed it.

    Though, I have to admit I do love myself some videogames. But I do a pretty good job of keeping it in check. I maybe play for an hour once or twice a month.

    The one thing I do love watching on TV are sports. I love watching football, baseball, and basketball! But since I am kind of cheap I just go to friends houses for that :)

    I guess living in Japan I have a super easy out because I can’t understand anything on TV anyways :) . But I have been told by quite a few people that watching TV is great for improving my ability with the language. So I have thought about bringing it back in my life but only to learn Japanese.

      

    • Keith says:

      Hey Izzy,

      Watching TV to learn a language is a brilliant reason for watching TV. And it is fascinating that whenever we find ourselves in a situation without TV for a while that we don’t miss it. But back we go to the old routine after and it sneakily finds it’s way back in. The devious fiend, lol.

      I was pretty bad with video games myself for a while, but now I only tend to play them with my son. So it is more about spending time with someone important than for the game itself. Like you going to friends houses (and I don’t see that as being cheap – just very practical).

        

  5. Wendy Irene says:

    I have thought about getting rid of our cable many times because I don’t like how much time TV can suck away… but then I would miss my girl Oprah :) This summer I’ve been good about not watching too much. For me it comes and goes and waves. It always feels better when the TV time is minimal.

      

    • Keith says:

      Hi Wendy,

      I have thought about it too, but haven’t made that leap yet either.

      It does feel better when it is minimal though, doesn’t it?

        

  6. Galen Pearl says:

    So glad you got in touch with me, because I’m thrilled to know about your blog, which I now “like” on FB. My blog is also about habits, in a way, so I think we are writing along the same lines. I look forward to reading more.

      

    • Keith says:

      Hey Galen,

      You are most welcome :)

      We may have some interesting stories to share, so I look forward to it too.

      Thanks for dropping in.

        

  7. Kryten says:

    Bit late jumping in on this one, been a bit busy :-)

    As others have said, as with much else in life, moderaton is key.

    As a family, we have a guilty vice of watching a show while we eat – currently plowing through Lost. Usually one episode a night, five nights out of seven. Its actually quite nice family time as we end up discussing whats gone on, getting the kids to try and work out whats going to happen next etc. Battlestar Galactica will probably be next.

    Other than that, the wife and I have one night a week set aside for shows ( Fringe, True Blood, Newsroom etc).

    And thats pretty much it – rest of the time is taken up with reading, crafts, cooking and other stuff.

    So much of TV is pointless garbage (like reality shows), but these days you have the ability to pick and choose what to watch (or should that be consume?), so why anyone would willingly sit in front of a TV just absorbing whats offered is beyond me tbh.

    It does seem like TV has lost the power to educate though (and Im not talking kids programmes – Shows like Horizon in the 80′s were fascinating, and a lot of the early home improvement shows were great in that they actually showed you how to do stuff).

    I think they key thing is you have to realise that you have a choice on what, and how, you watch media – TV itself is as a medium is in its death throes I think. The shame is that the vast majority of folk will never realise this as they are content to let things continue as is.

      

    • Keith says:

      Hey Kryten,

      Good to see you again, and hey, better late than never :)

      Moderation is definitely key. I think if the time is spent interactively with family it can be a really good thing. One word of advice though. Never watch the last episode of Lost ;p

      Most of it is pointless garbage as you say. Being selective can actually turn it into a beneficial thing. And I remember Horizon, lol. That had some really great stuff on it.

      Thanks for stopping by.

        

  8. Unknown Mami says:

    I am okay with watching some TV. I’m an actor so I appreciate compelling performances and great writing. Laughter is also very welcome. The truth is that most of the things on TV are not compelling, great writing, or funny so I don’t see the need to watch most, but if I find something like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Deadwood, Downton Abbey, many of the Masterpiece Theaters, and a bunch of stuff that makes me laugh which I won’t mention ’cause my list is getting too long, then I’ll watch them, but not in place of living. I love that in this day and age I can watch what I want to at my convenience. The days done, I can watch something I enjoy and if I need to go to sleep, then I can watch the rest at another time.

    I don’t like it when people have the TV on in the background. Anyway, I appreciate this post and thing we all need to be mindful of our TV consumption.

      

    • Keith says:

      Hey Mami!

      Welcome to the site.

      I agree, most of the stuff on TV isn’t “compelling, great writing, or funny”. Even with my previous excessive TV habit amazingly I haven’t seen any of those shows. I think you captured it perfectly with “not in place of living”.

      Thanks for dropping by and I hope to see you again sometime soon.

        

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