Living TV Free

“The more television you watch, the more you see people who seem richer than you. Research shows that you will then overestimate the income of real people, and underestimate the value of your own. So the more television you watch, the more dissatisfied with yourself you become. You’ll also spend more money: By one estimate, you’ll spend an extra four dollars per week for every hour of television you watch. Of course, television is about drama, which means violence, infidelity, and amoral behavior, and you end up overestimating the frequency of these things in real life. You may conclude that the world is less safe than it actually is, and decide that you’d better stay home and watch more television.”

— From Rewire by Richard O’Connor

It all started yesterday morning at the Pilates studio.  I was taking a client through a spine stretch when I heard another client who had just finished a session say, “NO… Christina blah blah blah is getting a divorce?!”

As she sat down, dramatically flipping through the pages of the magazine to learn the lurid details regarding this woman on the cover, whom I later found out was a reality TV star, the entire studio erupted in a fit of gossip and opinions.  Through the confusion and mystery of who this person actually was and why her intimate life mattered to anyone, I decided to write about it.

Now, let me give you some background.   I grew up without TV for the majority of my life (we had 3 channels until I was 9 months old, never actual cable).   Yes, I said it.  No “3rd rock”, “Friends”,  or “Boy meets world”.  I survived my first 18 years of life devoid of Television.  As a matter of fact, not only did I survive, upon moving out, I chose to CONTINUE to live TV free.  Crazy, right?

Let me start by saying, this is not me telling anyone how to live their life or raise their kids. Heaven knows I am NO expert on either of those things.  This is simply a blog meant to inspire thought and maybe cultivate a new perspective on the topic, from someone who has spent her life outside of the box.

I have very vivid memories concerning my childhood.  My younger brother and I spent every waking hour outside, which I believe greatly attributed to my love for the outdoors today.  I remember family game nights, family reading nights, meals together and family camping trips. However, I don’t remember the few Saturdays I spent at friends houses watching cartoons.   Yes, from time to time, I felt “left out”, when the conversation turned to whatever show was popular at the time, but looking back, the pros far outweighed the cons when it came to television.

“Well, there were two things. One, we simply couldn’t afford it, and there was nothing but a bunch of crap on there anyway.  Two, it was a good excuse just to veg out and we weren’t having family quality time.   So we chose not to have it.  It made you guys more creative kids. You built things, played outside, did things kids were supposed to do.  You read so much, we took you to the bookstore, and it caused your dad and I to engage with you guys.  Normally, you’d be watching tv while I made dinner, but the way it worked out you guys were in the kitchen connecting with me.  We had no distraction and no noise in the house, and we were able to focus on one another.  We were young, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we took that money we saved on cable and took you guys to the bookstore.  We did family trips.   I truly believe it was the best decision we ever made as parents. Now we can afford it, and we still don’t want it. We never want it. We read, we talk, we wind down together.  You can end a day without having to sit in front of the TV set.”    –  My Mom, when I called her this morning at 6 am and asked her why they chose not to have TV.  (forgive the rambling thoughts, I woke her up when I called  😉 )

After the conversation with my mom this morning, I sat back and looked around my living room.  It’s quiet, save for the candles cracking on the table.  There are a few bookshelves, and many photographs from my trips littered on the walls.  Aside from commenting on my mallard mount or photographs, the first thing friends say when they enter my home is, “Where’s the television?”

So, here are some ways living TV free has affected me positively.  I would list the negatives, but in all honesty, to date, there are none.

  1. The obvious… I have more time to be productive –  Without the temptation of the television, I’ve cultivated a fairly active lifestyle.  I spend time outdoors and I invest more time into my career.  Without the desire to binge on whatever show I’ve missed on Netflix or the routine date with the couch at 6pm on Wednesdays, I have more freedom and more time to see my family, call a friend or explore a new hobby.
  2. Money in the bank –   I asked a few friends and clients what their monthly cable bill was, and the responses varied anywhere from $70 to $220.  Leaning on the safe average of $100 a month, thats $1200 a year.  That could be a family camping trip or several small outings over the course of that year.   Its fun plex passes, a down payment on a vehicle,  books or money you could invest.  Aside from the obvious, tangible cable bill, theres the advertising.  Sitting in front of the TV is one more way to fall victim to advertisements promising all their products will better your life in one way or another.
  3. It allows you to experience boredom  –  A study was conducted a few years back that found it is entirely beneficial for children to be “bored”.   Enforced solitude is a wonderful spur. Being bored allows for reflection and it fosters creativity.  Even if just for an hour, switching off the television, taking away all distractions from our digital lives, and immersing ourselves in our own thoughts allows us an intimate opportunity to grow.  This is just as important for adults as it is for children.

“Two big initials were cable and TV.  Two separate entities. We never had cable, but we had tv for a very short time.. it was 30 bucks a month we couldn’t afford, and there really wasn’t anything wholesome or good on.  I read a lot, and your mom read a lot to you guys and she drew and painted.   Getting rid of the Tv proved to have zero negative impact on our family, rather positive.  That was the first affirmation that we were good parents from you guys… (chuckles)  parents wait their entire lives to hear they were right on something, and the positive experience you guys had without tv growing up, we heard pretty quick.. I think your freshman year in college in fact. You always like to hear from your kids that they realized you did something right.”  –  My Dad. 

5. It allows you to be PRESENT – One of the things I’ve never quite understood (and its left me out of the majority of conversations the past ten years) is the infatuation with reality TV, and these characters personal lives.  Do we really have an innate yearning to know who John chooses to be his wife and live happily ever after, after a few weeks spent together in a polygamous cesspool of drama and drinks? Haha, maybe its the comedic aspect people are addicted to.  Either way, does it have anything to do with our immediate lives? (Remember, this isn’t a blog intended to tell you how to live, so all the Bachelor/Bachelorette fans can rest easy, and watch on.) I just wonder if taking the time we might spend finding out who gets booted from the island, to call a friend who is going through a real divorce, or a friend who just had twins, or a friend who just lost their father etc, and investing in their lives, could prove to be a mutually rewarding experience.

6. POSITIVE VIBES –  Let us be completely honest… aside from the violence, promiscuity, drug and alcoholism, many of the shows on TV also promote this idea that isn’t realistic. We’ve all heard, “I want a romance like they have in so and so movie”…. We seem to enter into this fantasy world when we watch TV, and temporarily escape the issues in our own lives, only to come back to them with unrealistic expectations.   Aside from that, the news and certain programs can evoke fear.  I’ve heard several people hesitate to leave the safety of their homes because of what they’ve seen on TV.  While we do live in a broken, unnerving world, and the news does an excellent job of highlighting all the horrifying events across the globe, we have to understand and believe that there are also magnanimous and noble acts being committed that often go unreported.  While I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to the news, I do think we should consider the effects constant negativity has on us.   Does it affect how we treat people? How we parent? How we live?

Again, this is NOT a guide on life, just a collection of my thoughts and an attempt to organize my curious mind.  I’ve only met two other people who have lived their entire lives TV free, and about 10-15 others who chose to live TV free after having it. (none of which regret it)  It could be a fun experience to eliminate the ol box for a month or so, or even just reduce the number of hours you watch it. Who knows what you might experience! Thank you for reading!


“People have romantic notions about television. In the highest realms they think it’s some sort of art medium, and it’s not. Others think it’s an entertainment medium, it’s not that either. It’s an advertising medium. It’s a method to deliver advertising like a cigarette is a method to deliver nicotine.”

— Bill Maher