Life without TV

On June 12, 2009, when the TV airwaves went digital, I carried the kitchen and living room televisions into the concrete basement and covered them with a sheet. No more CSI and Law & Order and variations thereof. No more Two and a Half Men, The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Big Bang TheoryThe Mentalist, Numb3rs, Dateline, 20/2060 Minutes, America’s Got Talent, Chuck, NBC Nightly News and any of the other shows I kept watching night after night, week after week.

I turned on the TV every evening after I walked in the door, let alone any time at night when I entered the kitchen to boil water for tea or get a snack. Thankfully, that never occurred in the morning or daytime but at night?  TV turned into an addictive yet illusory companion. Come 8 p.m., I’d settle in to watch shows with a book that I read during muted commercials.

All those messages telling rabbit-eared TV owners to get converter boxes or get cable before June 12 spun me into a back-and-forth mental conversation of what to do.  I knew I needed to do something, but I didn’t want to spend the money on either the converter boxes or the monthly cable bills. And I didn’t want to spend the money because that meant making an intentional decision to keep on doing what I was doing. I resented how the shows kidnapped me night after night. That’s what I finally came to understand. A little voice inside me said, Just stop.

I miss the culture of TV, and I miss zoning out to my shows after a long day of work, but going back to them isn’t worth what I’ve gained: a newness of spirit. It’s not something that magically happened, rather unfolded over these past six-going-on-seven months, and it’s still unfolding. Time expanded and then filled up again but in better ways that stretched me in new directions of a well-lived life.

Not surprising, I’m reading more.  The book list for 2009 doubled compared to previous years. I can only imagine its size if I’d carried the TVs to the basement in January of 2009 instead of June.

Books read in 2009 are posted on TLC. Look for the page on the right.

6 thoughts on “Life without TV

  1. I didn’t know it really could be done. You give me encouragement to try to break the addiction of TV. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Marcia

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  2. I liked your piece on ridding yourself of the TV habit. Linda and I record serveral shows we INTEND to watch “Cold Case”, “Bones”, “Masterpiece Theater”, but so frequently don’t get to because of the siren call of reading and writing.

    Essayist Scott Sanders — Indiana U professor who will be at Denison next month — captures it well in “A Conservationist Manifesto” (2008): “The mass media contribue to the homogenizing of America by smearing across the land a single, sleazy imagery whose overriding goal is to grab our attention and sell it to sponsors, and whose underlying goal may be to mold our minds into thinking as the owners of the media wish us to think. Chains of radio stations play the same music and recite the same headlines; chains of newspapers print the same articles; chains of bookstores feature the same books; cable and satellite networks beam the same programs from Florida to Alaska. Over the airwaves, on billboards and T-shirts, through computers and phones, the usual products are peddled coast to coast. As a result of thse trends, we spend more and more of our lives in built environments that are monotonous, ephermeral, rootless, and ugly.”

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