Our one and only television died just over a year ago, on November 12, 2008. It happened rather suddenly one afternoon. We tried to turn it on and it just … didn’t. I called my husband and asked him to come home early, because I didn’t know what I would do without the TV. How would I make dinner, or get any time to myself? I couldn’t see how it would work.
After we recovered from the shock, we decided to take advantage of the situation to try going TV-free for a while as an experiment. We thought that the most likely outcome was we would hit the after-Christmas sales and pick up a nice set. In the meantime, we could unplug. After Christmas, though, we were going strong and we decided to give up TV semi-permanently. We cancelled cable, disconnected the Tivo and re-arranged our living room furniture.
Now we’ve been TV-less for over a year, something that I could never have imagined on the day our TV broke. What do we do with ourselves and our children? Have we become completely insufferable and holier-than-thou hippies who just love to look down their noses at others? Here is my summary of what the year has been like.
Getting rid of the TV has eliminated the TV-related battles that we used to have with our daughter Hannah. Almost every day there would be a total meltdown because she wanted to watch something and we decided that it wasn’t a good idea. It was a major source of contention, and getting rid of it was a huge relief on that front.
Getting rid of the TV has also reduced the amount of time we all spend mindlessly watching stuff. I used to have it on for at least a couple of hours pretty much every evening. I would even keep it on in the background while I did other stuff, like cleaning or sewing. Now, the things we see are much, much more deliberate.
This one is sort of silly, but we regularly get phone calls from our old cable company offering us all kinds of incentives to re-subscribe to their service. Like any other telemarketer they pretty much always call in the middle of dinner and lay it on thick with the sales pitch. I will admit, I take great joy in being able to inform them in my most superior tone that I couldn’t possibly consider their offer, since I don’t even own a television. If you are going to pester me to buy something, I get to be as smug as I can possibly be, I say.
Being without a TV isn’t all sunshine and roses. Since we got rid of the TV I feel terminally out of the loop. I am not familiar with that funny commercial, I don’t know what movies are showing right now, and I don’t have that window into the cultural zeitgeist that TV provides. It’s not entirely positive, I’ll grant you, but there are few better windows into the collective consciousness than television.
Also, I miss being able to sit down comfortably with my husband to watch a movie. Maybe we could even hold hands or share popcorn. That just isn’t possible anymore, at least not the way our computers are set up.
The Continued Presence of TV
Even though we don’t own a television set, we do own three computers. There is no shortage of available screens in our house, and we often use those screens to watch television programs or movies. I keep up to date with my favourite shows through internet streams. Jon watches sports on the web. And Hannah realized over 6 months ago that if you put a DVD into the computer, it plays itself.
We watch much less TV than we used to. I average in the neighbourhood of 6-8 hours a week. Hannah averages 4-5 hours. Jon gets in only a few. But we do definitely get our screen time. And both Jon and I spend a lot of time online in front of our computers. So the honest truth is we haven’t even really given up our viewing at all.
At this point, we have no plans to buy another TV. Who knows if that will change at one point? It certainly may. But for now, we’re pretty happy with our lifestyle as it is.