Very few of us think we should watch more television. The fact is that our lives are becoming more and more centered on screens, and that’s making us less and less in touch with the things that matter most: companionship, community, health, happiness and the environment. Like so much of modern life, television is a distraction from these things, which provides—we mustn’t lie—some temporary reprieve from the cubical reality but rarely gets us somewhere nourishing.
Nevertheless, even those who are seeking to improve ourselves, to live fruitful lives of noteworthy pursuits, get caught in the web of watch-on-demand, suggested-for-you television. After all, the entire purpose of it is to enrapture us and keep us watching. That’s the business model, and it’s been wildly successful for decades. Of course, falling into the trap doesn’t make us bad or even necessarily weak people, but that’s not to say that many of us don’t wish for something more out of life.
Habits are hard to break. However, if we are attentive, if we stick to our goals, there are ways to avoid another binge on a series about supernatural beings or power-hungry clans or corrupt politicians.
1. Be Mindful
Perhaps the best way to begin this journey is to have an honest look at what TV is giving us. It distorts our world view with fictions rather than reality and with advertisements about what we need. It distracts us from constructive activities, like furthering our knowledge about something, conversing with loved ones, or cooking a healthy meal. It costs us a lot of money: satellite contracts, electricity and upgraded electronics. On top of that, it’s not really good for us physically to be sitting on the couch for extended lengths of time.
This isn’t to say we all need to feel guilty about watching our favorite show, but it’s worth being aware that there’s more out there for us and that this particular activity isn’t something we should build a life around.
2. Set Limits/Assess Value
We mustn’t pretend like all television is evil. Some shows make us feel great, get us laughing, or inform us on important things. However, if we watch all of those every day, we are devoting too much time to the television. Rather, we can assess the value of each show we watch. Is it something that “sparks joy” or something to which we zone out? How many episodes a week, or a day, do we need to watch to get the most out of life? If we assess the value of each thing we watch, make thoughtful choices as to the amount we’d ideally devote to this activity and stick to that time allotment, we’d probably all immediately reduce our tv time, yet we’d still get to enjoy the programs that we treasure, whatever they may be.
3. Replacement Activities
It helps to have a plan. If we watch TV because there is nothing to do (a lie we commonly tell ourselves), then it’s imperative that we have replacement activities to fill those typical tv time slots. This can be simple things like reading half-an-hour in the evening or cooking a real meal as a family. It could be exercising, taking a class or practicing a skill, say guitar or a new language. There are innumerable worthwhile hobbies one can think of to replace watching four straight hours of television every evening. That time is time we could be spending on reaching our dreams and goals.
4. Reduce Subscriptions, TVs and Remotes
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As enticing sometimes as the shows we watch is the prospect of finding one that might mildly ignite our interest. These days we pay for subscriptions to multiple satellite, internet and cable venues in an effort to acquire as much choice as possible, to not miss the next big viral craze of a series. We also put tvs all over the house so that we can watch on the toilet, at the table, above the kitchen sink, in bed, on the patio and possibly on the sofa should we visit that room. Of course, in each of these spots, we have remotes strategically positioned within arm’s reach to flick the device on.
If we really want to watch less television, we shouldn’t be buying subscriptions to give ourselves more options, we shouldn’t be putting tvs in every room, and we should consider putting the remote somewhere that makes us have to click on that we are clicking the tv on rather than mindlessly succumbing to this default setting.
The honest view of television viewing is that, like eating healthfully or exercising regularly, it does require an initial surge of discipline to change bad habits. After that, the effort becomes more effortless and a new version of normal. Then, who knows what we’ll get up to? More than likely, it’ll be more rewarding than finding out if blank character marries his or her love interest, or if the cops solve the murder again, or if that king manages to overthrow the existing one who overthrew the previous one. Or, if really matters to us, we can watch an episode an evening and savor the ride a little longer.
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