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Mustnít See TV: Breaking the TV Habit

Editorial 2: How To Immediately Alienate Almost All of Your Readers, Pt. 1. Over this past summer, I lived in an apartment on my own, in a state of middle-class poverty (running water, electricity, central air conditioning, but no disposable income). Because I was without money for cable or even an antenna, I was successful in breaking one of the biggest addictions in America today, an addiction that makes crack look like childrenís Tylenol: television addiction (my caffeine addiction is another story). I have not watched any TV since the middle of May. And despite an initially rough couple of weeks at the beginning, I couldnít be happier. As much as I miss certain shows, my determination to avoid television has remained strong.

I realize Iím missing some quality shows, including what is quite possibly the best show of all time: The Simpsons. However, Iím resisting the temptation to watch. Itís the basic principle of breaking any addiction: you have to go cold turkey, or it doesnít work. If I were to break down and watch The Simpsons once in awhile, pretty soon I would be up to watching it three times a day. And then itís a quick toboggan ride down the slippery slope. If I give in to The Simpsons, pretty soon I would be tuning into The Sopranos, Dennis Miller Live, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or The West Wing, all fine and worthy shows in their own right. And after that, you must give into your baser interests: MTVís reality shows are intensely addictive, as are their occasional videos. Both the History Channel and the Discovery Channel are great for background noise. HBO is a must have for any movie lover. Cartoon Network is a godsend. The list goes on and on. Thatís the problem. Once you go down that slippery slope, TV starts defining your time. You wind up having to schedule your life around it; I have enough things to schedule my time around.

Americans watch an average of six hours of television a day. This figure does not even include how many hours kids watch. Thatís the average time spent by adults watching television per day! Think about that. In simple statistics, that means that thereís someone out there watching their six hour share plus my six hour share (yes, I know thatís not technically statistically true, but itís a good shorthand for my point). How many hours on average do you watch TV? If you hold true to that average, by the end of your life you will have spent more time watching television than doing anything else other than sleeping.

Something that youíve devoted that much time to has to have an effect on your life. Now, Iím not a knee-jerk liberal to decry the violence, profanity, and amorality on television. Violence, profanity, and amorality can definitely be enjoyable. Plus, I am a firm believer in the 1st Amendment Rights, which cover the production of television, film, literature, and music. Iím not convinced that television will make us evil, and Iím even less convinced that it should be limited even if it does in fact promote "immorality."

What Iím concerned about is that it has the definite potential to make us stupid. I realize this past week I expressed the same complaints about the stupidity of this past summer of movies, but thereís a definite difference between movies and TV. Even I, a devout moviegoer, will only see at most one movie a week on average, and the most Iíve ever seen in one weekís time was six. Even at my record level of movie watching, Iíve only been in a theater about 12 hours in a week. Now, contrast that with television watching. At six hours a day, thatís 42 hours of potentially mind-numbing spirit-crushing exposure per week, all beamed directly to your home with no virtually no effort or cost to the viewer.

Tune in next week when I go into further detail on the potential effects of watching over 100,000 hours of TV over the course of a lifetime. Same Bat time, same Bat channel.

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