Turning off the TV?

I guess this is national turn-off-your-TV week, or something like that, and some people think this is a Great Thing. Go get fresh air, read a book, visit your library…

The local TV critic (who I frequently disagree with, and whose habit of putting on the HBO Cheerleader outfit becomes repetitive after a while) wrote a column this morning disparaging the “movement.”

Oddly enough, I agree with his reasoning. Not because I’m a vidiot, but because I get tired of the blame-somebody-else habit. Your kids watch too much TV? Turn it off. Telling them “Oh, just don’t watch this week” makes it a stunt (and I agree with the columnist–the quotes from supposed kid participants in the no-TV week are unbelievable). Working out a “TV budget”–like a game-playing budget, a phone-time budget, etc.–is a different thing, probably good parenting.

You watch too much TV? Turn it off. Figure out why you watch too much TV. What are you avoiding? What would you actually do if you turned off the TV? What makes it better? If turning it off as a special stunt helps, great–but it misses the point.

Do we ever go for a week without watching TV? You betcha: Any time we’re on vacation. But then, we don’t sit glued in front of the tube every evening hoping something interesting will come on. We watch what we want to watch (and have no TiVo to encourage watching more), and don’t watch when we’re not interested. Right now (at this point in the season), that comes out to about four hours a week (not including DVDs); in the heart of the season, it was six or seven hours a week. (Yes, that’s TV–not PBS, not A&E, not Bravo.) Come summer, it will be down to almost nothing.

We also walk 0.5-1.5 miles to and from a restaurant every Saturday night. We also make a point of taking a decent walk on Sundays. We read. We write. We converse. Somehow, having a very nice TV in the living room has never obliged us to turn it on when we first come home or leave it on when we’re not watching something we’re actively interested in.

If you can’t stop watching, having a no-watch week won’t solve your problem. Heck, some people read way too many books for a balanced life, but I’ve never heard of a “No-Books Week.”

6 Responses to “Turning off the TV?”

  1. Daniel Cornwall Says:

    Very insightful and thoughtful. One can picture similar movements that would sound silly on their face:

    National “put down that beer” Week
    National “keep SUV in Garage” Week
    National “no chocolate” Week

    Unless it’s intending to lead to a lasting change in behavior, altering your livestyle for a single week doesn’t make sense to me either. Just an excuse to feel virtuous for one week. Hmm. Reading what I’m writing, perhaps I’ll establish a national “stop the self-righteousness” week.

  2. Greg Says:

    I agree with much of what you’re saying here, Walt, save one point. In my experience, having a TiVo has greatly economized my TV watching, rathering than encouraging greater consumption.

    TiVo makes it quite effortless to identify, record and watch only the shows I really want to see. I find I never sit down to mindless “brain-sucking” as I always have a small stash of ready-to-view programming at my disposal. And I can get through the programs I’ve actively chosen at breakneck, commercial-free pace.

    This is a drastic shift from my previous pattern of largely undiscerning, glossy-eyed channel flipping. Of course, if you can manage that kind of selective viewing on your own, it might be more than you need, but I find it time-saving in much the same way that RSS economizes my blog consumption.

  3. walt Says:

    I like a “stop the self-righteousness” week!

    Greg: I’m delighted to hear that TiVo makes your TV watching more effective. I’ve heard too many comments that people watch so much MORE TV because of TiVo, but that’s not inherent in the technology.

    We haven’t bought one yet, partly because we have an S-VHS VCR (so there won’t be much quality difference, and zipping through commercials doesn’t take much effort), partly because we just don’t.

  4. ms Says:

    It seems that “TV-turnoff’ week hits a bit too close to home for Tim Goodman. The very idea of turning off his TV made him uncomfortable, so he lashes out with the sarcasm and attempts at humor. It’s like some people, when confronted with a vegetarian, say something like, “well I only eat chicken, and probably about once a week.” Or “I don’t even eat red meat anymore.” They see it as a judgment on their lifestyle and respond in whatever way makes their bruised egos feel better.

    I think all those TV turnoff sites are trying to do is raise awareness of how many people are sucked in by television, at the expense of perhaps more important things. I don’t see them as blaming TV for society’s ills. Plus, no one’s making Goodman turn off his TV – heck no one is making him read http://www.TVturnoff.org. He can always just close his browser……

  5. walt Says:

    Tim Goodman’s a TV reviewer. He’s also sarcastic by nature. You would expect Tim to comment on an effort to do away with his livelihood.

    I hadn’t gone to TVturnoff.org until your comment. Now that I have, I certainly see portions of the site as “blaming TV for society’s ills.” There’s also a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of self-righteousness there.

    So, on this one, I’m on Goodman’s side–which isn’t all that common, as I’m prone to swearing at some of his columns.

  6. Eli Says:

    National “no chocolate” Week

    If you can pry it from my cold, dead hands, have at …


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