Why watching TV is a waste of life.

As a child, Jimmy has always had TV as his caretaker. Everyday after school he would always be warmly greeted home by the TV. The TV would softly whisper to Jimmy, “Turn me on. Common, see what interesting shows are on.” Jimmy dashes to the TV and switches it on. It is 3:30PM and his favorite cartoon show is on. He sits right next to the television and lets the soft warm glow of the television radiate onto his face and sinks in as he lets the inaudible chatter drown out all the other sounds in his life.

Now fast forward 20 years. Jimmy has just finished another mundane day at the office and is exhausted from his monotonous 9-5 shift. He tosses his bills that he got from the mail on his coffee table and plops on his couch. He kicks off his shoes and stretches out his legs. He grabs his remote control which controls his DVD system, his Satellite System, as well as his TiVo box. He turn on the episode of “Scrubs” that he missed the day before and plans to catch up on all the other shows that he is behind on. After watching a couple of shows he realizes it is 11PM and it is time for bed. He takes a shower, brushes his teeth, and goes to bed. He continues his daily routine. Rinse, wash, and repeat.

Now this is a hypothetical situation that I just conjured up in my head. Although I created this fictional person named “Jimmy,” there are sure as hell tons of Jimmys out there just like the one I portrayed. As children, they grew up finding television as a refuge and a place to find comfort as well as entertainment. They spend almost all of their free time in front of the television and are constantly entertained, yet they feel miserable inside. They spend the majority of their lives watching others live their lives instead of going out and living their own lives.

Now before you get the impression that I am advocating the destruction of television and all other sorts of entertainment believe me that I’m not. I know the enjoyment of watching a couple of South Park episodes here and there as well as watching the newest blockbuster movies. I love being entertained by these quirky shows just as much as everyone else. But there is a fine line between watching TV once a while it actually being one’s life.

Like every other kid I used to love television and was constantly glued to it. I still remembering waking up ridiculously early in the morning to watch the newest episode of Pokemon or falling asleep with the Simpsons on. However getting only basic channels soon wasn’t cutting it for me anymore. I soon begged and pleaded to my mom to get cable. And once I got cable for my TV, it was like opening Pandora’s box.

There was close to a hundred channels which could satisfy every part of me. I could watch TV dramas when I was feeling serious, cartoons when I was feeling goofy, and even educational channels when I was feeling intellectual. There was always something on to watch. Whenever I got bored by a show or a commercial break came on, I was quick to switch to my other favorite channels to “see what else was on.”

Despite my mother’s constant nagging at me of how much television I was watching, I was genuinely convinced she didn’t know what she was talking about. I tried to advocate the The Learning Channel (TLC) as well as the discovery channel and how it was intellectually stimulating for me. Although these channels did have some educational value, I always found myself passing up that special on Zebras to watch the newest Digimon episode.

Fast forward to high school. I soon became obsessed with Anime and remember sleeping often at 3:00AM on school nights staying up watching “Cowboy Bebop” or “Outlaw Star.” I used to be really into reading books, but being a high school student I no longer had time for “that kind of stuff.” It wasn’t interesting enough and didn’t capture my attention long enough. I needed a constant flow of entertainment; something to always pique my interest. I seriously had the attention span of a pigeon. If I saw something more interesting and shiny in the distance, I would disregard everything else and go there instead.

Now hit the fast forward button x2 and let’s go to college. I now had a job working 20 hours a week, classes, weekly meetings for my clubs, and church and Sunday school to teach on Sundays. I suddenly had no more time for TV. I was doing far more interesting things with my time and didn’t miss TV for even a second. I totally didn’t even notice that I cut television entirely out of my regimen. Instead of finding entertainment in the newest characters on TV, I found meeting new people in college to be much more fascinating. Instead of watching an entire anime series, I found myself picking up a new hobby in photography. Instead of watching that rerun for that episode I missed last night, I went to the gym.

After cutting television completely out of my life for three years, I don’t regret it one bit. After cutting TV out of my life, I have been more active and lived life more, rather than simply wasting hours sitting on a couch watching television on end. We often ask where all our time goes, and I guarantee that a lot of it can easily be wasted watching TV or other sources of entertainment such as surfing the net.

Let’s do some simple math. According to national surveys in the US, the average adult spends 22 to 28 hours a week watching television. And if the average lifetime of an adult is 75 years, the average adult wastes 8 to 10 years of his/her life watching television. Do you really want to spend your precious time on Earth watching pointless TV dramas or over-the-top reality shows?

Think about what you actually gain from watching TV. Nothing is ever truly black and white so I will admit there can be good things from watching TV. Ideas about love, friendship, loyalty, heroism, and inspiration can be found on TV. At the same time, many of these ideas are often perverted in unrealistic ways such as success or even love. How are you going to cram the ideal of success into a TV show? Paint the same picture of a guy coming from rags and getting to riches from all these unprobable situations. How are you going to  portray “true love” in a movie? Have a couple who falls madly in love after meeting for the first time, going through one minor conflict, and living happily ever after.

You never truly “gain” anything from watching TV shows (minus “educational” channels). Let’s say you finish watching an episode of Law and Order. What have you truly experienced? Do you really feel that much more satisfied in your life after watching that episode? Do you feel like that you are really “living life” by watching others get into difficult situations and finding solutions in the end? Does your emotional well-being truly depend whether Joey and Monica get back together? Or if Person A ever learns to forgive Person B after he or she cheated on him?

Television is soma for the masses. For anyone who has read Adolous Huxley’s “Brave New World” you would know that soma is the drug which was administered to the masses to keep them happy, although they were being oppressed. So pretty much, regardless of all the atrocities that are happening around the world such as genocide or war, or even how we are being oppressed by our own governments, we don’t care. As long as we have our televisions to keep us happy, we are not bothered at all.

Now compare this to George Owell’s vision of the future in his novel “1984.” Orwell envisioned a future in which a totalitarian government (Big Brother) would repress the people in action and in thought. As repressive as people may say that the American government is, it would be wrong to say that we have a totalitarian government that censors everything in our lives.

According to the book “Amusing ourselves to Death,” the author Neil Postman claims that it wasn’t necessary for the government to repress us and hide knowledge and information from us, because we won’t even care. The government wouldn’t need to ban or burn books, because nobody would be reading books anyways. As long as we are entertained, we don’t care about anything else.

Now everything which I am saying here may sound like the words of a raging liberal bent on destroying all sorts of entertainment in the world. It might sound extreme and offensive as well. However everything I am saying here I am not applying it to you, the reader. This is not a direct attack on you if you watch TV. Even if all you do all day is watch TV and read tabloids of celebrities, this is not an attack on you. It is referring to the American society which values entertainment over everything else, including education and social justice.  It is expressing a view which is not commonly shown, as everyone sees entertainment as “harmless fun.”

So I urge you, spend less time watching TV and more time living life. Time is the most valuable possession in our lives, and something that we cannot get back once we spend it. You never truly learn anything about people, society, or even the world from watching pointless dramas on TV. These things can only be learned through intrapersonal contact by seeing them in person, in the flesh. I guarantee you, if you spend that extra hour or two a day meeting a friend instead of watching that newest TV show, you will be much happier in life. And maybe one day you won’t even need that TV to keep you company anymore.

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3 thoughts on “Why watching TV is a waste of life.

  1. Funny that you would write this. I’ve been thinking about the exact same idea. Recently, I came across an Animaniacs reference and I remembered how many episodes I watched and how much I enjoyed watching that show. At the end of every episode? Wheel of morality. Funny, what are you trying to teach us? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i8unA3hBdU History, psychology, geography, maybe even some of the sciences? Anyway, ours is truly a Pop TV generation. Where TV began as a project to record and transmit moving images, our ancestors certainly achieved that end, however at what expense?

    As you know, I’ve collected DVDs over the past few years and to what benefit? I recently got rid of a large majority of my DVD library and how do I feel? Just fine. Lets say I had roughly 1000hrs or about 2 weeks of nonstop runtime, thats already a percent of one year. How do I feel about that? Just fine.

    Separate us from animals, not many would have the patience to sit there and watch a screen for hours on end. There is space all over the world dedicated to the presence of TVs, millions of living rooms all across the world. Is that a lot of wasted space?

    The thing about introducing an idea to the population is combustive. If a spark catches on and the thing is let loose to run on its own, then it should probably take a relative amount to stamp it out. I agree with you in the worthlessness of TV, completely. But the amount of information obtained from that sensory stimulant is very much like the first time you stood in front of the lion pit at the zoo. Aside from smell, you see, hear and most importantly print the experience into your memory somewhere. With the TV marketing and producers in abundance, we are sent to a different zoo or safari or wilderness all the time. And there is comfort in reruns, just as you would enjoy standing there before the lion again.

    There is absolutely no possible way to decrease the Television media industry, other than a catastrophic worldwide natural event. Is that necessary?

    Humanity is no doubt a species of fuck-ups. There is hardly an active person who can end the day without saying they did not commit a single mistake throughout the day. Impossible. As a collective we do appear to have some sort of intelligent sense of intuition and morality, compared to the lower wrung of the pyramid. If it were such a problem, there would be those fighting the epidemic.

    Then what? What’s my point. After a day spent working for money rather than soaking in the sun, the TV is an invited guest to share time with and to gain information instantaneously at our command. We can tell it what to show me, how loudly, how colorfully, without pause until we finally turn it off when we have had enough. To each their own. If TV is what gets a person by, then that works for them..let it be. In development I fully agree in limitations on idleness and idolatry of TV for the plethora of damage that can result, however we expect an adult to choose what is right for them and accept the consequences no matter the outcome.

    Fuck it. Some people like to use their asses more than the pads of their feet–for sure its softer and bigger and much more comfortable to rest on a lovesac than a hackeysac–while enjoying the solitary company with themselves. It’s an easy, distracting life. Why fight it?

    I think Portman and Jones said it best..and I’d say it applies here as well.
    NATALIE PORTMAN & RASHIDA JONES Speak Out from Natalie Portman

  2. Interesting.. I feel I’ve had a similar experience with tv in my life. Now that I look back on it, I am grateful that my household never had that damned Cable television until I was about 14. Even before, I never really watched many cartoons, but mostly movies, from my dad’s 300+ movie collection. I used to always remember going to friends and relatives houses, and being just like “freakin amazed!” by how many channels they had. Then once I had it, it was like a whole new world of entertainment possibilities.

    I remember many late or sleepless nights, countless episodes and movies of which I had “no intention of watching, when I turned it on” at first, and probably thousands of wasted hours. It was a bunch of random surfing mostly, with the exception of programming I scheduled to watch. Kind of like the picture you have there, it’s a perfect example of what TV viewing is. Like static, it’s random; mostly people search through channels until they find what interests them.

    I think it was about sophomore to junior year when I started doing sports, had a job, and tried playing music, that I really lost all time or interest in it. And then I made the commitment to myself not to watch TV anymore in general.

    See, the thing I think about TV and TV viewing is, It will never really go away, in any significant amount. Even with the shift towards the internet.. There’s just too much money in it. From how I see it, That’s what it all comes down to. TV is BIG! business. And it’s all about advertising. From the best I can tell, like almost a third of TV is just commercials. And it’s pretty hard to avoid all of them, with the way it works these days. It’s a highly orchestrated and sophisticated targeting system they’ve got going on behind all the soap operas and reality television shows people watch. And producers are constantly pushed to come out with more of these crappy shows, so their networks can make more money.

    Americans with unhappy lives, and 9 to 5 jobs they hate, just pop on the tube to escape to someone else’s life, the next hot crime drama, or just to “feed” them something to think about other than their $400,000 mortgage, their own body, or maybe a failing marriage. And what it’s really feeding them is the next hair care or beauty product they need, telling them they need to eat more Big Macs & double stuffed burritos, buy a new car, to get another “amazing rate” credit card (so they can buy more pointless shi* they don’t need), or Buy the newest & most popular cell phone, or some diet pill and ab-machine: to lose the weight they just gained from the Big Mac and sitting around all day.

    And the most ironic thing is, I think they “Need” this TV to maintain their current 9-5 lifestyle, and current job at (insert:companynamehere). I wouldn’t be surprised if nearly half, of all the GDP produced in this country, is a indirectly result of the Entertainment industry, TV advertising specifically. In business, It’s known that for competitive markets usually the single most important factors that determines where the money goes (or how much of it goes) is advertising.
    And why do parents think their kids come up to them begging for the next “Nerf gun” that they already have 10 of, or some random crappy toy set? (Cuz you let them watch Cartoons all day!)
    It’s all a bunch of brain molding propaganda if you ask me, and I think is a perpetuating unstoppable system. It’s great for the few people like you who have cut this pointless activity out of their life. (I am a 100% capitalist by the way, just thought I should mention my whole analysis of it.) My next goal: to be 100% video & computer game free, (for it’s such a time waster).
    Sorry such a long comment. I really enjoyed reading your post, I think I’ll start reading your blog now.
    Next, I think you should do a post on “People Magazine” and it’s influence in our culture. :)

  3. I love this article.
    I am 34 and I have not watched tv in 13 years as of Jan 2015.
    I have done so many amazing things with my life since then. I have went to back to school and studied tons of things.
    Started a business, learned how to make lots of money, traveled the world. I own nice clothes and a fancy sports car.
    And I also live free of the delusions that tv brings. Tv is not real.
    Who cares? There is nothing more pathetic then people talking about tv shows.
    Life your own life instead of living thru fake tv shows.
    The people I know who watch tv are the most unhappy and unfulfilled as well.
    Tv is not you living, it’s you dying a slow death.
    Congrats on your tv break and I hope you have many more years to come!

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