Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Kill Your Television

My husband and I are participating in a little social experiment this week.  We've sworn off the television for seven days, and it seems like a topic that is ripe for blogging about, so here we are.  I should clarify, since we're early-adapters and have all the new fancy ways of streaming and viewing video content and entertainment, that we are avoiding all video programming, so it isn't just the AppleTV and iTunes, but also the Netflix and Hulu+ apps on the iPad, videos on YouTube, etc.

Since we watch most of our content on-demand and usually commercial free, our entertainment obsessions don't actually take up too much of our time.  Still, there are four to five shows we follow at any given time and at 40 minutes a piece that can add up quickly.  Add to it our love of movies and... well... it all probably takes up about 6 to 7 hours a week of our lives.  Considering the average American spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, plus another three to six hours watching DVR'd programs for a grand total of 40 hours per week, I guess that means we're not doing too shabby.  I can't help but think about those 7 hours though - almost an 8 hour work shift - that are lost to passively sitting in front of a screen.

In the good ol' days (the days before TV and radio), when people came home from a hard day of work, they would spend their evenings making art, or at least participating in the process, instead of just consuming it.  If they wanted to hear some music, they would get on the piano, banjo, or guitar and perform the latest tune from their parlor music book or compose one of their own. They would write letters or poems or tell stories around the fireplace.  They would draw and sketch or knit or embroider.  The kids would put on a play in the barn.  Even if they weren't creating something new but were just consuming the latest novel or song, it was more of a participatory action that engaged the brain and the heart. Themes and plots of books were discussed as they were read aloud.  Songs were belted out together.  It was a shared experience with friends and family. 

Now, we just sit passively by and hit "play" on the DVR or the iTunes button and take in superior quality digital videos and studio-recorded music that leaves little to no inspiration for the consumer to express themselves, other than maybe to pick up the phone to dial in and vote for his favorite contestant.  Even though e-reader devices are on the rise, people in general are reading less and less.  We're consumers of the most simple brain candy, eating it up for 40 hours a week, which leaves little to no time to create, to express ourselves, to give back or to even stretch our gray matter with something a little more challenging.

So what's the verdict of our our little experiment so far, without the video entertainment sucking away 7 hours of my time?  I've enjoyed the extra time to engage my brain with some challenging reading and good discussions about it with my husband.  Tomorrow we plan to go to the art museum after work. It's one of my favorite places to visit, but I shamefully never make time to visit it. I plan to make some art too.  I've had more time to write.  So far I have felt more peaceful in the evenings, with the house quiet, and I've felt more connected to the ways of expression that I so often push to the side when life gets busy.  I thoroughly enjoy the scripted shows and movies we choose to watch, and I do think several of them have good, inspiring things to say, but I've enjoyed taking a break from them too.  I'm looking forward to the rest of our tv-free week.