Watching TV: Simple Pleasure or Stupid Waste of Time?

  • August 19, 2010 by Corbett Barr
  • 73 Comments

I’ve been torn over the issue of “TV, or no TV” lately.

On one side, you have the intellectuals, minimalists, art crowd and conspiracy theorists who have sworn off television as a culture-and-intellect-robbing waste of time and money.

On the other side, you have people who like to relax and be entertained after a long day, and people who like a good story that makes them laugh or cry, or learn something new.

I understand both sides, and I know there’s much more to it than that.

I’ve been a part of both camps recently. I grew up with TV (telly for you Brits out there), starting with Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, later Magnum P.I. and the “A” Team, and eventually MTV and Comedy Central. Recently I’ve been a big fan of anything HBO (Curb Your Enthusiasm or Six Feet Under anyone?). OK, and I’m also hooked on So You Think You Can Dance, but don’t tell anyone.

I definitely wouldn’t want to hear a tally of how many hours I’ve spent in front of the TV in my life. That might be a little depressing for most of us.

Seriously, stop for a moment. How many hours of TV do you watch a week? Imagine what that has added up to over the years.

During our months in Mexico recently, my wife and I lived almost completely TV-free. I have to say, it was pretty awesome.

Instead of just staying home to watch something during the week, we went out to have dinner and listen to live music way more often. We also found ourselves reading and listing to music at home more. I think we also had way more conversations with each other than when living with TV.

Of course, much of that could be attributed to living abroad. It’s exciting to be in another country, and the lower cost of living makes it much more reasonable to go out most nights.

Would the same be true for us at home in the U.S.? We’re going to try to find out shortly. We just canceled cable, and may get rid of the TV altogether (although for now we still have it available for Netflix).

So I definitely understand the attraction of living without TV. There’s a whole lot of life to experience out there, and TV tends to keep you from it. I’ll let you know how it pans out for us.

When did it become a crime to watch TV?

One thing I really don’t understand is why some people act like it’s a crime to watch television. Or worse, they act like they’re intellectually superior for not watching TV. Really? Because I keep up on some shows, that makes me some kind of commoner or something?

Do you know the people I’m talking about? Mostly they live in urban areas I think. In the burbs it’s less common for anyone not to have a TV.

Here’s the thing about television. Some of it is entertaining or even useful. Most of it is absolute garbage. But watching TV isn’t some kind of crime or inherently dumbing experience.

In some cases, a little TV can actually enhance your real-life conversations. I’ve had some hilarious moments with friends reliving some sketch on SNL, or talking about what a train wreck the celebrity-mess-du-jour was.

Your choice not to watch TV doesn’t make you a saint, even though you’re probably right that most people would be better off without TV (or at least with a whole lot less of it). Just sayin’.

When did TV become a substitute for real life?

On the other hand, for the few situations where television has it’s place, it also has dampened plenty of lives.

Sadly, television has become a substitute for the real world to many people. It’s an addictive excuse that keeps you from leaving the house and interacting with real people.

I was listening to a comedian last week who was a TV actor (ironically this was in a real life comedy club). He had a whole segment that started with something like “who the hell wants to travel in real life anymore? There’s a channel for that on TV. 6 hours on a plane, airport security, sitting next to strangers. Yuck. My sofa and I took a great trip to Nepal last week, and we were there and back in 30 minutes.”

How sad but true is that? The Pixar film WALL·E might have really nailed our future if we don’t unplug and get out into the real world a little more.

On top of keeping us from experiencing the real world, TV commercials also constantly make us feel inadequate about ourselves and make us think buying more stuff, getting thinner or taking a pill is the solution.

Which side are you on?

Oh, and I think many of these same arguments can be made of the Internet in general (a place where I spend far too much time). So don’t get all high-and-mighty about abstaining from TV if you’re constantly connected online.

Where do you stand? TV, or no TV?

Do people who abstain from TV have the moral upper-hand or are they just smug bastards? Is there a middle ground? Is the Internet the same as watching TV? Sound off in the comments!

Photo by James Good

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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TheCyberGypsy August 19, 2010 at 2:34 am

TV, like a few other things that we demonise -money for instance – is a great tool when used wisely. But human nature means that we have the genius to create these wonderful tools (imagine location independent travel without money) but also we have the ability to abuse them too.

Here’s a lovely nugget of information. Wikipedia took (roughly) 100,000,000 hours of human thought to build. In the US a Wikipedia worth of TV every weekend is spent just watching ads alone. Imagine what we could create if we turned the box off.

My issue with TV is this. Humans need the challenges that getting out into the world offer us to learn and grow. We need exercise, to interact with people, fresh air to breathe. TV can channel learning, but teaches us none of the tactile things that our big blue world has on offer.

Put the TV in the shed, watch it if you need to, but turn the thing off straight after and get down to the pool. Or the bar :0)

Greg August 19, 2010 at 6:15 am

As far as TV vs. Internet is concerned. I think it depends on how the internet is used. For the most part TV is a one-way communication channel. And if you’re using the internet to just watch Hulu or Youtube, it is as well. But the beauty of the internet that it is now, especially since we’re living in Web 2.0, a two-way communication medium allowing you to form connections which can translate to opportunities and lasting relationships.

Overall I would agree that we can all use less TV in our lives and should start pursuing more connection and relationship building (online or off). Especially if we have other goals or are looking to pursue other opportunities in our lives. Like everything in life you have to seek to achieve balance. I’ll go days without even turning on the tv, if there’s something i’m really interested in watching but can’t, that’s what DVR is for.

Jeremy August 19, 2010 at 7:41 am

Corbett,

As usual, this is an interesting post. I think the answer to this question is the same as for many other questions: done in moderation. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with watching a few shows that you like during a given week. On the other hand, if you are attached to TV for most of your waking hours… there is probably an issue. Not question that TV can be a serious time suck… but then so can blogs, FaceBook, and Twitter.

We cancelled our cable about 6 months ago after deciding that it was a waste of money. I really haven’t missed it much. I still watch some shows online and have considered adding NetFlix. Not watching TV does provide more time for other endeavors. I’ve read quite a bit more. All in all, it’s been a good experience.

Jeremy

Doug August 19, 2010 at 8:01 am

TV is a waist of time and the commercials make me want to freak out sometimes, but the internet isn’t much better. I now find myself getting online and “looking for something to watch” much like I would use the remote to scroll through the channels (maybe time to shut of the RSS and Facebook?)

On the other hand, fuck it. Sometimes I’m tired at the end of the day and I don’t want to do anything – not go out, not talk to my wife, not work on my affiliate marketing course, and not go to bed either. So TV, movie, or surfing the net are nice at that time.

So let’s go ahead and kill (or at least slap them around a bit) the people with “Kill your Television Stickers” – bunch of smug assholes (and maybe the vegetarians too, but that’s a topic for another day)

Alessio August 19, 2010 at 8:02 am

Hey, Corbett

I’ve never been a huge fan of tv in my adult life, but I grew up on the ’80s classics, like the A-Team, Knight Rider, etc. Ever since I can remember, I always had a fondness for reading. Back in the days it was Archie comic books, then magazines and finally books. I still enjoy magazines and books, yet a lot of my reading has moved online.

Like Jeremy said, in moderation I think that whatever it takes to help you unwind a little is great, but then again, don’t sink all your time into it. I never switch my tv on at home, unless it’s a momentous occasion, or history in the making, which was the case when South Africa hosted the World Cup in June. Being South African, it made me extremely proud of our country hosting such an event. After the World Cup though, I only ever watch the Discovery channel, as it’s really informative, which is entertainment for me!

Eric | Eden Journal August 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

I think of WALL-E every time I go to Disney and see all these people riding around in motorized scooters. There’s a bunch of ‘em there.

We gave up cable TV a number of years ago. Now we just have local channels and Netflix. We really don’t watch much TV, as there really isn’t much worth watching. I try to place a value on the entertainment I receive. In most cases an “average” movie from Netflix is better than a “pretty good” TV show. Plus with the star ratings on Netflix I can judge fairly accuratley whether a movie is good enough to spend my time watching. We generally watch about 3 Netflix movies a week, and that’s the bulk of our TV time.

I read an interesting post on another blog recently that talked about “actionable knowledge.” I found it had a good correlation to the so-called educational programming like Discovery and TLC. When it comes up in conversation that I don’t have cable, I often here people say that they mostly watch eductional stuff like Discovery. The thing is, most of that programming doesn’t provied any actionable knowledge, or knowledge that you can readily apply to your life, and therefore doesn’t provide much value beyond being entertainment.

Gabriel Varaljay August 19, 2010 at 9:14 am

No TV! It’s a waste of time! If somebody like to see some movie he can do it on PC (via DVD, etc.) or go to cinema. If you watch telly you forget the time and your goals in life as well. It’s like a chewing gum for brain. :)

Lucy August 19, 2010 at 9:15 am

I love television, frankly i love most types of storytelling so i enjoy watching shows. That said, tv creates this sense of urgency or importance…I HAVE TO WATCH…and frankly its all made up. I was HOOKED on a show (United States of Tara) and when we stopped getting cable i stopped watching television all together and realized that i didnt HAVE to watch that show and i didnt even REALLY WANT to because otherwise i could have looked it up online.

I think when people, for whatever reason, unplug from television they see the waste of life it can become and at the same time appreciate those rare shows with very good storytelling…there’s always netflix, hulu, ect..

Erik Shear August 19, 2010 at 9:18 am

Great Post, I am definitely in the No TV camp for the same reasons you experienced in Mexico. When I stopped watching TV I noticed that my social life improved dramatically because i was always out and about and there is an endless supply of stuff to do.
That being said I do enjoy watching movies and a few shows which I can easily do on my laptop if I just want to curl up for an evening. but I find myself more and more reading books and generally feeling less stressed.

I don’t think TV is bad I think it is just an easy substitute for entertainment. It takes a little effort to get there or plan something with your kids… At the very least I would say stop watching the news, it will stress you out and infuriate you… Curious about what’s going on the world? Read a blog!

Erik

Gabriel Varaljay August 19, 2010 at 9:19 am

Corbett: see this video :-) It’s all about our philosophy :)
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2693546

Gabriel
(Hungary, Europe)

Corbett August 19, 2010 at 9:38 am

That’s a good one. Actually, it reminds me, I’ve been meaning to watch that movie (Network). Never seen it.

Cindy August 19, 2010 at 9:31 am

I actually love TV. I don’t have cable and rely upon Netflix and my Roku box to get my fix (currently Angel and Bones). I also try to be very mindful when my TV watching crosses from entertainment into just zombie watching.

Like anything in life there needs to be a balance. I actually wrote out a list of things I could do besides watch tv – read, listen to music, plan a day trip, read through your affiliate marketing course (hmm, still haven’t done that yet) … :)

Bob Stanke August 19, 2010 at 9:43 am

TV can have its place and I don’t totally dismiss it at all. It can be a learning and education tool, and a way to relax in moderation. Men’s Health magazine has a great article on time management and “balancing the 8′s”. When done right, TV can be a valuable part of that balance.

Bob Stanke

Seb August 19, 2010 at 10:00 am

Nice article.

I think the worst thing about tv’s are that people base a whole room (lounge room usually) around a TV.

It can suck when you go to a friends house and their two couches are facing toward the TV instead of each other.

Also when you see those ‘sitting rooms’ that no one ever uses. Why? Because it’s lacking a TV.

Sad.

Trever Clark August 19, 2010 at 10:15 am

I vote waste of time. But then again, I’m an Internet junkie, so I can’t really get all high and mighty about it! I’ve kind of started to feel “too connected” even without the TV. I mean, we don’t watch much TV (at least now that Lost is over :-) but I find that my wife and I spend a lot of nights glued to our separate PCs. And I find it sad. I’m really looking forward to our time in Mexico coming up to see what life is like sans a constant internet connection. TV was a pretty easy addiction to break. But the Internet? I use it to work, to connect w/ people, to watch videos of people shitting themselves… I think even before we go to Mex., I might follow your lead and take a digital sabbatical for at least a day at some point. So I vote that people who abstain DO have the moral upperhand, but only if they’re also using the Interwebs in moderation.

Andrew August 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

Not watching TV and denouncing TV in front of others are two entirely different things. The former may be a simple matter of priority or access. The latter case is about maintaining a personal narrative in order to signal membership in a range of stereotypes and non-membership in stereotypes undesirable to the personality in question.

A key consideration is that “TV” is almost always used as a semiotic proxy for “pop culture trash” in this context. Those in the anti-TV camp almost never actually mean that watching a Discovery documentary would be a worse use of time than reading The Weekly World News, but they don’t usually go around saying “only idiots read newspapers”. Some do decry newspapers as well. They’re usually trying to signal that they’re above the milieu and influence of the “crass and unsophisticated media propaganda machine proliferated by the military industrial complex”.

McLuhan was right, “the medium is the message”, but in a much larger context than all this. Chomsky was right too, but preaching about the evils of TV is about as attractive as preaching about invisible superheroes from space watching over all humanity.

I get my non-fiction from the outdoors and books and the web. I get my fiction from True Blood and Mad Men. If someone wants to make the argument that fiction and imagination are bad, I’d bet that particular someone is pretty boring.

Anyone who tries to take away my Curb Your Enthusiasm has a problem on their hands.

And yeah… I live on a boat with no TV – couldn’t get cable if I tried. Out anti-establishment that, enlightened hipsters. ;)

Fitz August 19, 2010 at 10:49 am

We’re in the same boat Corbett. I have a few shows I love (House, Family Guy, V, and Modern Family) but other than that I don’t watch that much. We recently cancelled out cable too! It’s very liberating and it forces you to focus on the shows that are important to you, instead of “let’s just see what’s on.”

kim hayes August 19, 2010 at 11:13 am

Casey and I have been going back and forth about canceling cable for years! So I finally called Comcast a few weeks back and “canceled.” To finalize it, all I had to do was return the cable box, and it would be official. The days wore on, and the cable box stayed in place. Every night we turned it on after dinner, nobody said a word about it. Last week I called and added HBO. Maybe next year…

Let us know how your cable free life goes!

Corbett August 19, 2010 at 11:38 am

That’s pretty funny Kim. Comcast knows how to get ya. Luckily we didn’t have a cable box, so I guess it was a little easier. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Stanley Lee August 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm

It’s a matter of personal lifestyle. It is used by a lot of advertisement firms as a tool to brainwash people to do whatever the firms want. There are valuable material and entertainment events that boost the mood when you watch TV with your friends. It all boils down to discipline and having a balance between watching the best material and filtering out the garbage.

Lauren August 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I am also on the fence about TV. I love getting into a show that is really high quality and getting caught up in a good drama. I don’t have cable, and never ever plan to get it, but I still find myself watching TV more often than I need to. I am especially frustrated with the way TV has become the go-to decompression for my husband (who works a long day): I’m torn between the desire to chill and zone out and the desire to Get Shit Done and talk to one another. I am mulling over a TV watching plan of some kind where we save TV watching to a 2-3 nights a week and keep it off the rest of the time. I think that would make us more selective in what we watch, and prevent us from feeling “deprived.” It would also liberate a lot of time that we could be using for better things. I am personally ready for this: I’ve gotten out of the habit turning the TV off when I’m with my kids during the day, but I think my husband will be freaked about it.

TimB August 19, 2010 at 12:57 pm

We cancelled cable in the UK about 4 months ago for financial reasons as much as idealogical ones. We still have freeview but we watch far less TV than we used to. Personally, I could do without it totally but I have a wife and 2 kids who like to watch a whole load of crap.

It’s great though to see the kids reading or drawing or just playing together instead of automatically sitting goggle-eyed in front of the box.

Some weekends we even agree there will be no TV. However, the football (soccer) season has just started so I may prove to be the biggest watcher of all over the next 8 months!

Great post Corbett!

Thom August 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Interesting point, Corbett, and one I’m glad you’ve raised. It’s a thin line between “I don’t watch TV and I’m glad I don’t” to “anyone who watches TV is an idiot”, and it’s a line that some people in the blogging world have crossed.

I think TV is fine as long as you’re active about it – seeking out the quality programming and enjoying it.

When it becomes dangerous is when it’s a passive activity – when I head back to my parent’s house, for example, they spend every evening in front of the TV trying to find something to watch, whether they’re interested in the programmes or not.

So passively parking yourself in front of the TV in the hope that something good might come on – no, that’s probably not a good idea. But actively seeking out quality programming is, to my mind, no different than actively seeking out quality cinema or literature or theatre.

A tip for the ‘active’ TV watchers out there is to wait until a series is done and then catch up with it on DVD or online (or via torrent, but we don’t condone illegal downloads of course, etc. etc.). The Office was 3 seasons in before I started watching, but once I did I could sate my TV appetite with 4 episodes in an evening and avoid settling in only for the episode to be done in 25 minutes and then you have to wait a week to see the next one. It stops you thinking “oh, that wasn’t much of a TV fix, I’ll see what’s on next”.

Jason Hanley August 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I think television is a bit like alcohol, or unhealthy foods.

You know they’re really not good for you, but sometimes it’s nice to indulge.

As long as you limit yourself and don’t go overboard, it’s probably alright.

Adam Lamotte August 19, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I threw out my T.V 2 years ago. Never looked back.

Amanda August 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I’m on the TV side, as I like to know what everyone’s talking about. I mean, Mad Men has some epic sets, and SYTYCD is inspiring as a retired dancer. Most of the people I know that don’t watch TV are simply too busy to watch, and aren’t necessarily proud of being TV-free. But, I am pretty proud that I don’t know what current commercials are playing, as I only watch shows online (I block the ads). ;)

Nate August 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm

I’m in the middle on this one. When I come home from work I like to just relax and watch a little TV. I usually limit mine to about 1 hour per day. Seinfeld is my show and will always be, and I love watching it. It makes me happy. If I’m not watching that, I do try to watch something educational. The Science Channel, National Geographic, Discovery, Travel and History usually have interesting, yet actually useful programs on.

Great post topic.

Daniel August 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I’m on the no TV side. There’s already Youtube that does the on-demand videos that I could catch (and actively looking for).

Not that TV’s unhealthy; there’s a channel in Singapore that’s dedicated to showing news, interviews and current events that I’d watch (only if I happen to be in front of a tele).

@Daniel_Richard

Daniel August 25, 2010 at 9:31 am

Update: Featuring this blog entry in my latest post titled “Your Blank Cheque“; under the part about hacking away distractions such as excessive TV watching.

@Daniel_Richard

Jouko Karvonen August 20, 2010 at 1:16 am

Interesting question! Personally, I do have TV, but I turn it on maybe once or twice a month. I could easily do without the actual machine, but I can’t say I’m completely TV-free since there are also some entertaining TV shows I do occasionally check out from internet, ad-free of course. I think it’s about balance and making sure you are getting something out of it.

One more point about passive watching: Living in a foreign country, one thing I used to use TV quite a lot for is language learning. Having TV on and hearing the language actually improves your listening. In that case I feel it is useful to not to pick your programs too carefully so you are exposed to wide variety of random words and different ways to speak, not the ones that come up in text books and classes. And getting reactions like “why do you know such words?” is always fun ;)

sangita August 20, 2010 at 4:04 am

Hello! Yes those who knock TV completely are definately smug bastards! How holier than thou! Remember all those days when life really sucked and u went home, ate a hot meal and then just sat in front of the TV for a couple of hours: watched something really nice had a good nights sleep and then woke up completely rejuvinated – ready to take on the world?! Whats wrong with that?

Scott Johnson August 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I think TV is fine in moderation. There are shows I like to watch (Survivor, Amazing Race, etc.) that I DVR and watch without commercials after my daughter is asleep. This way I’m only sitting in front of the tube for 40 minutes instead of 60. Anything done in excess is no bueno e.g. red wine. But there’s nothing wrong, I believe, with a glass of wine each night or hour of TV everyday or every other day.

Sunshine Conkey August 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Since I’ve started using the computer about 11 yrs ago, I’ve had different roommates say that I live on the computer and I should go get a life. Funny cuz they live in front of the TV. So I’ve asked different roommates what the difference was….and got no answer. 1 roommate I had liked to watch golf, car racing, a couple cooking shows, all the local news stuff & Jerry Springer. Well I can get all the local & world news online if I want. I’m not really into watching golf, any sports, or even cooking shows on TV. If you happen to like different types of movies then your roommate…why in the hell do they complain when you get a second TV for your room or possibly watch another movie on the computer? Why do roommates always think that you have to sit in the living room with them to watch their favorite shows?

I love it when you try to talk to a roommate, but they are so busy listening to TV that they never hear you or just plain ignore you until a commercial is on. So while roommates can sit for hours blankly staring at TV & eventually falling asleep in front of it…I’ll gladly visit facebook, read different blogs, play online games, send e-mail, post messeges on a few forum sites and do research for whatever subject has my interest for the day.

For now; I have not had a TV for the last 4 years…but I have had internet off & on during that time. I have had people offer to give me a free TV because they feel sorry for me. But I tell them ” I have the Grand Canyon in my backyard, and internet in my room, so why do I need a TV”?

Course I have even had people tell me that I should get a job using computers seeing as I’m on 1 so much.
And believe me I would love to figure out how to make real money while being online. Some people claim that they can….but people don’t usually claim to make $$$$ from watching TV.
http://sunni-day.blogspot.com/

Tony Casparro August 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Gave up live TV 6 years ago when I got married and still never miss it. We have one or two shows we like and just download them from iTunes on OUR own schedule. That part is important. We define our schedules and our entertainment fits in where appropriate. Not the other way around. I grew up watching my parents be slaves to a TV schedule, and vowed never to let it run my life.

Thomas Moviel August 21, 2010 at 6:27 am

Forget morality. We’re definitely smug bastards;-) Honestly, I felt I got dumber every time I watched tv. There are some cool programs on History channel, etc., but not enough to have me go out and buy a tv. Actually the only show I get on Netflix, because I find it hilarious and inspiring, is Entourage. As I see it, why spend an hour watching Sportscenter when in 5 minutes I can get the news and scores that I want online?

I also find that I don’t even have the time to watch tv. I didn’t when I had a tv. And I always found commercials annoying, even when I was a kid.

I think it’s fine if you have a tv for movies and watch it sometimes, but there’s so much out there in life that I lose respect for people who watch it all the time. It’s like they’re avoiding life and living vicariously. Pretty sad, really.

Nomadic Matt August 21, 2010 at 11:18 am

I don’t watch a lot of tv because I am always traveling but sometimes it’s good to just relax, veg out, and watch some stupid program.

Lee August 23, 2010 at 1:42 am

Personally, I would rather use a TV for nothing more than movies or sport (if I can’t physically attend an event). The thing is, once you’re hooked…. THEY HAVE YOU! By “THEY” I mean the stations… they must salivate when they know a series has become popular… as soon as your brain has dumbed down and you have become suggestible…. WHAM – “Hit them with the ads!!”

In the main, we organise our living space around TVs, so it is almost inevitable that the Big Black Window To Nowhere is switched on. Then, someone with a voice that moves up and down in intonation catches our attention… before we know it, we know how snakes hunt, where Simon Cowell last had a dump and who is winning the latest popularity contest – hours of life gone, never to be recovered…

Taking my tongue out of my cheek for a moment, I’m with you on this Corbett – some TV is useful/entertaining – I just wish I hadn’t wasted any of my time watching the stuff that numbs the brain!

Naked Girl in a Dress August 23, 2010 at 3:53 am

I don’t watch TV, but I don’t think I am a smug bastard. I see it as a waste of time. You can sit back, relax, and laugh with a book too. I would rather read than watch TV.

That said, I do see the point of socially being connected. I feel like everyone else around me is watching TV so I am often lost in a conversation (I don’t even know what shows are on TV). It is impossible to follow along in those discussions.

Full disclosure: in baseball season I switch to premium cable so that I can watch baseball. Probably once a week I watch a baseball game. In play-offs and the World Series, I am glued to the TV. I also watch what few triathlons are televised.

Does that count? I don’t feel like it does count because I don’t feel connected to TV shows. It would be like saying I watch TV because I use it to watch a movie I rented (which is another thing I occasionally do).

I am working hard to build up my blog. At times I do feel guilty about the time on the computer. That said, I have really good results for my efforts so I don’t feel like I am playing around on the internet all day….I have been offered two freelance writing positions, am making money from my ads (thanks to driving traffic and the help from sites like Think Traffic!), etc. I don’t feel guilty for loving what I have to do (spend time on the computer) to be successful as a blogger.

Thanks for this great post!

Jacob Schweitzer August 23, 2010 at 3:55 am

I had a teacher in high school who called TV “the idiot tube”. Also I had a journalism class in college where I learned about how infotainment is bogging down the news with useless stories only intended to get ratings. When I want to be entertained I watch TV – the information you can get there is freely available on the internet, you just have to find it.

kl August 25, 2010 at 3:00 am

I’m one of the moderates. I cannot understand why watching tv would be all evil – and I can easily understand that someone can live completely without.

Some of the most precious moments at home has been watching a series, maybe couple of nights a week, with my husband. Something entertaining, light enough, and at least a little witty. Sometimes I can watch total crap. I also like to watch documentaries sometimes, and we have an amazing channel that broadcasts full operas. And I love movies, whenever I have time for them. It is relaxing, it takes you out of wordly worries, and helps you to go to sleep happy. (Well, depends a bit on the movie.)

In total, I watch maybe 3 hours of tv per week. But damn do I enjoy those moments. We never have tv open on the background, and when we watch, we love what we see. Even if it were just a bunch of crazy Japanese from the 80s falling from a set of different obstacles to water, safetynets, or pure mud.

Marilia August 25, 2010 at 7:12 am

I don´t watch TV since 2004. When I´m somewhere with TV, I´m glued to the monitor. I love cable at friends house, but I prefer to not have the option at home, so I watch videos and documentaries on my lap top, but selected stuff only and I obvioulsy read way more than if I had the TV available.

I strongly believe life is better without it.

Dahlia August 25, 2010 at 8:14 am

Corbett,

I think there is a middle ground to this. Like you said, there are a lot of useless shows that makes it really wasteful and pointless to spend time on. All the more it becomes wasteful if work is left undone and responsibilities are neglected. But if you reward your days work with the entertainment and information it offers, then I guess TV has served its purpose.

You are right, TV and Internet share a lot of common arguments. But if your work requires a lot of time online, then I don’t think time has been wasted.

TV has a lot to offer, whilst the Internet has so much more. Despite this fact, I don’t think that TV has to be eradicated completely.

So I guess it all boils down on how we use it, and not how much time we spend on it.

Stuart McMinigal August 25, 2010 at 8:53 am

I love TV, don’t get me wrong I couldn’t sit down all day or for several hours watching TV straight. It could be described sort of like an addiction, there are one or two shows which I watch religiously and don’t like it when I miss them.
But without TV i would spend to much time on the computer or out, TV is a relaxing time.

Stuart

Mary J. August 26, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I have had this dilemma for years, and finally decided to rent basic cable for 14.00 a month. Cheap enough to absorb if I don’t want to watch, good enough to watch if I am so inclined. Turning the cable service off and on was begining to cost too much, so buying the basic was a sort of compromise. I can also watch tv reruns on Hulu or Fancast on my small but inexpensive netbook.

Gina Mckenzie August 27, 2010 at 11:49 am

I think TV is a waste of time. However, I love watching movies and it would be hard not being able to watch them. Will you still allow yourself movie privileges while doing this experipent Corbett?

Heidilue August 30, 2010 at 11:30 am

Someone once told me that you can kill a person with a sheet of paper IF you know what you’re doing. I think their point was that all things can be evil, or good, or indifferent…just depends upon how you use them.

Eight years ago, while going through a divorce, I was determined that I WOULD keep my house, nice car and repay the unsecured debt (today, I have no recollection of what created that debt…something we undoubtedly HAD to have…a new tv or computer, maybe). So I discontinued internet service and satellite (tv) service, and ate most of my meals with my grandmother (who had offered to feed me).

Since I could only get two (sometimes three) local channels, there was much less to choose from on tv. I found a few shows that I liked, and I actually looked forward to the nights/times they came on…that was my entertainment time. I found I had a lot more time for reading and prayer…and that house that I was working so hard to keep was never cleaner! It was, ironically, the most peaceful time of my life.

Since then, I sold the house and now share a bigger one with my (more recently divorced) best friend and her two kids (ages 14 and 12, now). On days like today, when I’m home alone, I watched a 30 minute show while I ate my lunch, but the tv has, otherwise, been off (not always the case, each day is an individual creation). I’ll be on the computer for a few hours, read awhile and am doing chores between.

When the kids get in from school around 4:00, they’ll ask what’s wrong with the tv (they can’t get the concept that it doesn’t automatically come on when you wake up and go off when fall asleep…sad, I know). Then the family room tv will come on and stay that way until Mom or I (whichever is up latest) shuts it off on the way to bed tonight.

Since we don’t have plans to go out tonight, at any given point in the evening maybe all four tvs, three computers and two ipods in the house will be used simultaneously…who knows. Each day has it’s own format. Not the most quiet era of my life, but definately one of the most full-of-life eras, so far.

Oh, I have a correction to make…one ipod was confiscated by Mom a few days ago and has not been returned, so it will be shut off tonight… can happen with a tv or computer, too. It’s all in how you use it.

Jimmy Cracked Corn August 30, 2010 at 2:11 pm

It’s definitely not just either/or. Good/bad. Eating too much makes you an obese glutton, but not eating makes you skinny, sick and dead. Find balance. *DO* add up the hours you are spending, be aware the next time you turn down a friend’s invitation to a book club that when you say you don’t have the time to read a book each month that you probably could have used a few of those NINETY HOURS of TV time doing something else.

Eric September 1, 2010 at 8:01 am

I say TV is really up to you. If you are paying for channels that you like to watch, great. If not, get rid of it. I personally use Netflix with my PS3 and we have the Instant Watch and love it. We just pick a movie or show whenever we feel like it and that’s it.

It works for us and it costs less than having cable or satellite.

Cameron Benz September 1, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I bought my first TV a year and a half ago when I bought my house. Got cable. Then after 6 months of spending too much time in front of it, just had the cable turned off and stopped watching it altogether. Part of it is just my own tendency and I’m willing to admit that. The other part is, Im pretty sick of having all the advertising shoved down my throat, especially on TV. Seems like it’s all ED meds and Tampon ads. Wonder if they could combine them?

David Cain September 15, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Hi Corbett.

I don’t have TV service (or even a TV set right now) and I haven’t really watched TV for a few years. When I watch now it is only at someone else’s house, and it becomes a social activity (watching football, etc.)

I quit because I realized that TV’s main purpose for me was to allow myself to pass time comfortably. Basically I was just getting closer to my grave, with absolutely nothing to show for the time I spent. TV had become a way of dealing with the conundrum of having to figure out what to do with my time, which is no different than figuring out what to do with my life. My TV habit was nothing less than a great way of avoiding my biggest responsibility: using my life well.

I don’t think I am an alone here either. We barely notice that it has become so, so normal to spend years of our lives staring at a glowing box that does nothing but depict things happening in other people’s lives. This is really disturbing if you think about it, and I think almost anyone would thank themselves later if they drastically reduced the amount of TV they watch.

There is a bit of a smugness among anti-TV people sometimes, but I think I know where it comes from. For me it comes from my disgust at having spent much of my own life so poorly, flipping through channels over and over, hoping I can find something that will help me pass another hour.

Corbett September 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Well said, David. I still see both sides, but you’ve made a strong case for ditching the “glowing box.” Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

Robert September 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

This argument reminds me of what my ADD/BiPolar/Borderline ex-wife wrote 3 years ago in her court briefs..

“He (that would be me) will not let us have cable TV. TV is a necessity!”

My factual response.. “After 18 months of receiving arrears calls from the cable company, I instructed them to disconnect the service. My wife would never pay this on time. I connected a TV antenna to our set. The net result of my actions: We received 18 stations for free. We saved over $700 a year in our household budget, and Both of our children’s school marks increased by a full grade point (C’s to B’s).”

TV is absolute garbage made for the “sheeple”, turn it off & do something constructive.

Corbett September 16, 2010 at 1:21 pm

“Sheeple” — hadn’t heard that one before.

Richard Chidike | Motivatory October 2, 2010 at 6:25 am

I don’t think that watching TV is a waste of time but, rather it bothers on what exactly you are watching. I have personally used the television as a source of good stories for my blog.

Hugh October 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I haven’t owned a TV in years but just bought one last week because my girlfriend wanted one. I think the important thing is knowing when to stop watching instead of totally shutting off your brain and sitting there for hours.

Edgar Ochoa October 7, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I haven’t owned a TV, ever… so I choose not to watch TV at all.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t watch documentaries, movies that inspire, etc… — I do have my “movie days” with my girlfriend once in a while. And it’s fun!

I also find that watching less TV does leave you more time for reading, enjoying a nice cup of coffee with a friend, or visit family members.

But I guess it’s all in moderation.

And as you suggested, the Internet can also be a HUGE waste of time (if not used properly). I find that it does happen with me every once in a while — watching the latest funny video in YouTube, browsing the profiles of your Facebook friends, etc… All waste a of time when you have more important things to get done.

So I think it’s about moderation and knowing when to stop.

John October 26, 2010 at 6:20 am

I gave up tv ages ago and have not looked back. It’s a serious waste of time and life. YouTube and almost all movies are also a waste of time. Movies like hotel Rwanda and milk have a message so they are ok.

soukaina October 31, 2010 at 2:47 pm

tv is a real waste of time
it is stealing all of the things that are more precious to us ; our mind ; body and soul

sheena April 5, 2011 at 8:36 am

tv is an importabt part of our modern life, one we can hardly imagine living without………..

Alto August 8, 2011 at 4:13 am

Im a strong fan of NO TV! Definitely no TV. I just see it as a huge time waste. I live on internet and im happy with that, moreover as you know, if you create a small business on the internet it really makes your life :)

Frank Martin | Modern Monkey Mind March 23, 2012 at 8:49 am

Since I started college (and I graduated last year) I have only ever watched TV with friends as a social event, and that was once or twice a week. TV is a double edged sword. It can be a great social lubricant, a social/bonding activity, or a waste of time that eats your life and gives you nothing in return. I’d argue the internet is the same way. Both are tools. Neither is inherently bad. The way we use them is the problem, not them in themselves.

Tiffany April 10, 2012 at 3:49 am

Where is the pleasure in watching poorly written shows full of plot holes and bad dialogue?

Television isn’t a pleasure at all. It’s equivalent to the bottom barrel of literature without the advantage of improving reading skills. As most writers are hacks to begin with, this is pretty terrible.

I have to admit there are a dozen television shows I actually liked. What these shows all have in common is that they will never be aired on American television.

I don’t know if watching television makes you stupid, but I know television is made for stupid people.

I would rather burn myself with a hot needle than watch television. And the same goes for most movies, too.

Derek Jensen April 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

I’ve moved from the spontaneous TV to the internet TV where you know what you want to watch and plan accordingly.

Not only is this a time saver but now TV has more of a purpose that just to pass time.

TV is essential to understanding pop culture and staying relevant with times. I’ve noticed that during the 3 month period where I neglect to watch any form of TV my writing became dry, boring, and really lacking in excitement or passion.

It’s hard to believe that having no TV made my writing and critical thinking processes dull. It’s about keeping your mind busy and TV helps your mind and thinking produce work that is full of personality and good quality.

Brent April 10, 2012 at 11:04 am

I tutor low-income and at-risk youth, going to where they live.

Every single poor, violent home, without exception, has two features that are so consistent that tutors have come to know them as markers:

1. There’s no place in the home for bookshelves or a desk
2. No matter the time of day, the television is always on

These are poor kids that don’t have access to books or even school supplies, yet its not uncommon to see many TVs in one home with multiple cable channels, blinking in the house all day.

Once in a while there’s a sensitive kid who “reads”, trapped in a blaring carnival of poverty.

Tania Dakka April 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm

As with everything, in moderation it’s fine. However, that doesn’t mean that watching just anything is ok. As a writer, it’s important for observation and honing skills, but trashy shows that offer no value are a waste of time – for me. I love a good flick and some great storylines, but I’m honestly too busy to enjoy too much of it anyway.

Jeremy or IHeartTravel April 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I come down on both sides of this argument In a weeks time I usually watch about 1-2 hours of TV, why?, simply because I am far more entertained by what’s happening on my twitter feed, the various blogs I read, or writing/designing stuff for my brand. I am not totally oppose to watching TV whenever I do, in fact when it’s turned on it usually stays on one channel, the ‘travel channel’

however programs have become simply… idiotic, shows like Jersey Shore or real hose wives of __x__, i think they’re a waste of life, but to each’s own on that respect.

On the other side I also have a four year old little girl, and programs on PBS kids, and Nick jr, I cherish highly for the messages they deliver to my daughter in a way I cannot.

I see myself in the near future cutting the cable, and having the internet take over, since most programs are now offered online.

Darlene April 19, 2012 at 12:30 am

After a divorce years ago I put my TV in my upstairs loft so I had to make an effort if I wanted to watch it. I turned off the cable so I basically just had movies – at that time still some VHS and DVDs. I had it like that for 3 years and barely watched any TV, didn’t really feel like I was missing anything. Now my new husband has a TV in the living room and he likes to relax in the evenings and watch it (he often drives truck 12-14 hours a day) and I tend to get sucked into it. I’d love to get rid of it but he wants it – so I’m sorta stuck. I found the years without it were probably my most productive.

Hilton June 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

It depends on the show. lol.

Corbett August 25, 2010 at 11:18 am

Awesome, Daniel. Thanks so much. Glad you liked this one.

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