Friday, May 14, 2010

The Idiot Box

Earlier this week I sat at a wide boardroom table making small talk with a woman I didn’t know. She’s going to become a co-worker, and maybe a friend, but in those first getting-to-know-you minutes I didn’t have anything to say. She bravely took up the conversational mantel and asked if I watched Lost. No, I replied, I don’t watch much TV. Silence covered us for a few seconds, until someone else at the table volunteered that they watched Lost. As the conversation moved ahead without me, I stopped to think about my TV habits.

I don’t watch much TV. Really. I think. My husband lived without a television for four years. My own disdain for the idiot box surely keeps my tube time in check. I only watch my two hour long mysteries, a pair of half an hour comedies, my addictive hour of British Science Fiction, and that one reality show I just can’t shake. Oh, and there’s that new thing they labeled Gothic Horror I’ve been catching lately. That couldn’t be all that much…. Except that it adds up to six hours.

Imagine yourself in my place, in the conference room meeting someone new, strained smiles and self-conscious glances all around. When the stranger asks you say, “I work out for six hours a week.” Wow! You’re quite the gym rat. You must really care about your health! If you said, “I pray for six hours a week” shock would fill the room at your devotion to your faith. Volunteer six hours a week and you’ll be praised. Spend six hours a week studying something – a language, math, or science, and you must be smart. But watch six hours a week of television and all you have is six hours less in your week.

If someone offered you an extra six hours a week, in one hour increments what do you think you could accomplish? Would you fill those magical six hours with writing? Research? Exercise? Several well deserved naps? But what if it was more than that, what if someone offered to give you back 153 hours this month? That’s the average amount of time an American watches television at home in a month. Even if you watch half of that average you’ve spent the equivalent of 3 days solid in front of the TV. If you spent that same amount of time on your writing, polishing your manuscripts, contacting agents, writing and rewriting that dread synopsis, how much better off would your career be?

Personally, spending that much time in front of the tube frightens me. I don’t think television improves my writing or my health. I don’t think it adds enough joy to my life to justify the time I give it. Starting now I’ll be cutting my TV time down a lot. I suspect you’ll still be able to find me curled up on the couch watching a movie on Friday or Saturday night, but the mindless “if it’s Monday, it must be Castle” has to stop. (But not with Castle, I like him and he’s a writer.)

How much time have you spent watching TV in the last week? Did it make you happy? Happier than you could have been doing something else with that time? Anyone want to try a TV-free week with me?

Curious about my statistics? They come from the Nielsen foundation, that tracks TV watching and statics. Read the study.


When she’s not cooking, buying, or dreaming about food Rachel Kleinsorge writes steamy paranormal mystery romances. She is currently waiting for the call from her agent, the amazing Carolyn Grayson, while working on her next novel.


Anne MacFarlane on May 14, 2010 at 9:04 AM said...

I don't watch a lot of tv. I think because I never got in the habit as a young person. Growing up in Canada with 1 TV, 2 channels and a family of 6 meant that there was little on that I wanted to watch - besides Hockey Night in Canada.

I was glued to it during the Olympics but now I watch perhaps 5 or 6 hours a week? American Idol, Oprah once or twice a week and the local news. Oh, and the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Sally Kilpatrick on May 14, 2010 at 12:28 PM said...

Yeah, there's too much TV in the house. I try to limit it, but I'm prone to turning on the Disney Channel so I can get supper cooked in peace. Unfortunately, the TV isn't going anywhere soon because my husband works for Turner and thus our livelihood is based on ye olde boob tube. I really only watch Castle, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and Leverage--but we also watch tons of sports and The Daily Show and the Colbert Report as the occasional treat.

DVR has changed our lives, though. Hubby and I usually work out for an hour to an hour and a half each night, and anything we want to watch will be there waiting for us instead of interrupting us.

Great food for thought! There's no telling what I would accomplish if I gave up TV, wine, and about half of my Internet time. Oh, well.

MaryC on May 14, 2010 at 9:50 PM said...

I don't actually watch much TV. My only must-see shows are Castle and Glee.
My husband OTOH has the TV on constantly - tuned to MSNBC. That's not to say he's watching it; it's mostly background noise unless some story catches his eye.

I have, however, discovered a new detestable passion for online video games. Talk about a total waste of time!

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