Kill It!

Not really missing my television.

Not really missing my television.

“But it is much later in the game now, and ignorance of the score is inexcusable. To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple.”
-Neil Postman, “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business”

For 19 days, I’ve been on a television fast. For the first 11 of those days, I watched no television whatsoever. On the 12th day, I couldn’t help myself and had to watch five minutes of the morning weather forecast (I could have gotten it somewhere else, like my smartphone or computer).

Since then—a week ago, Thursday—I haven’t turned either one of our two televisions on. Neither has my wife.

Each evening, after dinner—a time when our television would always be on for two or three hours until we decided to go to bed, Mary and I have been reading. We are both avid readers, but without the television, even more reading is taking place. So are conversations that don’t have to compete with the 32 inch flat screen.

It was Neil Postman (quoted above) who helped me see how television had reshaped American culture when I read his classic book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, quoted from at the top. Postman wrote it in 1984, which seems like eons ago. He wrote it pre-Internet, pre-social media, and prior to projected images available on our smartphones. I wonder what Postman would think/write today were he still alive?

This decision to stop watching television by Mary and me wasn’t high-minded, or morally-derived. It was simple, really. We happened to be taking a short vacation beginning Labor Day at a coastal inn that didn’t have television in the rooms. I’m not sure why they don’t, but it seemed like a good thing and we didn’t miss it. We haven’t really missed it since we’ve been back home and back to work.

Last night, after a medical procedure on her banged up hip at our favorite osteopath and physiatrist, Mary told me after dinner, “I think I’m going to watch some television.”

“Okay. I’m planning to read,” I said. The television didn’t get turned on.

I’m not sure how long this is going to last. I’m sure I’ll be watching television again at some point. We do have Turner Classic Movies on our cable and seeing one of the great films from the past is always enjoyable, especially on a Saturday night, introduced by Robert Osborne.

Of course, after 19 days, the urge to flick the flat screen back on isn’t as strong as it was after 11 days. I’m thinking it lessens even more over time.

2 thoughts on “Kill It!

  1. You are preaching to the choir with me and possibly Loosehead Prop. Living without a Tee Vee now for more than 15 years has been an interesting and amazing life change. Of course, other time vampires sneak in (smart phone, web surfing) but the stark contrast between reality and Tee Vee is accentuated every time I gaze upon the glowing box in my travels. Sometimes, watching the Tee Vee “personalities” is frightening, because having lived without them for so long, one can see how obviously acting and persuasion techniques are involved in their “delivery.” Even more frightening is how the content of the “news” has morphed into entertainment, apparently, because we can’t “handle the truth.”

    Maybe it was a good idea at the time, but the hour is even later than it was when Postman first wrote and the ability to think critically about information wanes.

    Carry on.

  2. I gain a lot of information nowadays from listening to my local community radio station. It, too, is full of persuaders of different ilks, mostly from the “far left,” but there’s still a lot of useful information if you filter and test it carefully.

    One of the items I heard was during an interview with a screenwriter from Hollywood, a decent guy who didn’t seem wrapped up in that life. In an aside, he said that he knows no one in Hollywood / LA who still pays for cable. Instead, they have a high bandwidth internet connection, an Xbox, and a Netflix account (I am told that the free media that comes with an Amazon Prime account is even more expansive than Netflix and doesn’t have the bandwidth issues that Netflix does, so there’s another option).

    What that means is that the old TV of four stations, and the cable TV of a hundred stations, is just plain dead. It’s a zombie right now. So if you really wanted to step up to the new world, ditch your cable altogether. You get your local info and weather from other sources, anyway. I listen to the Pats on internet radio, and come the playoffs the NFL actually puts the games on the net at no cost.

    Quitting the tube is now cutting edge in more ways than one.

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