You Should Give Up Television
A New Era of Television
On June 12, 2009, television stations were required to change their broadcasting methods from analog to digital. What this meant was that unless you had a device that was compatible with digital signals, you would not be able to receive any transmissions that allowed you to watch programs. Before this date, practically any TV in the country could be turned on and the viewer would be able to watch the evening news, sports programs, situation comedies or any media that was locally available on the airwaves. On this date, the government agency known as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted rules that changed the way all stations could disseminate their signals to the public,
A Brief History of Television
The television was invented sometime in the 1920's but didn't become popular in the United States until the mid 1950's. In 1948, three major networks appeared: ABC, CBS, and NBC.When the television first came out, a set cost roughly $1,000 which even by today's standards is a large amount of money.
As we moved into the 1960's, more programs became available and news broadcasts were popular. In the 1980's cable emerged as well as other networks such as FOX and almost every household in the United States either had a television or access to one.
TVs could be found in waiting rooms at the doctors office and local stores had a wide arrange of models to choose from, ranging in sizes that were portable to examples that could practically take up an entire wall.
Televisions Come in All SizesClick thumbnail to view full-size
How Many Televisions Do You Own?
Brief History (cont.)
There was a time in this country - back when there were still only three networks - that television stations would actually go off the air - usually around midnight or a little after. You would see a video that played that national anthem and usually showed patriotic images: soldiers in colonial dress, jet aircraft flying in formation, or scenes of National Parks.
After this video, the station would announce it was concluding broadcasting for the day and you would then see what was called "snow".
There were rarely any stations that would broadcast 24 hours and the only real cable channel was HBO which basically showed movies that had finished their theatrical runs and were soon to be available on VHS tapes. To have cable in these days was sort of a "thing" and wasn't very common.
There were a few people in my neighborhood that had this luxury and stations like HBO really did not do their own productions like they do today. The only thing they provided was access to films that a viewer could enjoy in the comfort of their own home.
Some Logos from the 1980sClick thumbnail to view full-size
Some Staggering Facts
Humanity is so connected today. Cellular phones are ubiquitous, even in third world countries and the internet is in fact, the world wide web it professes to be. For anyone who has been to a restaurant, movie theater, or driven down the freeway, seeing another carrying a portable phone in their hands isn't an unusual site.
I myself have witnessed joggers or groups of friends walking in the mall, carrying on conversations or texting messages in public.
These observations are a bit curious because I don't understand why someone needs to be distracted by a conversation with another who is possibly on the other side of the planet, while they are in the company of friends or supposed to be looking over a menu.
When television first became popular in the 1950's, there were social observers who coined the term "idiot box" to describe the implications the device had on the public consciousness. One man called TV, "a vast wasteland" and many people were spending hours in front of a set that glowed and showed moving pictures with sound bites and characters talking to one another.
According to statistics, most people spend a almost a quarter of their entire 24 hour day in front of the television. If you do the math, this equates to roughly three months annually. Children actually spend the least time in front of the TV and the habit is one that seems to increase as one becomes older. The chart below is compiled from statistics provided by the Nielsen Report which monitors television viewing habits.
The Average Time Americans Spend Watching Television by Age
Hours Spent Watching TV Each Week
Average Annual Consumption
24 hrs 16 min
20 hrs 41 min
22 hrs 27 min
27 hrs 36 min
33 hrs 40 min
43 hrs 56 min
50 hrs 34 min
Television: the Idiot Box and a Vast WastelandClick thumbnail to view full-size
How much time do you spend watching TV each day?
Stopping the Moving Pictures
Certainly it can be said that TV is a nice distraction. One doesn't have to think and images - often entertaining or aesthetically pleasing - are delivered to you directly while you sit on the couch, relax after a shower, or prepare and consume a delicious meal. You can watch a situation comedy during the evening hours - prime time as it is referred to in the parlance of the profession - and not have to think. You can laugh at other people's foibles and be amused at the antics acted out on a magical box that you share your room with. All these images are really are just pictures that move - with no real purpose in mind - and make sounds and speak in voices - with very little meaning. Again and again, the same pictures and such.
nothing on TVClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Brief Experience with Cable
I spent quite a bit of time with my television on prior to June 2009. Usually I left it on for background noise and would keep it on to anticipate the shows I really wanted to watch - late night talk shows mostly. When regular TV went off the air, I didn't go out and buy a new antenna. I waited a bit and debated whether I should or not. When an offer from the cable company came, I decided to try it out for a little bit. After all, the bundle included Wi-Fi - which is what I really wanted - and a telephone line - which I didn't need.
My experience with cable television taught me one thing: TV is an unnecessary luxury. I tried finding some interesting shows to watch and the ones that I picked were rebroadcast several times a day - every day. There was a lot of reality television programming and most of the shows were very similar: for example there were several that involved fixing up a business establishment:
Restaurant Rescue and Bar Rescue are two examples. These were no different than the house fix up programs either which were very common. They all involved the similar idea of taking a failing business and fixing it up into something nice that made money. The exact format was the same for all the programs involved and for every episode of each program.
There were a few other examples of shows that I found appealing: How It's Made and 1,000 Ways to Die were a couple of others that come to mind right now. But they were repeated several times each day - it almost seemed as if there were channels that showed the same program continuously and there were over 500 channels I could access with my cable option.
Then I also realized that some of the shows like 1,000 Ways to Die or Worlds Dumbest Criminals really were not that entertaining. I found myself laughing at situations that really were not that funny. Most of the stories focused on someone else's misfortunes or bad luck and the stories were anything but humorous.
I didn't like the person I was becoming because of these television shows and I could sense my brain morphing into something that I wasn't sure it could recover from.
At this point, I realized how toxic television programming is.
In case you have never seen 1,000 Ways to Die:
Another episode of the same show
How long do you think you could go without TV?
Other Distractions to Occupy Your Time
There are many other things you could do with your time than watch television. It's rather amusing because when I tell people that I don't own a TV, they always ask me "Well, what do you do?". That's rather odd and the underlying implication is that, for most people, media seems to be the main recreational activity people do outside of work.
Besides, the influence of media is what most people attribute modern day violence to and I agree. Media culture is slowly destroying our minds and changing our society into something not so good. I am very convinced that we would all be better off without it.
While I don't think I have made that strong an argument for turning off your television or that I've managed to completely provide a narrative describing my relinquishment with it, I hope I've offered some inspiration.
TV has been called the "idiot box", the "boob tube" and a "vast wasteland" for a reason. It is an opiate of sorts that occupies our time and brains rather than providing us with meaningful stimulation.
Not only does media influence our society in negative ways, but we as a people are paying way too much attention to celebrity. We don't need actors telling us how to think politically or complaining about issues which they are often exempt from.
It really doesn't make sense.
Is there too much violence on television?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Finn