How to watch TV sanely

I have never seen a bad television program, because I refuse to. God gave me a mind, and a wrist that turns things off.
~Jack Paar

Most people who know me know I have a serious loathing for television. That’s not to say I don’t watch TV shows. I enjoy Doctor Who, Star Trek, Family Guy, and several other programs. But I don’t watch television.

My parents do. My father will sit down, turn on the TV, and it will remain on constantly for the rest of the day and likely the night as well. He’s not watching anything specific…he just flips around until he finds something he’s not adverse to and watches it. In order to have a conversation with him, you have to fight the TV for his attention. My mother is only slightly better. It’s ridiculous, it’s sad, and it makes me not want to spend time with them.

While I’m still an advocate for chucking the damn thing out the door completely, it is possible to watch TV and keep your sanity.

The first step is realizing that television is an addictive drug. I’m not even joking about that.

The second step is realizing that it’s preferable to not have something constantly running in the background. You don’t need TV or music going constantly. Humans were not meant to multi-task and you may concentrate better without it. Ever go into a restaurant with a TV in it and find yourself staring at it without meaning to? That’s what I’m talking about. I’ll turn music on when I cook or clean or craft, but once I’m back to a focus-driven activity, like reading or writing, the cacophony stops. If I’m watching something with friends, I’ll pause what we’re watching if there is a conversation happening. Music can be a nice background sometimes, but a lot of the time I find it a distraction.

If you have shows you want to watch, then watch them. But don’t say “I’m going to watch TV,” and then get stuck there. If you’re watching Doctor Who, watch Doctor Who and then turn the TV off. Don’t channel surf. You’re not watching TV, you’re watching Doctor Who. Once Doctor Who is done, you find another activity.

Similarly, don’t sit down and aimlessly watch whatever’s on. If you’re bored, find something else to do. Play a video game, read a book, clean or cook or take a walk. Talk to someone. Don’t veg out…stimulate your brain with an activity. Don’t fall into the trap of passive entertainment.

Better yet, get rid of the cable/satellite service and get Netflix or some other service that allows you to watch only with intention. You can’t sit down and watch whatever’s on Netflix. You have to actively select something.

To sum it up…control the television or it will control you.


2 Responses to “How to watch TV sanely”

  1. maloyo Says:

    Another advantage to “sane” TV watching is it limits exposure to advertising. Since I stopped reading magazines, and basically only watch DVDs, I shop very little. Can’t want what you are unaware exists. ;-) Shopping becomes about what a person actually needs, which is really what it should be. Makes life easier–and cheaper.

  2. Dargon Says:

    My folks are much the same when it comes to TV watching. I find when I am at their place, I often fall into the trap. There ain’t a damned thing to do there, and the TV is on. Thing is, more often than not, it only serves to remind me how much I dislike TV. There’s a few decent shows, but most the time it’s garbage.

    Crazy enough, I think things like the Tivo can be helpful for TV watching, as you don’t have to watch it as it is broadcast. Mind you, it can do the opposite, piling up tons of mindless crap.

    In the end, I am a fan of acquiring TV shows through the internet or DVD when the whole season is done and watching then.

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