Living Without TV
In a way, I always envied people who didn’t have a television. As much as I hated to listen to them brag about it (as people without TVs often like to do), I kind of wondered what it would be like to detach completely from that particular section of pop culture, to give up my main source of visual entertainment and find something else to do with my down time. So when I packed up and moved to another country, I decided to take the opportunity to leave my television habit behind.
I was never the kind of person with a strong daily habit, anyway. I had a few shows I liked to follow, and certain times I’d just flick the box on out of boredom, but most of the time I was capable of giving preference to other things, like reading or conversation. I expected living without a TV would be difficult at first, and then get easier over time, but in fact it was right the opposite.
When I first moved, I was so busy with getting settled and organizing my new life that I wouldn’t have had time to watch TV even if I had owned one. At the end of the day, “relaxing” meant stumbling straight to bed, sometimes even too tired to get out of my street clothes. As things got easier in my daily life, I thought I might miss my entertainment comforts (I didn’t have Internet in my house, either), but as it turned out, by that time I had gotten used to not having a television, and I found other ways to fill my time. It was nice, at first.
For a while, I didn’t notice that I was missing anything. Since I had only given up TV recently, I still knew what people were talking about when they referred to shows I used to watch or particular storylines I had been following. But then, as time passed, I started to lose touch. New series started up that I didn’t know anything about, sometimes with new actors I had never heard of. Old things I used to watch came back for new seasons, and I didn’t know anything about those, either. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t start to annoy me. People would talk about the latest development on a particular weekly program, and I would feel the urge to ask them to fill me in on all the things that had led up to that. But then I reminded myself: I’m a person who doesn’t watch TV. I don’t even have one.
Then the absurdity of it started to dawn on me. If I were reading a particularly interesting series of novels, and the next one came out, would I deny myself the pleasure of buying it and reading it? Of course not. Serial novels may not be the height of fine literature, but they’re fun, and there’s no harm in doing something relaxing for pure enjoyment. Television, for all its faults, has the capacity to be a completely legitimate medium for storytelling, and in fact many of the series I like are not much different from the kinds of films that I like. I don’t stop myself from going to see films, so why the particular prejudice against TV?
I finally decided that the blanket judgment of television was unfair, and I decided to buy a small set for my home. At first I thought I might have to create a strict set of rules to keep me from overdosing on what I think of as “junk” programming, but in the end it really wasn’t necessary. I found myself watching well-produced series with riveting storylines, quality acting, and beautiful cinematography. I didn’t feel any desire to load up on gossip shows or watch umpteen reruns of sit-coms that got canceled ten years ago. I watched only what I was really interested in, and I never felt like that time was wasted, any more than I felt time spent reading a novel was wasted.
I know there are some people out there who would like me to tell the world that not having a TV transformed my life into something much more fulfilling than it was before, but really I don’t think having a television in the house is that big a deal. If you’re capable of stepping away from the box after you’ve seen what you really want to see, it can be a fun escape. Living unplugged was an interesting experiment, but although I never felt desperate about it, I’m glad to have my TV back. I know now that it’s certainly very possible to enjoy television without feeling like it’s destroying my soul or doing any harm to my life.