I have done something noteworthy. Shocking, some might say. Impossible, even.
I have said goodbye to television.
When I say I’m sending the tube on its way, I don’t mean that I’m cutting back on bad reality TV or shutting it off at eight instead of eleven. I have said goodbye to the set itself and am now part of the 1 to 2 percent of Americans who don’t own one.
I must admit, I wasn’t much of a player in the game anyway. Sure, I followed most seasons of American Idol and even almost-voted a few times. I watched as Korto was robbed of her win on season five of Project Runway. I have seen every episode of Seinfeld at least ten times and relish in the antics of Michael Scott and the rest of the Dunder Mifflin crew.
I can appreciate a good hour of entertaining TV, but unfortunately I’m bothered by what qualifies as “entertaining” these days. I fail to appreciate the ridiculous and offensive antics of modern Snookis. I don’t understand why we celebrate the downfalls of troubled movie stars or need to know the personal business of people that we only know in a one-dimensional world. Whether it’s Tyra on a self-indulgent talk show or mean-spirited brides-to-be picking out wedding gowns (or potential life partners, for that matter), there is an epidemic going on across all two hundred-plus channels and I can sum it up in three words: lack of creativity. The television has replaced parents, family dinners and books –things that encourage the formulation of personal ideas. Television does little to encourage active thought unless you’re sitting on the couch watching something of value all day, and even if you are, you’re still not actually doing anything.
I’m not trying to start a revolution in which we all transform our televisions into soap boxes. I don’t think that watching TV has a definite value of zero. If I knew with certainty that I could own a television and watch it sparingly, I would – but I know I’ll watch it if it’s there. I’m throwing out the boob tube for the same reason I don’t buy big tubs of cookie-dough ice cream: If it’s there, I’ll take advantage of it, even though I could be doing something more beneficial for myself.
Rest assured, I’m not clocking out of civilized society altogether. I’m all over the Internet and have a daily Facebook presence, but despite being questionable in its productivity, even these things require the one thing that television doesn’t – interaction.
You’re probably asking yourself one of two questions at this point: Are you crazy? and/or What are you going to do without a television?
The answer to question one is debatable and of course it’s all relative depending on whom you ask, but as for number two, I can tell you what I plan to do: read books (remember those?), hang out with my fourteen-year-old daughter before she decides I’m not cool anymore (okay, so maybe she already decided it, but now I’ll have a lot more time to prove to her why she’s wrong), listen to music, learn new hobbies and – hopefully – formulate new ideas. Maybe I’ll re-split the atom or invent a cure for the common cold. Maybe I’ll just make the world’s best peanut butter sandwich. Either way, I’ll be doing something rather than nothing.
I’ll admit, there’s always a chance that by May first I will have buckled down and bought a television. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
This column appears in the April issue of Thrive magazine.