Since When Did Television Become a Way of Life?

December 14, 2010 at 2:48 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Remember how I said in my previous rant how TV was my number one most-hated thing in the world ever?  And I also mentioned I might be able to rant on it for days on end.  Well, I won’t rant for days, but I will give some ideas for you to consider.
So, you get home from work and you’re tired.  You live in your own house because you can’t stand living with other people for whatever reason, and you’re bored.  Your friends, if you have any, are far away and also tired, and you don’t really feel like going out or doing anything.  So, what do you do?  Of course!  You turn on the tube.

Pretty soon though, this becomes a way of life.  It becomes automatic.  I used to think my father was the only person who turned the TV on from the second he got home to the second he left for work the next morning.  But that, as usual, was setting my expectations too high for the human race.  Prompted by both of my current roommates’ LOVE for TV and the fact that I pay their ridiculously high cable and power bills for their obsession, I am going on another rant.  This time, it’s what you can do INSTEAD of watching TV.

So, why waste time?  Let’s get to the list.

  • Join a Gym. This, without a doubt, is my favorite suggestion.  I could rant and rave on the benefits of choosing the gym over television for a long time.  Here’s the short list: engages your mind, gets you moving, gets you around other people (with a positive attitude about life), gets you interested in something that’s not TV, and makes you look and feel better.  And that, my friends, will just cause a chain reaction where everything gets better.  And the best part?  Most gym memberships cost less than your TV bill per month – especially if you have expensive digital cable or some fancy HD power-hungry TV set.
  • Join a Sports Team.This is along the same lines as the gym suggestion.  Think about it though.  You know the primary excuse for not doing things like the gym or sports is time.  People whine about not having time.  And then they spend all their time watching TV.  Fucking idiots.  Get your head out of your ass.  If you’re fortunate to live in a moderately large city (or bigger), chances are good there’s something that will interest you.  Club sports like soccer, flag football and even sometimes rugby are available.  Also, slow- and fast-pitch league softball, for recreational play – almost every city has one of these.  If you’re the individual sports type, try tennis or frisbee golf (or real golf if you’ve got the money to put forward on the initial investment).  And you’ll MEET REAL PEOPLE doing this.
  • Learn to Cook – and then DO IT. This is one of the best.  And, really, you can watch a little bit of TV here and there while you’re waiting for something to heat or bake, so it’s a good way to start getting off of TV.  Everyone who doesn’t know how to cook seems to have one or more of the following ass-backwards ideas about cooking:
  1. It’s too hard.  But of course, we all know it’s easy.  It just takes some initiative.  Start with easy things like grilled cheese, soup, stew, grilling, veggies and eggs.  Then branch out.
  2. You have to learn from someone who knows how.  Again, you’re an idiot if you think this.  While some recipes are highly personalized and definitely DO need to be passed on this way, a lot of cooking is easy to look up on the internet.  You’d be amazed what’s available.  Think of something you’d like to eat, then google it.  It’s that fucking simple.
  3. You need lots of money.  Well, for one, no.  Granted, we all have a food budget, but I’m guessing that if you don’t cook much, you eat out a lot or buy frozen food.  That’s WAY more expensive than cooking a wholesome meal at home.  And in the event that it seems to cost the same, take a look at the amount you get.
  4. It’s time-consuming.  Yes, it certainly can be.  And what are you doing with all that time you could be using to learn to cook?  You’re fucking filling your brainwashed noggan with bullshit TV shows, that’s what.  Again, head out of your ass.
  • Read. You’ve probably heard this often.  Maybe you’ve even tried it.  The trick is to find something you care about and then read that.  You can read news, self-help, professional development, fiction (any of the endless genres available), textbooks or even technical literature if you like.  Who gives a damn.  Reading can only make you more informed and smarter – and you’ll retain what you read if you’re really interested.  If you keep a reading list, it will help to keep you focused.  Reading before bed, instead of watching TV, is a great way to help you get to sleep at a more “regular” bedtime (take it from a bona fide insomniac).
  • Start a Blog. Writing is one of the best ways to learn.  Writing about things we are interested in helps us learn about where we truly stand on issues that matter to us.  You may think that sounds stupid, but consider this: how much do you know about the last class you took?  Probably not much.  But you certainly remember your paper topic, and even maybe some intricate details.  You LEARN when you write.  And not only do you learn about what you’re writing about, but you get better at writing – a skill that is becoming a lost art thanks to Facebook, texting and IM conversations.  Your vocabulary will get better and you’ll sound more intelligent when you speak – another thing that is mostly gone from the world today.
  • Go Back to School. Take a class in something that interests you at your local university.  It will get your brain working again.  It’s good for the brain to learn – it keeps the mind fresh in many other ways.  Why do you think old people are so set in their ways?  They stop using their brains and stop growing.  Also, they probably don’t stay active and the constant pain they live with probably makes them cranky, too, but that’s another rant.  And this is another one of those things that will introduce you to new people and, potentially, new friends.
  • Get a Hobby. Again, the possibilities are endless here.  Do something you’ve always wanted to do.  You could build model ships or airplanes, take up photography (maybe even sell your work, or start a photo blog), learn to play an instrument, learn to sing, join a band, start a band, learn to knit or crochet, take up woodworking or just whatever the fuck you want to do.  It’s fantastic, this whole living thing.
  • Home Improvement. It takes more money, but get off your ass and fix that leaky faucet or replace your worn-out garbage disposal.  Maybe you should repaint?  Maybe you should even redrywall!  Or get that guest bedroom looking tidy and inviting, just in case.  It will give you a sense of having accomplished something real, and it will get your mind working.  And, hey, maybe you can even lower your monthly TV bills to put some money towards your house.  Or maybe you can jazz up your yard and really have something awesome to come home to, who knows.
  • Volunteer. If you’re one of the few persons left on earth that still has a passion for ANYTHING other than watching Youtube videos and TV, find a way to turn it into a volunteering effort.  You could volunteer just about anywhere – your local botanical gardens, a wildlife shelter (with birds!), the zoo, a pet store, a daycare, a cleanup crew or maybe a recycling plant.  Whatever your interests are, you can find a way to volunteer.  I’ve always been curious about how recycling plants operate, so I’m going to volunteer.  I’ve always wanted to be close to a red-tailed hawk – maybe even make friends with it.  Wildlife shelter!  Or, if you live in Omaha like I used to, the Fontenelle Forest is awesome for that.  Volunteering gets you out of the house, gets you exposed to new things and, best of all, new people.  You can make friends and have a great time volunteering.  Shoot, I’ve even gone to clean up creeks in the city before, all by myself.  You get such a great, wholesome feeling when you’re done.  If you’re REALLY having trouble finding a way to volunteer, talk to a nearby university – they have volunteering services that will notify you via email when there’s something that fits your interests.
  • Get a Part-Time Job. This is volunteering on the next level.  And it brings in an extra income.  However, this suggestion is a bit temperamental because you shouldn’t get a part-time job and then hate it.  That will just make you go back to your familiar TV surroundings.  Again, another great way to make friends and expose yourself to new aspects of life.
  • Get a Pet. Another (evidently from the naysayers) time-consuming thing that you could do without TV monopolizing your life.  Cats and dogs make loving companions that can give you some sense of emotional connection, even if you live alone.  Of course, I’m not suggesting you become “that cat lady.”  It’s just something I thought I’d throw in, mainly because I love birds so much.
  • Set a Long-Term Goal. Set a goal for yourself.  And don’t just fucking think of something in your head and say, “Ok, I did it.”  Write it down.  Then break it into steps that you can achieve.  Then give each one a due date.  It will give you a sense of direction if you lack one (most people with TV addiction do).  It will give you a feeling of accomplishment to even have achieved as much as writing it down and setting a definite course of action.
  • Go to Church. Yes, I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I filter my messages when it can do some good.  If you’re religious, start going to church again.  Or get involved even.  Or, if you’re a religious person who left your previous church, find a new one that you like more.  Whatever.  I don’t know how these religious things go, but apparently you’re all happier with religion, or something like that 😛  I can GUARANTEE, however, that you’ll be happier if you’re not addicted to TV, and this is just another way to break the habit.

Ok, so now that I’ve got that list up, let’s talk about why people watch TV in the first place.  Now, before I begin, I’ll assure you that no argument you can come up with will be worth a shit.  Here’s the ones I anticipated, along with my rebuttals.

  1. Entertainment.  Ok, so my first question to you is do you REALLY find that garbage on TV entertaining!??!?  Ok, sometimes some shows are funny (1000 Ways to Die, Dexter, etc.).  But they are exceedingly rare and you don’t need 3-4+ hours per day to watch it all.  If you think reality shows (Jersey Shore, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Teen Mom or anything A&E does) are good, you have simply sunk into self-delusion due to TV addiction, and I’m here to help.  The point is, there’s other shit that’s far more entertaining.  And also, you weren’t fucking put on this earth to be entertained.  I feel like that’s all people do anymore – seek entertainment.  In a broader sense, entertainment is what life is.  But we both know that isn’t what I”m talking about.  Get the fuck over it.  Go to a comedy club.  Go dancing.  Go to a local band – THERES a thought!  Support your local fucking economy.  Go out to eat with friends.  There’s REAL life shit you can do for entertainment, people.
  2. Social Activity.  First of all, when did watching TV become an acceptable substitute for talking to your family at dinner?  So many families just watch TV while they eat anymore that I’m fucking disgusted.  Talking to your family and friends while you eat is a fantastic way to provide support in REAL LIFE issues that your children may need, or to evaluate how the day went.  Teaching the art of critical evaluation is important for things like this – do people even know how to reflect on life anymore?
  3. Source of News.  If you can find news on TV, you can find it online.  It’s better for your mind to read a news article rather than have someone read it to you from a prompt and broadcast it over some distance.  What I’m saying is you can get your news in the newspaper (newspaper companies really need support nowadays) or on the internet (where you can also support local newspapers, by the way).  And, what’s more, if you get your news from the paper or the internet, you can get more than the rapes, murders and suicides that happened that day.  Your life and your world will be a happier place to live.  I personally love to keep up with the “green revolution.”  And, lastly, it’s worth mentioning that while most news is biased, you at least have the option to evaluate the bias of the reporting source if you get your news online.
  4. Source of Noise.  This is another side effect of TV addiction, really.  Look it up.  People went to sleep in the 1800’s without noise to fall asleep to.  It’s a mental disorder that you voluntarily feed when you NEED the TV to fall asleep.  It’s like quitting smoking – it will take some serious effort at first, but it’s a change WELL worth the investment.  Try something a little more neutral like a fan or a humidifier.  Or open your windows if the weather is nice.  My father can’t sleep if people are making noise in real life, but he can sleep through Saving Private Ryan if it’s on TV.  It’s a fundamental difference in the way your mind interprets the sound, and it’s not good for you.  If you use it as a source of noise while you study or read, why not listen to music instead?
  5. Education.  Really?  You claiming you receive any sort of educational value whatsoever by watching TV programming these days is like trying to say you read the articles in a pornography publication.  You’re a fucking idiot for even trying to claim it.  The ONLY exception to that is a documentary from a legitimate source (NOT A&E, MTV or Discovery, morons).  Some examples include Food, Inc. or Planet Earth.  Of course, a bonus you get with watching legitimate documentaries is your ability to critically evaluate the source.  Where did funding come from?  What agenda might that company have?  But, one step a a time, grasshopper.  And as far as little kids’ education – why are you leaving your child’s education and development to TV?  Haven’t you seen what it’s done to high school kids these days?  It’s said that the leaders of tomorrow are the students of today.  I’ll be surprised if we survive as a species when these kids I live with are the leaders of the country.
  6. Sports.  This ONE SOLE purpose for TV existing is the only legitimate argument.  You can get a lot of sports programs broadcast over the internet, but it is very sensitive to what part of the country you live in.  Furthermore, some companies (like ABC) own exclusive rights to broadcast sporting events on their station and, as such, prohibit their broadcast online.  This, hopefully, will change soon.  Sporting events from dicks like ABC are the ONLY reason anybody needs a TV anymore, and I suspect it will change eventually.  In the meantime, why not go to a sports bar to watch a game?  It has several advantages: it gets you out and about, around other people, it supports local businesses, it prevents you from having to pay for digital cable to get HD sports channels, it prevents you from paying for PPV games and it develops relationships with existing friends if you go with them.

I’ll offer one final piece of advice.  A lot of times, people use TV as a way to entertain guests or provide entertainment at a social gathering.  This is, what’s the word I want…LAME.  Besides being boring to some of us, it doesn’t really develop relationships you have with the other people there at all.  A few alternatives:

  • Motion Gaming. Most people have a Wii or a PS3 with some damn sensor that allows you to do things like bowling, golf and other sports.  It’s a social activity that involves maybe 4-8 people, but it forces your brain to work and it gets you up off your ass.  Also, if you’ve never done this before, it can be pretty entertaining.
  • Board Games or Card Games. Before you write it off as lame, I’ll just say that some of the funnest parties I’ve ever been to involved Cranium, Twister, charades, trivia and the like.  Card games can also be a blast, really.  I’ve never bee one to gamble, but I have a life-long dream of participating in a LEGITIMATE game of strip poker with people I’d actually not mind seeing naked.  See, look at that – setting a goal.  You can turn a lot of card games and board games into drinking games if you insist on alcohol being involved, too.  And most people need alcohol to remove their inhibitions against strip poker anyways…

So, there you have it.  Eliminating TV from your life, or even just cutting back by several hours per day, provides such a vast improvement in quality of life that it really can’t be done justice by a simple blog post.  You really have to try it.  But, just like any bad habit, don’t try to quit cold-turkey.  You’ll just end up frustrated and deeper in your addiction.  Instead, start slow.  Here’s one possible route (and one final list – really, it’s the last one, I swear):

  1. Begin breaking your addiction by going to sleep without the TV on.  Instead, maybe 30 minutes to 1 hour before you’d like to fall asleep, turn off the TV and get a book you’re interested in reading.  Turn off harsh lights.  If you’re having problems focusing because there’s no noise, turn on a fan (you don’t have to point it at you) or other source of gentle, white noise.  This will also lower your power bill.  And, perhaps in the beginning, you’ll need even something more to help you fall asleep without the TV on.  This is where melatonin and herbs come in.  Try valerian root, or try Sleepy Time from Celestial Seasonings – it’s an herbal tea with some mint in it and it’s delicious.  They also have extra-strength varieties.
  2. Once you can fall asleep without the TV on, begin to crunch down your TV time during your awake hours.  Turn it off during dinner and try talking to whoever you eat with on a regular basis.  Or, try cooking dinner and only watching the TV while you’re waiting for something to cook or heat or whatever.  This is a good way to knock out two birds with one stone – learning to cook AND cutting back on TV.
  3. If you watch TV in the morning, try this instead: cook yourself a nice breakfast (something with eggs, pancakes or whatever you like) and brew some coffee.  Subscribe to the newspaper and read it while you eat.  This is a fantastic way to get local news, support local business and get a wholesome, decent breakfast in you, all while avoiding the TV.  It will also get you used to starting your day with a little less noise.
  4. Another good way to cut back on TV time is to do something on one or two nights of the week.  It’s a good way to start things slow.  If you take a night class, it’s easy.  You can also go to the gym a few nights per week.  Or join a sports team that practices a few times per week.  Anything to get you out of the house.  If you’re away from the TV room, you’ll be less likely to go back to it.

Most of all, remember to start slow.  You have a legitimate addiction and it’s not going to go away overnight.  Set reasonable expectations, work towards small goals at a time and remember to track your success.  If you really try hard, you’ll be in a chain reaction of amazing before you even know it.  Your life will be better, people will hold you in higher regard and you’ll just feel better all-around.  You’ll have the ambition and the drive to do a lot of those long-standing things you’ve just never gotten around to.  Stop letting TV ruin your life and start living it.

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