Today begins my 30 days without television. It is my sincere hope that after 30 days, I will have broken the hold of this incredibly powerful habit that unconsciously drives me to turn on the TV, and spend hours sitting passively when there are so many other things I would love to do with that time.
Over a period of years, increasingly since the advent of DVRs, bittorent, and TV shows with continuous story arcs, I have become far too dependent on this flickering companion. After a day spent sitting at a desk, the last thing I should do is sit in front of a TV for a bunch more hours, but it has become fused with my desire to relax & unwind after a long day – I need to detangle these things.
Sometimes I pay rapt attention, but most of the time I play with my phone and my computer while I listen to any one of the dozens of shows I now watch religiously. My hope is that by the end of this month, I’ve broken this very strongly ingrained habit, and remapped my reactions to the subtle cues which trigger me to grab the remote & press the power button.
- I’m feeling tired
- I want to relax
- it’s the weekend
- the Today Show is on
- (probably a dozen other things???)
In the last few years, I have done quite a bit of reading about habits & triggers (Duhigg, Wansink, Arielly, Eyal…). Though I was thinking about habits purely in the context of health & exercise behavior, once educated, I suddenly recognized that TV was an unconscious and very powerful habit for me, one so strong that it felt like a subtle craving that I instantly caved into without thought – the entire transaction lasting only milliseconds each time. What does TV provide? Noise, stories, & colors. Company, entertainment, knowledge, awe. These are not negatives, but the sitting and passivity are. So in the next month, I will do something else every time one of these triggers happens or I get that urge. And if all goes well, I will change my reaction and lessen the power of this habit. Watch less TV.
My parents were very strict about limiting our TV time, so I had lots of wonderful hobbies & skills growing up. Fast forward to my first studio apartment after graduating college, which by the way, had free cable – I became worried that I would become a crazy cat lady if I was left too alone with my bubbling thoughts, so I decided to get a TV to keep me company. Ha! Little did I know that my brain would keep percolating, and I’d actually grow to cherish the benefits of this mind chatter. Brain chatter is the processing of new information, oddly timed creative insights, and a lot of repetition that is just the brain committing information to memory, being a brain. But that free cable got me hooked.
Fast way forward….In the last 2 years, I’ve left a long-term stable job to build my own company as a solo founder, overcome many fears in the pursuit of a meaningful life, and learned more than I can possibly describe about both new technologies & running a business. I have needed my head to percolate and process almost endlessly while I sleep, when I shower, at every odd moment of the day. It’s a state below mania that’s still sort of manic. That, in a nutshell, is why it feels so good to turn my brain off and watch TV at the end of the day. But, it feels like an unhealthy addiction, one I will explore shedding over the next month.
See my story here: I Quit TV for 30 Days