Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Monster in the Living Room

When we moved into our home 18 months ago, we made an excellent decision. Our living room would be TV free. We relegated the TV, VCR, and Playstation to the basement. The basement is unfinished, and we have a play area for the kids, but we only went down once in a while to let the kids watch PBS. I only had a couple of programs that I liked to watch, but with bad reception in the basement, I gave up the TV altogether. I would watch movies on our computer, but no more commercials. More knitting, less straight-out vegging.

A few months ago, our neighbor was kind enough to babysit when I went to an evening Volunteer Orientation. To make it easier, we brought the TV up from the basement. Plug in the kids. The next day, the TV didn't make it back to the basement. Nor the next. Now, months later, here I sit in the living room, with the TV lurking. Big bulky TV, cords, antenna, everything I don't want in the feel of this room. So why is the TV winning? Well the main reason is that it's far easier to let the kids watch 15 minutes of TV where I can see them while I prepare a meal, pick up, etc. I avoided the TV myself at first. Now, as I try to catch up on my knitting, I've started watching again myself.

I've been shocked to see the correlation between my mood and my TV watching. A few months ago I glibly quoted a study showing a direct relation between depression and women who watched TV. I realize that many factors play into this: less exercise, lack of other hobbies, etc. However I think so much of it is the TV itself. We are bombarded with stories-real and imagined-of drama, horror, and tragedy. Even my favorites like E.R.-so many depressing stories, so much stress. I have caught myself getting sucked into the emotions. Then we have the commercials, which give specifics to what we've been seeing on the programs themselves. We could: be prettier, be thinner, be better hydrated, have nicer furniture, find a better lawyer, keep a cleaner house, take a pill to fix those pesky problems like stress. The message we hear, over and over, is: You could be doing better. I am infuriated just thinking about it. Yet it keeps drawing me back, and I don't understand why. Kill your TV indeed.

1 comment:

e4 said...

The television is hypnotic. My wife and I have noticed that if we go to a restaurant that has televisions, our eyes are always drawn to them. We arrange to spend some quality time together, and yet we invariably catch ourselves and each other staring at the TVs, despite the fact that we have no interest in whatever is showing, not to mention the lack of sound, so that even if we were interested, we wouldn't know what was going on anyway!

I've noticed this on planes with in-flight movies too. Even if you don't pay five bucks for the headphones, you almost invariably end up staring at the screen. I guess the television just taps into some part of our brain that is hard to override.

I applaud your efforts to limit TV time. It's even making me rethink our current living room configuration...

Good luck!