Thursday, 28 November 2013

Escape From The Television Trap

Last week while I was sick I didn't actually watch any daytime TV because we don't have a television service. As I braved a trip to the mall to find some Emergen C, I cheerfully waved away a nice young man trying to sell the latest digital TV thingamabob from the phone company.

"We kicked the habit!" I chirped at him and a small part of him probably died inside as I walked on by. Such is the way of colds - filters are down along with your immune system. But almost six years ago we gave up our satellite TV. It was getting hard to justify spending $70 a month on the three channels we watched - Discovery, Teletoon and Animal Planet. Even a PVR and skipping commercials couldn’t keep us interested - TV piled up like laundry in a corner.

Consuming media had become a chore!

Sometimes it takes people aback, as if shunning TV makes one an instant snob, but the fragmented state of today's media means that something has to give. When I was a kid, I couldn't imagine giving up TV, even if it was peasantvision's eleven channel world (twelve, if you understood French, which we didn't). TV was the only currency the nerdiest child had in the playground, and missing an episode of Full House or Perfect Strangers was practically spending a night in Squaresville. Occasionally the local paper would run a story about some cute kid holding a fan of crisp new bills - their reward for giving up the idiot box. It's just a lesson that took a long time to learn, I guess.

Of course these days we have a better distraction, the Internet, and we pay $60 a month for that. At one of my past temp jobs, a visitor to the office asked me "what I did all night" if TV wasn't on the menu. Exercise? Visit my friends? Spend time with my husband? The rare time that we do watch TV has made it special again - commercials are actually interesting instead of annoying. But I look at it this way...

What am I gaining?

$840 a year!
Peace and quiet!
Hours to read!
More movies!

And suddenly the advantages start to outweigh being caught up on the latest thing to chat about around the water cooler. TV is such a constant presence, but one can grow to appreciate it's absence, like so much stuff from the basement.

Now if you really want to know how people in the past thought TV was a trap, watch this 1936 movie called Trapped by Television. It's not much different from the way we try to imagine technology in our lives today.