Death to the Black Box

My husband and I moved into our new apartment in July and since then we haven't had TV. We own two TVs, but we don't have cable. Not even basic channels. Not even NBC or ABC or the local channel that's usually a super old power-point slideshow with odd instrumental music on loop.

I know, I know. How have we survived?! It's downright unamerican.

We're not hippies. We're not ultra-conservative fundamentalists who have denounced pop culture.

We're just poor. Every paycheck gets dolled out to rent, utilities, car insurance and school loans and with whatever is left, we think to ourselves : we could get a digital converter box this month.... but we'd rather buy a few extra groceries or go on a date.

At first I felt like our apartment was much too quiet. I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls on DVD.

And then I started reading books I haven't read in awhile. And then I started writing in my journal. And sketching and making decorations for our apartment. And painting. And organizing all my shoes and art supplies.

My husband and I still rent movies at least once a week and watch them together.

When I'm home alone now, I don't get the feeling anymore that the big black box is going to swallow me unless I turn it on. My brain isn't rotting away in front of the propaganda machine anymore. I don't come to consciousness several hours later, sprawled on the couch, asking myself, Wait - What did I do today? Oh yeah ... nothing. ... except eat 3 bowls of cereal and day old pizza.

I've tested this theory, and I'm pretty sure I'm right. If there is a TV in the room with a cable connection, it is inevitably on. Having the TV off in my living room growing up was pure torture. I would try to concentrate on my book or drawing, but I was distracted by the almost audible voice telling me,

"Look at me. I'm empty and sad. You're empty and sad, too. Turn me on. Let's be friends."

On goes the TV, and my productivity - no, my brain activity - plummets.

Without cable to tempt me, the TV isn't this ominous black void to fill. Yes, it's quiet. I turn on music sometimes or NPR. Yes, sometimes I give in and watch a movie. But a movie is an investment. I have to be willing to sit and watch the movie for at least an hour and a half, and if I'm not, then what should I be doing? It's a good test: Watch a movie I've seen before OR make myself useful.

We trick ourselves into believing that TV is just a filler, just something to bide our time until we have an appointment or plans to hang out with a friend. False. It's a productivity killer. Imagine what we could do with all the time we've spent watching prime time TV. I could learn a new recipe, write more than one blog post, read that novel I bought but doubt I'll finish, or organize something. That's not busy work. That's actively participating in my life.

The only time I'll ever miss TV is probably on Christmas day when TNT does the 24 hours of A Christmas Story. Yes, I love it that much. But! It's a movie so maybe it's time to actually purchase it? That way, we'll only watch it once and spend more time talking with the family we traveled 250 miles to see on the best day of the year.

Bottom line is: I've found other things to do with my time. So is it okay that I don't ever want to get cable?

What about you? Could you survive without TV or are you afraid you'll be bored out of your mind?


Melody said...

I've lived without tv for a few months at a time. But I usually do productive things while I watch tv. The fact that I can watch a story while I'm exercising or cleaning reconciles me to the fact that I'm exercising or cleaning.

I draw while I watch tv and I'd be drawing anyway. Sometimes when I have a creativity block, turning on the tv helps me stop stressing out and start being creative again.

I don't have cable though. Just regular tv.
The biggest bummer is no dvr. I miss being able to record shows and then watch them when I have a chunk of time to draw in.

Bethany said...

I think you and I are probably on the similar levels with that, Melody. There are definitely times when I watch TV (since we don't have cable right now I watch a DVD of the ones we own) to relax and stop stressing about what I should be doing. My problem for the longest time was that I used TV as a crutch or an excuse when I was stressing.
Don't know what to work on? Watch TV. Working on a writing piece or a painting and can't figure out what's missing? Watch TV.
I'm learning to find other means to go to first, though.
Thanks for the comment! I like your illustrations - so cute! :)

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