First, let me say that I don’t look down on people for having TV and I don’t care if people watch it. I don’t think TV is inherently wrong or evil, I just came to the point where I felt that the cost of having a TV was not worth what was on it.
I mean, I don’t know if you noticed, but there was nothing on TV all summer. I have paid between $18-$85 every month for years for the honor of flipping around and marveling how nothing is on. Here is this fabulous technology that can reach millions of people at once, and yet so few TV executives manage to put anything on that’s worth saying to those millions. It’s sad, really.
But I digress. The point is, I got tired of it, and so last May my husband–who never cared about TV in the first place–and I canceled our cable.
It has been four months now and I’m still happy with the choice. Here are the four major benefits I’ve noticed so far:
1. Saving Money.
Clearly, it didn’t make sense to pay for something I was so ambiguous about in the first place. I paid $18 for channels 1-40, which means I was paying $216 a year for TV that is free in less hilly areas. I used to pay $85 for all the channels, including HBO and Bravo, which meant I spent $1,020 a year on TV at that point. I would rather spend the money on something else.
2. More Time.
This one surprised me. See, I was under the delusion that I didn’t watch all that much TV. I thought I spent about an hour a day watching TV and that I had beat common habits like numbing out in front of it after a stressful day. But when I turned the TV off, I was surprised by how much extra time I suddenly had. I guess I had been watching more than I thought. (I wasn’t alone–according to this study, TV is the fourth way Americans spend their time after sleeping, working, and eating.) Since turning off the TV, both my husband and I have been reading more, and have rediscovered the pleasure of reading in the same room together. We also eat dinner at the table more and listen to more music. I started playing piano again, something I haven’t done since I was a kid. I took up painting. On the weekend mornings instead of watching home-and-garden shows, we read the newspaper or make breakfast or go around to garage sales. You get the idea–our time seems richer now, more in our control.
3. More Peace.
I noticed this when Michael Jackson died. I was completely, mercifully spared the media circus around his death. It was a relief not to have to hear about it over and over again because it was on TV. Likewise, I hardly ever see advertisements. Nothing ever blares at me so loud that I have to jump for the mute button. I am never confronted with the sight of a trashy drunk girl on a reality TV show. I can get my news in one 10 minute chunk instead of sifting through the bloated 24-hour news networks, and I like to think it’s more accurate that way too. It’s hard to overstate the value of peace in one’s life, and TV is one way it was seeped away from me.
4. I Still See All My Favorite Shows.
Of course, there are still good shows on TV. Right now, I like True Blood, Mad Men, The Office, 30 Rock, and Project Runway, and I see every new episode that comes out. Between YouTube, Hulu, DVDs, and other means of getting TV online, I never miss anything I want to see. The difference is that watching TV this way feels more intentional. I am watching because I truly enjoy the show, and it feels more like watching a movie than TV. Thanks to new technologies, it’s no longer all or nothing with your favorite shows these days–you can still watch them without having to pay someone to stream cable to your house.
Clearly, turning off the TV is a personal choice and not for everyone. All I can say is, I’m glad I did it. It’s unlikely we’ll start paying for it again any time soon.