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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Life Without TV: Overcoming an Addiction to Mediocrity

By Joyce Benedict

It was a cold, late fall day. I just had to bake something and decided on a batch of my then well-known toll house cookies.

Below my large apartment lived a young family with an adorable five year old. I called Danielle, the mother. Could her son Jimmy come upstairs to keep me company and sample my cookies when they come out of the oven?

He came upstairs and sat down across from me at the kitchen table. He began talking about his favorite TV programs. He inquired if I had seen yesterday’s program that he liked?

“Jimmy,” I replied nonchalantly as my mixing was almost complete, ”I couldn’t have seen your show as I don’t have a TV.”

Slowly, his hands moved away from the face that they held. He stood up looking at me incredulously, wide-eyed, “Why then you don’t have a living-woom, do you?”

“Of course I have a living room, Jimmy.”

“Can I see it?” he inquired.

As I led Jimmy into my huge living room, he walked around looking at it as one would when in a museum. He inspected carefully every corner.

At that moment I realized how uniquely different all our worlds are, our experiences, the lens by which we see, reflect, assimilate, what we chose, dislike all according to our own unique make-up.

Yes, I had decided those years that television held little appeal for me. It was disturbing seeing war scenes, dead people, how interviewers invaded the space of grieving families, people who had just learned of loved one’s deaths.

Hearing Peter Jennings, with straight face, announce a Ms. Bobbit had cut off her man’s penis throwing it a field was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I got rid of it for the next eight years.

It wasn’t long before I was hooked again. It was worse then ever! Too much violence, sex crimes, sitcoms that seemed overly contrived, canned laughter, music that for a senior seemed but noise that hurt sensitive ears.

Sex pills advertised at news hour with families watching and scenes young minds should never see, increased advertising of harmful drugs. I watched less and less. I had been writing for years at odd times but began writing more.

I awoke one day realizing that viewing TV a certain portion of my mind wasn’t functioning at all. I audited a music class.

Still, I kept the infamous boob tube. It got worse. I decided it played upon human’s worse attributes of negativity, gossip, voyeurism. I had had it, yet my “fingers did the walking” as the ad goes, to turn on that box.

There was something ludicrous about people watching so much unreality and not looking and enjoying each other. It was apparent to me I had an addiction as lethal as any drug. Mindless staring at scenes of destruction, screaming, endless talks on how to find wealth, happiness, success, people’s tragedies or crimes reenacted, money raisers.

I wondered who remembered anything. I didn’t! Sermons, horrid news, TV chatter, I concluded, never altered the real me one iota! No product ever viewed bought.

One hot, summer’s day I called Cablevision. “I wish to cancel,” I declared clearly. “I enjoy none of it.” There were many questions why, suggestions for a discount to watch 120 more channels.

“My God, woman,” I stated as anger rose. “I just told you I want to see more people. I want to get back to reading great literature. I want to stop feeling like a robot sitting alone in a room watching a black box dance before me! “Please, shut it off!”

I resumed reading books. News received via newspaper and radio. Concentrated on my writing. I seemed less stressed. Increased my walking, called friends more frequently.

I am feeling this way lately about my computer. Impersonal. Another flat-screen experience. It took two years of hemming and hawing to release the TV addiction. For two years I was free of its noise. As with any addiction I went back to it. Personal problems required diversions.

Now, I think of canceling both the TV AND the Internet. Will I procrastinate like I did before canceling TV? Tomorrow? In six months? Two years? The old addictive pattern surfacing.

After all, season four for Downton Abbey has started. For now, well, I think of what the actress Scarlet O’Hare declared at the end of the movie, Gone With The Wind, “After all, tomorrow IS another day.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thank you for making me think about my choices. I've been deliberately reducing myTV watching lately as I've come to some of the same conclusions. I've also cut way back on my iPad use and wonder why I ever thought I needed so many apps. I'm 71 and have finally realized I have a limited amount of time left here, and questioning how I want to use it. Glued to addictive glowing screens is not it...she says as she posts from her iPad.


I agree with most of what you have written regarding the violence on TV, followed by canned laughter on an unfunny,dim-witted sitcom and the use of language that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.

But, I could never give up my Television because I would miss Downton Abbey, The Midwives, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and sports.

On PBS I don't have to record, but on commercial TV I record everything. For instance, last Saturday afternoon and evening, they televised the figure skating championships from Boston. I set my recorder and read a wonderful book and watched the ice skating later.

Because it was recorded, I watched NO commercials or any skaters I have no interest in. The skaters I admire, I watched two or three times and could even put their double Axels on Slo-Mo to further enjoy their talent.

Perhaps if you have favorites, as I do, you can try this way of enjoying TV.

In the meantime, don't stop writing, because you are a wonderful writer..

Good story, Joyce--a struggle many of us have had. When I lived in your apartment (yes, the very same one where I lived for 13 years before Joyce, and it was purely coincidental!) my TV went on the fritz. I couldn't afford a new one, so I canceled cable and watched VCR's of all the classic for 8 months until I moved to an apt. where an antenna provided at least fuzzy pictures. Many years later I got cable and now am addicted to Home and Garden TV and enjoy a few PBS or animal planet shows.

Forgot to say "from the library" after classic, which needs an "s."

When our son was young we didn't have television. My hubby's nephew visited and marveled at how he hadn't seen the t.v. come on once during his visit and he had, instead, read books. He declared it quite relaxing. Now we've been watching too much, I think because the weather here is worst. But I'm glad we turn it off often.

I guess the adage would be don't rely on anything too much. Everything eventually becomes a habit and they are so hard to break be it TV, a glass or two of wine each night or time spend in the internet. Moderation, but god luck finding the key to that.

I LOVE TV!! ESPECIALLY the westerns like Big Valley, and Gunsmoke, and the Rifleman. the only good thing about Macon,GA is their PBS channels on broadcast TV.

OK. I unplugged well over 20 years ago.

BUT I have a screen and when series, movies and specials go on sale I buy the DVD. Waaaay cheaper than cable subscription and it is on my time - and no ads.

I've never regretted it. My life opened up dramatically.


And I've found that whatever is on TV I wish to watch I can get via internet...and more programs are available via netflix or amazon than on TV. Only reason for our keeping our direct tv subscription is my husband's football addiction.

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