I don’t really keep specific dates of significant events in my head. Other than my birthday and when I lost my first tooth, I honestly couldn’t tell you when exactly some notable occurrence took place. And actually I have no idea when I lost my first tooth, but I assume it was traumatic. How often do you have things fall out of your headfacemouth? Hopefully infrequently. I say all of that to note that somewhere in the past few months a one-year anniversary came around, and I didn’t even realize it. The commemorative event marks the amount of time I’ve lived without a television.
This statement really merits an asterisk since I hardly watched television during my undergraduate years to the point I could almost try and make the case it’s been longer than a year. While pursuing my bachelor’s degree, study was priority number one, and were it not for a few choice episodes of Planet Earth and the occasional sporting event, my life could have been deemed tubeless. But I don’t count it as part of the “Year Without” since there was still, very blatantly, a TV occupying space in the apartment I shared with my roommates. (Actually, I think we had two.)
But over a year ago while living in Nashville I decided to get rid of my TV. I wish I could tell you it was for reasons of grand nobility and asceticism, but it wasn’t. I didn’t have cable service and could watch DVDs on my laptop, so there was really no point. That, and I was struggling to find work at the time, so I decided I could use an extra fifty bucks. So I posted it on Craigslist, and within a few days a very attractive Indian girl about my age came and purchased it. I think the built-in DVD player was what sold her. Well, that and I also firmly believe I have the best-written Craigslist ads out there—seductive enticements fraught with colloquialisms, cultural quips, and salaciously inventive puns (no, I do not have an example).
This left my apartment highly non-technological—by today’s standards, anyway. Sure, there were still such electricity-dependent devices like light bulbs, an air conditioning/heating unit, a refrigerator, a stove-top oven, moisture vent in the bathroom, and my laptop, but commonplace household technology like internet was not there (which I wrote about here when I was in the midst of that phase of life), and I no longer had a television. This meant when I would come home to my apartment I was met by two beautifully eerie things: the plash of silence and a shelf full of books.
I realized very quickly I did not miss television at all. I firmly believe ninety percent of television is worthless (more like ninety-seven percent once Arrested Development got the axe), and I’m more interested in legitimate art forms anyway. Cue the books. The removal of television enabled me to read more books that year than at any other time in my life. Entertainment and intellectual activity became one in the same. I did not mind that at all.
I’m not here to bash television. Some shows are highly stimulating in an intellectual sense, artistic, extremely entertaining, or incredibly funny. Many are not, though. And this post is not to say this decision to remove the TV has been all benefits and no downsides. For example, I really like having a TV when significant sporting events roll around (although I can’t say I bemoaned not having a television this past week because the last thing I would want burned into my visual memory is the Texas Rangers’ failure to remember what it means to catch a fly ball or throw a strike).
But here’s what’s nice when those sporting events do come around: It’s an opportunity to ask someone, “Hey, you watchin the game tonight?” If they’re fine with you coming over, now you just got the chance to hang out with someone for the evening, and well lookee there, you’re building relationships now and not just staring mindlessly into 540 or 1080 staticky horizontal lines of red, green, and blue. Because really that’s a lot of what television is, right?—separational.
Now, obviously I’m no longer in Nashville but in graduate school, but that doesn’t mean now’s the time for a television again. If anything, this is less of a time for it. I mean, I don’t even get on Facebook anymore, much less update this blog with any form of Metamucil-induced regularity. But again, I can confidently say I hardly ever miss it. The silence is nice, the time to cerebrally concentrate on other things?—a joy. I would highly recommend other people try it before the home computer completely replaces the television. I’m not saying the fasting from TV has to become permanent. Just give it a try. Unplug the television for a month. See what you think.
Now I’m going to go read some books.