I don’t deny that TV can make you laugh and cry. I don’t deny that it can inform you. The problem with TV is that while you are laughing, crying, and learning, you are also losing energy, losing mental sharpness, and losing the natural inclination to be active. Watch any TV show and afterwards you are somehow duller, less energetic, less acute. Your mind has lost its acuity. Your spirit is down. Even your body is worse off – a little stiffer, a little more tired.
I don’t have a TV in my house and you shouldn’t have one in yours either.
Yes, I’m going to give you all the reasons why TV is bad for you. And, yes, I’m being extreme. But listen up anyway. Some good things are hard to take.
TV is much better than it used to be. In fact, I’m amazed at all the great stuff that’s on it these days. It’s not only the National Geographic type shows that are good, it’s the sitcoms and dramatic series too. I am actually amazed at how good these programs are. How do they come up with so many good shows week after week?
It would be very easy for me to watch several hours of good-quality, highly enjoyable, very relaxing television programming every evening. I could tell myself that I deserve it — that after putting in a long, productive day, I am entitled to a couple of hours of rest and relaxation. Why not? We need something to make life worth living. Right?
Of course, we could make the same argument about eating a chocolate bar after a long day of dieting. Or about having a fix of heroin after a long bout of being straight.
The reason you shouldn’t watch TV is that it’s bad for you. The shows may be good, but the watching of them is bad. It is a passive, nonproductive activity that wastes your valuable time and depletes your energy.
Admittedly, this is not a popular view. Most people like TV. They find it relaxing. And it is soothing, after a hard day, to plop yourself in front of the tube and “veg out.” But is it good for you?
There is a type of relaxation that restores your strength, energy, and imagination. Yoga does that. So does meditation. I can recharge my spiritual batteries simply by wading into the ocean and watching the horizon. I walk in feeling tense and tired and emerge feeling energetic and inspired.
TV doesn’t do that. Spend a couple of hours staring at a wave-emitting light tube and you end up feeling more tired, less energized, more depressed, and less inspired.
You may not agree with me. You may be thinking about how much you laughed at a certain sitcom or about how remarkably interesting you found a certain documentary to be.
I don’t deny that TV can make you laugh and cry. I don’t deny that it can inform you. The problem with TV is that while you are laughing, crying, and learning, you are also losing energy, losing mental sharpness, and losing the natural inclination to be active. Watch any TV show and afterwards you are somehow duller, less energetic, less acute. Your mind has lost its acuity. Your spirit is down. Even your body is worse off — a little stiffer, a little more tired.
Yes, we all need relaxation. But you’ll do better — by far — with yoga or meditation or by taking a walk than you will by watching TV.
As far as its entertainment value is concerned, you’ll have to judge that for yourself. But for me, the quality of the feelings and thoughts I get from TV are simply less than and worse than the quality of those I get from other, more active forms of entertainment. (I’m thinking about everything from museums, to sporting events, to the theater.)
TV is like Chinese food. Rich and tasty going down but gone shortly thereafter. It’s bad for you in a way that’s hard to measure. It is passive and teaches you to be passive. You may not even notice the slight mental depression, the loss of energy, and the diminishment of creative impulse. But it is there, bringing you down.
That’s the core of it. TV gets you into the habit of dulling all your senses and passing time with everything operating at half-mast. And that is not the way to enjoy a full life. Passivity is the enemy of progress and the undoer of success. To get where you want to go, to accomplish the dreams you have dreamed, you have to keep your body and mind moving.
Most Americans spend way too much time in front of their television sets. I think the average — for adults — is something like four hours a day. (It may be more.) Think of that. Four hours a day times 365 days. That’s 60 days! Two full months!
How much time do you spend watching TV?
Allow yourself an hour of TV a day. At most. You’ll be very happy you did. Also, think about replacing half the hours you save by not watching it with productive activities.
Here’s a trick KFF uses: She has her friends tape her favorite TV programs and then she watches them while she’s on the StairMaster — and only then. You can’t climb that machine for more than an hour at a time, so it gives her a natural limit.
Do yourself a favor. Get rid of the cable or rabbit ears today. Keep the set to watch videos. And when you decide to watch a video, select it with at least as much care as you would when going to the movies.
Do this for a month and see how you feel. See if you are better off for it. Let me know what your conclusions are.