For our entire married life (11 years), Amy and I have not had television (in the sense that we don’t receive channels, though we do watch DVDs and videos).  Occasionally we are asked about our reasons for making this choice, so I thought it would be a good idea to actually compile a list of some of the benefits of TV abstinence.  So here is a list—by no means exhaustive—of some of the major benefits of life without TV.

1. Avoidance of commercials and the fueling of the consumer mentality — It’s all about the sponsors, as we all know.  And to watch a TV show is to be bombarded with constant pitches for products one neither needs nor, properly, desires.  Even the most circumspect person cannot help but be impacted by this.

2. Better stewardship of time — Amy and I spend much less time watching shows because we only view the DVDs and videos we plan ahead of time to view.  We don’t end up watching shows that we didn’t want to watch (which, strange as it sounds, is a common phenomenon among viewers).  Without TV, relative to my life before, I virtually have a 27-hour day, so I can get more accomplished with family time, reading, and creative projects.

3. Protection of children — Our kids are not exposed to inappropriate images, language, and lifestyle choices which even find their way into “innocent” shows (e.g. foul language, disrespectful attitudes, undermining of authority, the normalization of premarital sex and homosexuality, etc.).  Of course, in our culture it is impossible to perfectly shield one’s kids from some of these influences, but without TV there is a dramatic reduction in this exposure.

4. Avoidance of narcissism, bad ethics, and poor reasoning — Whether it is sitcoms, reality TV shows, or even news programs, the me-first mentality is ubiquitous in television land.  And from what I’ve seen of such shows as Friends and Survivor, the moral-decision making and logical thinking skills are rather suspect.  Let’s just say that, as a Philosophy professor, I always know where to find vivid illustrations of moral vices and logical fallacies.  So thank you for that much, Mr. Television.

5. Enhancement of aesthetic sense — Most television shows are just not very good from an aesthetic standpoint.  A rare exception is The Simpsons, at least in previous seasons which I sometimes watch it via Netflix—so I can’t speak to how strong the show is currently.  But generally speaking, constant exposure to television injures one’s aesthetic sensibility.  Occasionally we hear someone recommend a show to us as “one of the best on television” (e.g. Lost, 24, Arrested Development, etc.).  Invariably, when we take time to check them out, we are disappointed.  To say a show is one of TV’s best is, well, damning with faint praise.

So we encourage you to take the plunge and take the sage advice of such folks as Neil Postman and Jerry Mander.  Or, if you won’t listen to them, then take the word of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


20 Responses to “Some Benefits of Life Without Television”


  1. Kathy Forbes

     

    I totally agree. I sold my television two years ago and I didn’t just profit from the $50 I got…I also gained time and peace. I watch TV from DVDs and the internet…it helps that I have an awesome Apple computer to assist in this (did you say something about commercials?)
    As for good TV shows…they are hard to find. I don’t really know what sorts of things you look for in TV, but I really love Firefly…alas it was given the axe by Fox after it’s first season–but it’s a pure blend of action, drama, comedy–It’s a western, sci-fi, action thriller with romance tossed in…it’s completely unmarketable and that is perhaps why Fox cancelled it. The most compelling thing about Firefly is its strong characters which is what I look for in a TV show. Which is why I also love the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (which was able to complete its story arc in 4 beautiful seasons). I’m not a crazy sci-fi fan but BSG has characters you care about and brings up challenging ideas about man, God, truth, etc. The story gets downright Old Testament sometimes…
    Both Firefly and BSG discuss God in a way (BSG does it a little better)…which is something not a lot of TV does…
    Soooooo…check them out…let me know what you think…BSG is a bit shocking…especially the miniseries (which is where the story starts)…once the regular episodes start it gets more palpable and compelling…the third season is what won them the Peabody–so if you get that far into it you just might love it;)

    Reply
  2. Kathy Forbes

     

    I should add that neither “Firefly” or “BSG” are fare for children to watch. In fact I can’t think of any current primetime TV that’s okay for kids to see other than stuff from the Disney Channel…so it’s a good thing “The Cosby Show” is on DVD now. Perhaps this is why Hannah Montana is so popular…she’s not the best thing on but the only thing on…

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  3. layla

     

    this may come across as argumentative, but i must disagree with kathy’s comment that shows on the disney channel are ok for kids to see. i need to do some more research on specific shows, but from a distance i have a real dislike for disney and its propaganda.
    as far as cosby is concerned, i have seen every episode-and i mean every single one. twice. i was hooked as a kid, and will occasionally take in an episode on tvland; though i must say there is an element of “mom wears the pants” in that family, which is not what our family is striving for. i appreciate the huxtable family’s commitment to the arts and higher education–and the necessity for gainful employment.

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  4. Kathy Forbes

     

    oh not argumentative at all! I have never seen Hannah Montana or any other current Disney channel show. I have no idea of the quality in its programing today. But it is the company that brought us Pixar. You can’t fault it for that. Or for “Newsies”–it can spoon feed me its liberal communistic propaganda any day as long as it’s Christian Bale singing and dancing (wink and a knowing nod). 🙂

    Reply
  5. J.R.

     

    We haven’t owned a television in 8 yrs of marriage and we love it, too.
    One of the best decisions we made in the beginning of our marriage.

    Its good to know we’re not the only Luddites on the planet.

    J.R.

    Reply
  6. Lezlie

     

    We’re there with you, for the most part. We can only get PBS with the rabbit ears on our TV. However, late in my recent pregnancy (and after…), I leaned a lot on Sesame Street for a time of just sitting in a recliner with my toddler. Well, I haven’t been able to get Sesame Street in all week (or longer) and am a bit shamed to find he immediately found other ways to keep himself entertained while I tend to our newest. I guess we really can live without it.

    Still, though, I wonder if Sesame Street wouldn’t make your short list of good television programming.

    Also, I agree with J.R. that losing the TV is so beneficial for a marriage…and for personal growth in general. I don’t know how people fit in time for TV and am thankful for my quiet house every time I return to it from a house where the TV is on constantly. While I’m still very good at distracting myself from what is really important, kicking the tube gets rid of one distraction, making life that much more simple.

    Reply
  7. Dan

     

    Ditto for us too, except for thirteen years. I know you know the strange look you get when people are talking about a TV star or a funny commercial and they learn that you are totally clueless as to what they’re talking about.

    Reply
  8. Tim

     

    I grew up without a television from 4th grade onward. (My family moved and the TV broke in the move; my parents never replaced it.)

    I cannot imagine having one now. Like you, my wife and I have a screen slaved to the VCR, but even that is going unused most of the time, as our 5 year old has fallen into the pattern of the rest of the family and spends her leisure time reading The Chronicles of Narnia, playing chess, or working Sudoku.

    In a relatively short while, the TV screen is going to become just an odd end-table in a corner of the basement.

    Reply
  9. Devon

     

    We have been using the ol’ bunny ears for years, but went back to no TV except for DVDs when we realized we were–indeed!–watching shows (when we were “tired”) that we neither wanted to watch nor enjoyed watching. And with only 4 channels to choose from!

    (I agree with Kat, excuse me, Kathy, about “Firefly,” but would add “Freaks and Geeks,” although not sure the Spiegels would go for it. I also list “Lost” among my very short list of beloved TV shows of all time, so I’m not sure we see eye-to-eye.)

    Anyhow, I wanted to comment that even though we no longer watch TV (and never watched very much of it), I find myself just baffled with how much time ANY OF IT all takes (as in computer, internet, car commutes, grocery shopping, nutrition research, regular check ups, etc. ,etc. etc.)! Technology is one life-sucker, and then there are all the other entrapments of modern society. Sometimes it’s enough to make me want to crawl up in a yert (sp?) with my little family in the middle of some wilderness. You have to wonder, TMI?

    Reply
  10. Darrell

     

    in the sense that we don’t receive channels, though we do watch DVDs and videos

    So if I stream my TV shows from Netflix instead of watching them over the air can I too claim not to actually have a TV?

    Technology makes these distinctions very confusing.

    Reply
  11. John

     

    Ditto to all five benefits. We haven’t owned a TV in almost nine years of marriage, and we don’t regret it a bit. I can’t imagine all the things we wouldn’t have been able to do if we’d been spending several hours a week (or a day!) sitting in front of a TV.

    Reply
  12. Kevin

     

    My wife and I have a small tv for the news but because it’s not in our living room, our watching habits have completely changed over the last 2 years after getting rid of the boob toob. We have a 24″ computer with a great screen that acts as our media hub for netflix, hulu, and streaming media online. What I have noticed after getting rid of the tele is that the mindless channel flipping that is so dominant in western culture is gone from our house. Our shows and movies are planned, our sensitivity to obscenity has been greatly heightened, and we have found more time for other activities. (Although internet surfing has replaced channel surfing somewhat) Now when people ask us if we saw this or that we chuckle at each other and say “nope.”

    Reply
  13. Ally R

     

    I totally agree. My husband insists on having a TV because he likes to watch sports. I wish I could take a sledgehammer to it. I don’t even like television, yet I have wasted hours of my life watching it since I got married. (I didn’t have a TV for 20 years before we got married.)

    Now that we are expecting a child, I really want to get rid of the TV. If anyone has any suggestions for how to win the TV battle with my football-loving husband, I’m all ears.

    Reply
  14. humanitas remedium

     

    Great post. When i got married we decided we wouldn’t have a TV. I can’t tell you how much I have seen the things listed in your post worked out in my own life. thanks for the post.

    Reply
  15. Rob N

     

    @Ally R.

    You could always sign up for service from end of Aug to beginning of Feb?

    As soon as the Super Bowl is over, you cancel your cable/satellite etc. (and if you want to be hard core, move your TV to a closet in the basement)

    Reply
  16. Jim

     

    We haven’t had TV since I read Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves To Death” five years ago. He smashes all the supposed positive aspects of television, including the notion of “educational” TV. One line that stands out on Sesame Street (paraphrasing) is that SS doesn’t teach your kids to love education, it teaches them to love TV!

    Reply
  17. Kathy Forbes

     

    I just wanted to thank Devon for the “Firefly” shout-out! Oh, and you can still call me Kat–my dearest old friends from Taylor still do:)
    “Firefly” renewed my faith in the art that television can be capable of…my only regret is that I wasn’t a fan from when it was actually airing, but who can blame me? Fox never aired the original pilot, showed the episodes out of order and changed the nights it aired without promotions. I was barely aware that the show existed and then it was canceled. It wasn’t until it was on DVD that I bothered watching it and that was only because my brother and sister-in-law told me about it… For those who are looking for a good story with great writing check out Firefly and the movie Serenity that the creators were able to make after the series was cancelled (because of fan support).
    As for “Freaks and Geeks” that’s another show I recently watched on DVD and loved! I’ll take “Freaks and Geeks” anyday over all John Hughes’ films. The fact that every kid actor on that show still has a growing and thriving career says something about the caliber of talent that show “discovered”. So yeah–let’s add that to the list of recommendations!

    Reply
  18. Jesse

     

    I wholeheartedly agree! I lost my addiction to TV when I went through college without one, and upon graduating decided that I never wanted cable or antenna television. My wife and I do have a TV that we use to watch prerecorded shows, movies, Netflix and Hulu. This way, we are able to cut out a substantially significant proportion of tasteless advertising, as well as pick and choose what quality shows and movies we want to watch. (And, I love the Firefly discussions. While I probably wouldn’t want my fictional 5yo to watch it, it is by far the best audiovisual entertainment that mankind has ever produced. And actually, it is a lot cleaner than most TV nowadays, depending on what bothers you.)

    Reply
  19. tooktheplung

     

    we disconnected 6 months ago and it is/was the best decision we ever made! a whole new world opens to you. it is an honor to not know who the “in” people are in hollywood. not to mention, how spiritually one grows in God!

    Reply

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