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.