C.R. writes:

In the News: The U.S. Department of Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and now the British Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, as well as others are ratcheting up the warnings about the dangers of television-watching, computer gazing, and video games, in children of any age, but especially under three years old.

I was in a waiting room today and the requisite super-sized TV was hanging on the wall blaring some reality-show nonsense about Hugh Heffner’s girlfriends. There were about thirty people in the waiting room and only two were actually watching the program. The rest of us were reading, texting, meditating…I don’t know exactly but we weren’t watching. I knew I wanted to blog about this.

Except for a few years where I was glued to international news channels, I didn’t own a TV for most of my adult life. I still don’t. As a child, my mother was an anti-television fanatic. She felt it would stunt our creativity and rot our brains. Though we had a TV I wasn’t allowed to watch it for more than an hour or so a week, and unless my father was in charge, what I watched had to be a documentary or another pre-approved “educational” show.

So, while the other kids were watching the latest episode of The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch, or the violent and gory cartoons that I longed for, I was reading, playing outside or drawing, or something.

I was resentful. I felt different. And I believed with all my heart that television must be something totally wonderful, like birthday cake, otherwise I’d be able to have it every day.

At college I began to appreciate that I didn’t particularly like or need television. I almost never got bored and it seemed like I was able to concentrate more than some of my TV-loving friends. I remember a few of them would get out of class and rush home to watch General Hospital, religiously. I wanted to like it, but I thought it was the most boring, stupid way to spend an hour. I mean, my friends acted like they really cared about the characters. But real life was out there, waiting for us—how could they sit and stare?

Of course, today many just sit in front of the computer watching videos or playing video games, and of course, we can lose vast chunks of time by surfing. (Tonight I started researching articles on the dangers of television watching and ended up—don’t quite know how—watching a Youtube video on how to make homemade tamales.)

Here are some of my highly-biased, personal reasons for not owning a television and avoiding, with a few important exceptions, most screen activities that involve videos or video-games.

1. Huge time waster: LIFE IS TOO SHORT

2. Don’t want my brain infiltrated with someone else’s vision of life; I’m creative enough, thank you (and so are YOU)

3. Very, very, boring

4. Reality shows (My private reality is odd enough, I don’t need to soak in the swamp of someone else’s)

5. Just about all my friends don’t watch it and like me, most don’t even own a television

6. Things that I believe are relatively important, like political debates or essential news, are available online in a number of formats, many of which can be printed out and read on the subway

7. I think all television shows are biased (see #2) and at this point, I only want your opinion if you are an expert I trust, or a friend who cares about me  (talking heads and opinion-spouters and documentary filmmakers often do not fall into those categories)

8. Advertisements, advertising, ads, and those expensive mini-films that want to sell me stuff I don’t need or want

9. Suddenly, without television and videos, you have soooo much time to get things done (see # 1)

10. Conversations, books, other reading, dancing, music, nature, board games, walks, studying, interacting with friends and people who are important to me are real, videos and television is like running away from life

11. My non-TV friends and I don’t talk in sound bites and don’t parrot “clever” talking points. (At least, I don’t think we do).

12. I don’t think the above is absolute; there are probably many good reasons to watch a particular program. And if offered the chance to do a create a quality television program about something important to me that I wanted to share with others, well, I’d do that. Still, not having a television helps me stay productive and focused.


Photo “TV Addict” by Wynand Delport.