Why I’ve given up television for 31 days.

The title of this post is “Why I’ve given up television for 31 days”. I’m hoping now you can answer that question for me because I have NO idea why I thought this was a good idea. I really wish I was more of a drinker because I could blame this sort of thing on being drunk.

On August 1st I put all of my television converters in a drawer and walked away from my very best friends in the world. Mindy and Jon and Josh and Francis. Mindy you may know from The Mindy Project, Jon hosted a little show called The Daily Show and Josh is my very newest best friend from a show I’m going to tell you about next month. And Francis. I didn’t really walk away from Francis from House of Cards because I’m all caught up on his life but I still feel like I’ve left him behind. Abandoned from my life.

I plan to be TV free for the entire month of August. Some of the reasons behind this poorly thought out idea are coming back to me, but they don’t seem nearly as good as the idea of hanging out with Mindy again.

I didn’t think I watched that much television and I guess I really don’t. But I seem to have it turned on a hell of a lot. I always turn the news on at noon in my office. Then that leads into a Canadian talk show called The Social which I really like but would never turn on specifically to watch. But since the television is already on from the news, I leave it on. Then comes Dr. Oz, who I don’t particularly like and then Dr. Phil who I don’t particularly like even more. Then there’s a bunch of more shows, until at 6:00 the news is on again and I pay attention. Sometimes I think to turn the television off during the day and sometimes I just leave it on so I can pretend there’s some action going on around here with all the background noise it provides.  It’s like I’m working in a high pressure, bustling office where movers and shakers plan cocktails after work and complain about the waxed floors making their high heels slip.

After the news comes an entertainment show I’m not in love with, which is followed by The Big Bang Theory which I love and then a bunch of shows I don’t care about. Yet, the television is on.

I generally sit down to relax and watch television around 9 o’clock at night once it gets too dark outside for me to do anything out there other than dig up the neighbour’s hostas.  Yet by that point the television has probably been on for 9 hours in the house. I may not be sitting on the couch paying attention to it but it’s on and it definitely distracts me when I’m working.

So my first plan was to just not turn the television on until 9 o’clock at night. That would solve everything. Except it wouldn’t. I wanted to real break from television.  Except really I didn’t want that.  But I needed it.  There are podcasts and puzzles and albums I always say I’m going to get to but I never do because if given the choice, I always choose to spend my evenings with my best friends. Mindy’s so funny. We have a great time together.

I started thinking about this whole television thing at the end of July and decided it was now or never. August is the perfect month for turning off the television. There’s plenty of stuff to keep me busy outside, it’s the last month of summer and when I return to television it’ll be September when shows start returning. Yes. I planned my television hiatus around television.

It is at this point that I tell everyone out there who is thinking “Geez. What a loser. I don’t even own a television and I don’t miss it at all.” to shut up. I LIKE TELEVISION. In fact I love it. Which is why I had to break up with it.

Ask my friend Jamieson. He’ll tell you. I’m constantly on the search for my new binge. He’s great for recommending things and on more than one evening I’ve texted him in a fit saying I’ve finished the latest season of whatever and he had to recommend something immediately before I did something desperate like watch Two and a Half Men.

Here is how my social experiment has gone so far.

Day 1. Here we go. A new day has begun. A televisionless era where I can rest and read and do all manner of relaxing things that don’t involve TV. By 10 p.m. I had cleaned my baseboards, organized my car trunk (including vacuuming it), made a batch of chicken broth, cleaned the kitchen top to bottom, washed my windows and developed the curious habit of singing television theme songs to anyone I encountered in my day. Which was particularly strange when the grocery store cashier asked me if was paying cash or debit.

Day 2. Work until 8 o’clock at night then sit on the couch to enjoy my new book. 8:05 fall asleep on the couch while a cat farts on my head.

Day 3. Still extremely tired without my daily television stimulation. Consider writing a 22 minute play and forcing my neighbours to act it out for me.

Day 4. Clean, sweep, organize and primp my front porch until 10:30 at night. Sit on the couch to enjoy my new book. Fall asleep immediately. Cat farts on my neck.

Day 5. Make it to my nephew’s baseball game to put in time that doesn’t involve me working. Liked it. Went again the next night.

Day 6. Listen to This American Life podcasts. Realize I love them in a way I couldn’t when television was always on the back of my mind.

Day 7. Spent the whole night working on a new pop up for my site which I’ve wanted to do for ages but never got around to.  Again.  Working.

Day 8. Finally managed to clean my basement enough that I can screen print some Art of Doing Stuff tea towels.  So that’d be …. more work.  No relaxing.  Just work.  Although my work relaxes me so I’m getting confused about relaxing really is.  Or maybe I’m one of the few people who loses brain cells by NOT watching television.  Either way I’m feeling very unwell.

Day 9. Help elderly neighbour cross the street. Deliver food to the food bank. Birds sing, rainbows bend and kittens in baskets appear on everyone’s doorstep. All is right with the world and it’s all because I gave up television for a month.

I’m now on Day 21 of my television hiatus and I hate it but I’m committed to doing it and it really has been a good thing. So to Bikram Yoga niece who proclaimed “Why?! That’s STUPID! You’ll never be able to do it.”, when I told her about my plan, I have this to say. You’re right. And it is. But I will do it.

Because I have the kind of relentless commitment normally only seen in high performance athletes.  Or someone who has binge watched all 3 seasons of a specialty channel produced drama in one single Sunday.




93 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    I did this something like this back in 2011 for the whole summer- cancelled cable TV.
    The idea was to fire the cable TV back up when new seasons started in September. I had gotten tired of grumbling about summers filled with re-runs and low quality fill in shows and that it was costing me $$$ to be un -entertained/ sedated.

    Here it is 2015 and I am still cable TV free. Think of the $$$ to be saved! I do borrow TV series and movies from the library, watch stuff on the internet and occasionally borrow from friends. There really is so much to do out there in the real world!

    The second best part of this freedom?
    Being free from non stop advertising that we all pay for! Think about it- the shows are enticing you to watch and to see explicit and hidden (product placement) advertising – YOU are paying them for the privilege… shouldn’t they be paying us to watch TV /advertising (or at least free like the old days)?

    A funny outcome is that my cable provider thinks I have gone to satellite. I am constantly getting great offers for cable packages to come back to them. Guess they can’t imagine being dumped for NOTHING.

  2. Mindy says:

    I don’t say this to be a smarty pants, but the hubs and I haven’t watched tv in probably a year. Not on purpose. We don’t have Dish, cable, Netflix, Hulu, or any of that other fancy crap, so we just stopped turning it on. It’s kinda crazy. And nice. The kids still watch pbs for a few shows, and movies of course, but they’re kids. They don’t count.

  3. Barbie says:

    Good for you……only a little while and you can watch again! I could never do this! TV is my only break I get all day long…I look forward to it in the evening…to escape.

  4. nancy says:

    I am one of the boring people that could live without TV, except for movies. That laugh track drives me insane, I want to blast the TV to bits. Not watching TV has given me the time to make that sock iPhone holder and other things.

  5. Gwen H. says:

    That cured me. The television stays on!!! LOL

  6. katbert says:

    I cut out cable over a year ago because it was so friggin’ expensive and there wasn’t much good on when I wanted to watch it (no pvr!). Didn’t miss it a bit. I got some iPad apps — ctv go, global go, city TV go — so now I can watch all the shows I care to — amazing race, the voice, Big Bang theory, master chef. Also got Netflix but don’t watch it that much. They recently offered my back cable for $5 / month for 6 months so I took it. So now for only pennies a day I get to depress myself by listening to the sad news of the world.

  7. Jody says:

    I strongly suggest listening to podcast “Serial”. We listened to the 12 episodes while driivng across Newfoundland this summer. It was riveting. On 2 nights in the cabin we listened to episodes. I made me think this is what it was like in the $40s-before TV–and everyone gahered around the radio.

    I’ll check out other podcasts of “An American Life”.

  8. Nancee says:

    Go ahead and tell me to Shut up! I’ve been without television service or any other TV type service for 8 years.
    Don’t miss it anymore. First 6 months I had withdrawal symptoms, but then I realized I had close to $100 back in my budget that I was giving to some “service” company.
    That’s $100 more to put into my house and garden.

  9. Robbin says:

    Really love the This American Life podcasts. I got kind of hooked on them when I was binge listening to “Serial”. Soooo good.

  10. Kim says:

    Hi Karen, I’m intrigued by your choice to give up television. It made me think how I would feel if I had to give up reading or other things I enjoy. I’m not sure I could do it.

  11. Terri says:

    Gee, it’s not even lent!

  12. kg says:

    My life is so full that I find it difficult to make time to watch T.V. except on weekends. Plus we only get a couple channels which don’t always have anything I want to watch. During storms I would like to watch TV because it’s nicer to be indoors. However the storms disrupt the signal so we end up playing games, reading, or going to bed. Books are better anyway because you can put them down and pick them up on your schedule.

  13. Ruth says:

    There’s a lot of time I lose to TV… and a lot of time I lose to the interwebs. Between the golden age of TV we are currently experiencing, and the interwebs I have not picked up any of my hobbies for years. I mean YEARS. At some point, something will have to give. Because I need to make something. My soul is crying out to sew, or craft, or doodle.

    But I love stories. A compelling series, characters you know, and then know even more… it’s like crawling into a great book. So – perhaps it’s bye-bye interwebs? Hmm… must consider this.

  14. markus says:

    Ive been t.v. free for a long time, maybe 25 years or so. I still see it when I visit with someone or at the pub or a clip of something here or there. I actually find the commercials most interesting and hilarious.
    I think i lost interst in t.v. when America got excited about electing a “B” actor to run our country.
    I’ve been dog free for about five years and before that had them since I was maybe 4 or so. Most of them were Border Collies and they are hyperactive also, kept me busy keeping them busy.
    Some of the best entertainment I can remember was watching them in action or with other dogs or people, other than of course watching that clip of you doing your wonderful Gypsy show or reading what your blog!

  15. Jennie Lee says:

    I can’t even remember when I last had tv. It’s been 10 years or more. When I think about it, I wonder how I could ever have had time for it. I do buy dvds/blurays of things I really want to see, and watch them as a reward in the evenings, about 3 days/week. This works, for me. I seldom catch myself watching anything I don’t really like.

  16. Gigi says:

    I think I could give up TV like I could give up your blog–not! Both offer a vicarious peek into a life Different than my own. I just can’t quit you or Netflix. Goodbye Luther (Idris Elba), Orphan Black, Cummberbatch Sherlock and Hannibal? Absolutely not! Francis and Clare were hard enough to say goodbye to, but I know where they live if I need to see them again. My life is more interesting with all these characters as I would miss them and their influence on me, and what I’ve learned or admired about them. As with anything, moderation is the key. Besides, I had to give up gluten, that was killer. So enough sacrifice for a bit. Seriously, Orphan Black– you need to meet her, them. You will thank me. Or curse me. Your welcome.

    • Karen says:

      Now Gigi. Do you really think a *Canadian* television aficionado like me wouldn’t have been watching Orphan Black since day 1? Come now. ~ karen!

      • IRS says:

        Awesome show! Tatiana Maslany is so talented that it’s eerie. The guy who plays her foster brother is amazing too. I’m about a season and a half behind due to travelling, so no one tell me what happened.

      • Karen says:

        Love the Foster brother. ~ karen!

  17. Rondina says:

    You aren’t really enjoying all of this, so after you have accomplished the real goal now—being able to tell Pink Tool Belt that you did it—go back to your normal self. It’s not like your whole life is TV. If you put one in the community garden, we will have to do an intervention.

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