Life Without Television and Other Media Vacations

Personal development writer, Steve Pavlina, wrote an article about his experiences with giving up television. When I read it today it reminded me of my own experience of giving up television and some other ‘media vacations.’

I gave up television for far less noble reasons than Steve. I gave it up because I’m cheap!

When my wife and I were still dating, I began to prepare myself for marriage. One thing I felt I needed to do was get my finances in better order. Before we had begun dating, I watched TV whenever I was home. I’d pop it on in the morning while I got ready for work and I’d pop it on when I got home just to have a little noise around the apartment. Living in Manhattan, I had zero reception for TV stations without cable (except for a couple of Spanish channels), so I was spending about $30/month for my television cable service.

After I started courting my wife, I found myself home less often. And when I started looking for ways to save some money, the cable bill was easy to get rid of.

One immediate thing I noticed about giving up the television was that I became more active. When the television was on, I sat and watched it. I didn’t multitask. At the time, my television was next to my computer desk, so I could watch while I worked on the computer – but I didn’t do much work once the TV was on. I became much more productive around the house.

Another thing I became aware of was how much news programming I watched and how it was influencing my perceptions of the world and my daily life.

I’m a New Yorker and my first awareness of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center was on my television. I was getting ready for work and had turned on the Fox Morning show (their news ticker included information about alternate side parking regulations – New Yorkers know what that’s all about). When I got out of the shower there was a close-up image of a burning building with no sound. I continued to get dressed while listening to the news team discuss what was unfolding when one of the team said that another plane had his the second tower and this was no accident. The rest of my day was spent watching the story unfold over that box (I lived on the opposite end of Manhattan and couldn’t see the towers – just the helicopters hovering over the river to capture the news footage.)

In the wake of 9-11 I had become a news junkie. I tuned into the TV and surfed the news online all the time. I was trying to feel more in control by being well informed, but found that my days were actually being consumed with worry over events that I couldn’t control and that, ultimately, had little effect on my daily existence. Losing the constant television coverage broke this pattern.

The real irony of 9-11 for me was that, if I hadn’t known about the events unfolding 10 miles south of me, I could have enjoyed a truly beautiful day in the park – there was not anything I could do to help. All I could do, at the time, was worry.

Later, with the encouragement of my wife, I took up the Roman Catholic tradition of giving something up during the church season of lent. I chose to give up non-work related web surfing. This coupled with the limited exposure to television has profoundly altered my awareness of how news media shapes my world view.

I don’t advocate being ignorant of the world, but realize that the currency of the news industry is fear. There is more than enough aweful stuff in this world to feed the news system – has been as long as I remember. When I was a kid it was the impending ice age, gas shortages, and nuclear holocaust. Today it is global warming, terrorists, and rising fuel rates. My ability to influence these world events is small and my capacity to process all of the horrors is finite.

What I learned is that I have to place boundaries on how much information I let in. I have to select the level of exposure I can manage to keep myself informed, but not become overwhelmed. I have to intentionally connect myself to ‘news’ that is focused on positive events. And, most importantly, I have to stay strongly connected with the people and community immediately around me. There I can make a difference, and there I experience the positive things as well.

Like Steve Pavlina, I found that turning off the TV (and computer) removed my focus from things that were distant and helped me better connect to the people and life that was all around me.

An to think, I was just trying to save $30/month!

The Go-To Guy

Andrew Seltz

Andrew was born in Michigan, raised there and in Tennessee, and has since lived outside Orlando, in Chicago, New York City, and now Birmingham, Alabama. He produces videos and websites for a living and is married to a beautiful, generous, loving woman who also happens to be a talented actress and writer - They have two daughters.

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