Me and My TV

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AS I REMEMBER THE STORY I heard a preacher tell, he and his family decided to get rid of the TV. They didn’t actually get rid of it, though…just stashed it in the garage.

Pretty soon, along came a presidential inauguration or a major world disaster—and they decided to bring it back in just to watch the big event…then they’d take it back out. But once the “big event” was over, their old favorite shows seemed better than ever, so the TV stayed. Until, that is—smitten with sheepish chagrin—they realized they were once again watching things they really didn’t want to watch as Christians—and wasting huge amounts of time to boot. So again, out to the garage with the TV.

Then came the Olympics, and in came the TV. This time, when the box got its hooks into them again, the preacher cut off the plug-in at the end of the cord—and out again went the TV. The Super Bowl meant he had to wire the plug back on. A few weeks later, snip—and off went the plug again. Out to the garage. Back in. Ad nauseum.

When the preacher finally tossed the idiot box into the trash, he said, it had a six-inch cord!

Since my childhood in the “Happy Days” 50s, when every home in my town seemed to have a TV antenna on top to pull in snowy black-and-white images of Jack Benny and Ozzie and Harriet, TV has been in my life too.

I’m thinking now of ditching it. (That’s the actual object in question above.)

My reasons are many:

  • There’s the content, of course. It’s pretty hard to find much on the tube that comes within miles of Philippians 4:8. Who can argue that today’s level of TV violence and immorality isn’t a universe apart from “Leave It to Beaver” or even “Bonanza”?
  • There’s the noise factor. TV has become the constant background in most homes. Children grow up never experiencing what peace and quiet can be. They’re bombarded with hyper-fast images and nonstop babble and bedlam. Constant sensory overload. And we wonder at the epidemic of ADHD even as we fret about the impact of TV violence on our kids. Even we adults need to get reacquainted with the power of quietness in our lives (see “Peace, Be Still”—my June 26 post in this blog). I’m also insulted when media “experts” tell me that the volume on TV commercials is no louder than the regular programming. I’m routinely blasted out of my chair by the sudden high-decibel screeching of a pitchman with a voice that could drown out a jet engine at five yards and shake loose my dental fillings—sending me scrambling for the remote in search of relief.
  • There’s the endless mind conditioning (a euphemism for what it really is—brainwashing). I’m talking here mainly about commercials—Madison Avenue’s ceaseless battle for our minds, and ultimately, our pocketbooks. The primary purpose of TV is not entertainment or even information—it’s commerce. A drama or comedy or newscast exists so we’ll watch the commercials and part with our money in exchange for some anemic and typically mindless “entertainment.” But mind conditioning exists also even in what once was called “news,” but which has now largely become propaganda and “info-tainment.” Finally, by repeated exposure to today’s ever more violent and immoral programming, we’re conditioned to see those as less objectionable than they really are. The old Alexander Pope poem I learned in academy is true:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace”

  • There’s the time factor. According to the Neilsen ratings people, the average American now watches TV more than four and a half hours a day. That’s presumably on top of working full time. Is it any wonder that in July of 2006, CNN reported on research showing that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day caring for their children? And that “caring for” may not include much real communication at all. People used to read. They used to spend lots of time outdoors. They used to go places and do things together as families. They used to have hobbies. They used to be more physically active. Now, they mostly “veg” in front of the box—content to be hypnotized couch potatoes with passive minds ready to be filled and controlled—their entire world for the moment reduced to a window only 19, 21, or (if plasma-fied) 36 or 48 inches across. I’ve begun to wonder how much more I could get done if my TV were gone. I don’t watch anywhere near the Neilsen four and a half hours daily, but the time I do spend, I’m sure would make a huge difference if applied more productively.

As I say, I’m thinking of ditching my TV. Cold turkey. Cord and all—no garage. I’d sell it on Craigslist or give it to Goodwill. Why haven’t I already done it? Well, I’m the kind who tries to think something through before acting. Right now, though, if I were my TV, I’d be thinking about my new foster family.

Feel free to weigh in. Comments welcomed!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I have seven TV sets in my sprawling home, one for each of my three bedrooms, one in the garage, one in my sunroom, one in my office, and one in the living room of my upstairs apartment, where I live. All are on cable except the one in the garage.

    Am I a TV freak? Hardly. I don’t think I’ve sat through an entire TV program in years.

    I have the TV on to give myself the illusion of being near other people and to cancel noise from neighbors and traffic. I also believe my TVs are a theft deterrent. When I sense that I’m starting to “need” it, I turn off the TV in the room where I am.

    It’s true that much of TV programming is silly, strident, pushy, violent, or based on deception. But some of it is excellent. I picked up NASA’s coverage of the space shuttle, no commercials. I watch the news for as long as I can tolerate it, about five minutes. I still love “Mr. Rogers” and find fascinating material on the history channel, the travel channel, and the discovery channel.

    But I agree with the sentiment you’ve expressed and add my echo that for the most part, the best TV is the one that’s turned off.

    Reply

  2. One big shift for me has been to realize that, as with any other electronic item, any tv left plugged in is still consuming energy and thus costing money, so I keep my TV unplugged unless in use. Somehow it’s more of a chore to both plug it in and turn it on, so it’s stayed off more and more.

    Reply

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