Reducing TV Watching

May 22nd, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Socrates believed that knowledge and morality were one. In other words immoral behavior is due to a lack of knowledge or understanding. If you’re aware of all the facts of a matter — the real facts, not the assumed ones — you could expect to behave morally and rationally. To Socrates immoral behavior was caused by ignorance.

You can get a lot of mileage out of Socrates’ idea, whether you fully agree with it or not. Sometimes if you simply assemble all the facts in one place, that’s enough to give you clarity.

Bert at Open Loops made a post about reducing TV watching. If you feel that TV viewing might be hurting you, a good place to start is to get the facts. Find out exactly how much TV you’re watching and what you’re getting in return for that investment. When you see a whole month’s worth of your investment in one place, it’s easier to decide if your investment is a sound one.

Take a TV Fast

Go without watching TV for 30 days, and use this time to gather data on your viewing habits.

If you have a digital video recorder like TiVo, use your DVR to record all the shows you would have normally watched — not just the shows you intend to watch in advance, but your best guess as to all the shows you would have actually watched if you weren’t on the fast. If this project would max out your DVR’s hard drive, then you really ought to leave your cave on occasion.

At the end of the 30 days, review your recorded listings and see what you learn. Add up all the time you would have spent watching each TV show. Get clear on what value you could have expected from those shows and what else you might have done with your time. Most likely, you’ll realize that some shows aren’t worth your time. Their entertainment or educational value is too low for how much time they take to watch. Once you see this information in front of you, consciously decide what you’ll continue to watch and why.

In her book Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks, Marilyn vos Savant (the woman who holds the Guinness record for the highest IQ) suggests that TV reduces your capacity for rational thought. One reason is that TV oversimplifies reality. You’re presented with subjects in a matter of minutes where everything is nicely wrapped up at the end. Reality is reduced to labels like good or bad, funny or serious, smart or dumb. This harms clear thinking by conditioning you to expect that most problems have a simple, clear solution (and if not, then it will be an overly dramatic solution). But real people and events defy labels. Real life weaves a much richer tapestry than TV, and too much TV viewing can make it hard to see and appreciate that tapestry for what it is. TV skews your map of reality.

As you go through the fasting period, think about alternate ways to invest your TV time. If you weren’t watching TV, what else could you do? Be creative. What could you do for your health, relationships, family, work, education, etc?

Question why you watch all the TV you do. Is it simply a habit? Do you watch TV by default because you haven’t consciously allocated that time to anything else? If TV is your default filler behavior when you have nothing else to do, switch to a different default behavior like reading or talking to actual human beings or hobbies like music or drawing.

If you watch TV when you’re too tired to do anything else, then go to sleep or simply lie down. If you need to rest, then rest.

What would happen if you increased your TV viewing? If you’re getting such a good value out of it, then why not do even more of it?


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