Cable Zombies no more!
Television has hit such an incredible low in the United Kingdom that there is now a popular television show about people watching television shows. Cameras are placed throughout a family’s home and their reactions while watching television are recorded, for us to watch on television. I came across this one evening while ‘channel surfing’ like a slack-jawed cable monkey, staring blankly at the screen having completely lowered my expectations of what satisfactory entertainment might be. After watching other families on their couches stare at the screen like zombies I turned to look at my own family – also staring at the screen like zombies.
Not a coherent thought running through their heads.
We would go to a friend’s home, nearly anyone’s home, for a visit or a meal and the television remained on the entire time, like there had to be a constant distraction or background noise. It was hard to pull away from that screen – even though we were there to enjoy each other’s company, not watch whatever was on the TV at the time. I would find myself talking to a friend, my head slowly and involuntarily turning toward the television. My eyes would dart toward the screen and then back to my friend as though trying to hide an insulting yawn. The conversation would become difficult to follow as there was too much pull toward the screen – fascinating and engaging conversation would quickly descend into guttural grunts of acknowledgement until all was silent, everyone staring at the screen without thought watching weird and useless shows about cake decorating with melodramatic family feuds.
When did this happen? And how was this okay?
Over the next few days I observed more. The shows that my three year olds were watching seemed alright – I like a bit of Scooby Doo and Spiderman myself. But the commercials? I feared they would give my kids epilepsy or perhaps ADHD. The commercials would suddenly come on louder, brighter, faster and in-your-face. My kids started asking me for sugar coated chocolate funball puffs at the supermarket, not because of the taste or superior nutritional value but because they liked the kangaroo on the box. Commercials would come on during chidlren’s shows about betting agencies, online bingo and personal injury lawyers. They wanted me to spend my hard earned money on cheap plastic toys that would be played with once and forgotten about. Then came the kicker – they wanted me to buy them a game where you take a wiener dog for a walk, squeeze its leash and it craps on your coffee table.
Girls, we have a 14 year old shih-tsu. Just show him the leash and he’ll get so excited he’ll crap all over our coffee table. Play with that instead.
That was it. We were cutting the cable.
I put my husband in charge of this, which I probably shouldn’t have. Where we should have saved a small fortune by cutting out cable we only saved a fraction as he’d instead been sold an upgrade on our internet speed.
We kept Netflix, but now had no cable at all – and it has been this way since mid-February. It honestly has been a wonderful experience.
At first we emerged, blurry eyed and hapless, wandering about the house looking for things to do. In the evenings after dinner we would sit on the couch and just silently look at each other, unsure of what to do or say. We honestly didn’t know what to do with ourselves, and for the first week or so found ourselves all going to bed around 9:30pm, having found nothing else to do.
We wondered aloud at what might be on the news, what shows we were missing and what might be happening. But then we started to realize that we didn’t, and shouldn’t, care. Why would I waste hours of my life that I can never get back watching other people live their lives? Why would I waste my time watching the news when I had read it all online throughout the day previously? What could I instead do with the hours I would have dedicated to starting blankly at a television screen?
I finished writing my Masters Dissertation. I read many books and wrote one. I called friends and family on the phone. Learned to play the piano. I played board games with my husband, we made a puzzle. Sounds dull, but we drank wine together with the radio on, sat around the kitchen table with our puzzle – chatting and laughing. We connected. We read books with the kids. We played ponies. Organized things. Cleaned things. Baked things. Planned things. But most of all we talked, and not about TV shows.
All of us. We chatted about our days, our thoughts, our feelings, the news. We were no longer having our opinions and experiences fed to us through television, we were talking and our evenings became worthwhile, something to look forward to instead of just coming home to crash on the couch, turn on the TV and accept whatever was available.
We still have Netflix, but with this we actively choose what we want to watch, and when, together. We currently have one series that my husband and I watch together every couple of evenings and the kids have free reign of kids’ shows without epilepsy inducing commercials. I recently read a note that said:
Live your life so that you don’t need a vacation from it
And we have. I look forward to my evenings while coming home from work because it will be engaging. It will be stimulating and it will be productive. It will be intentional. My evenings are no longer an escape from life – it’s what I work so hard for.
We are slack-jawed cable zombies no more.