When my husband and I were preparing to get engaged, we went over a list of non-negotiables with each other that were important to each of us. Surprisingly, my husband said that not having a TV in our home was really important to him.
Thinking that I’d either get over it or that he’d change his mind, I agreed, but months later, I can safely say that not having a TV in our house has changed my life for the better, especially in how I spend my time and how I interact with others.
How Television Affects Our Daily Lives
Just because we’re one household in America that doesn’t own a TV doesn’t mean that we’ve made a noticeable dent in the national average. In fact, TV ownership has only grown in the past two decades with the constant release of sharper, up-to-date technology. As of 2021, 121 million homes in the U.S. have a TV, and there are currently 285 million televisions in those households.
Growing up in a house where TV was a privilege and not a right, it was always a big deal to me to go to friends’ houses and see how their parents handled watching television. Many of my friends had TVs in their bedrooms, which seemed crazy to me, and tons of people I knew had one in every single room, even on their patios, in their backyards, or in their kitchens.
The average American watches more than four hours of TV per day.
As a 2000s kid, I also grew up without cable, thanks to my parents’ dislike of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon (which, in hindsight, makes a lot of sense). Going to my grandma’s house and being able to watch Hannah Montana or The Suite Life of Zack and Cody was always exciting. In middle school, watching High School Musical when it premiered for the first time on television was a form of social currency, meaning I was at the bottom of the social ladder as far as being cool was concerned.
As I finished college and moved out on my own, I noticed that I turned to TV more for comfort and not for entertainment. I’d spend hours watching The Office or Grey’s Anatomy, which I’d seen many times before, and more often than not, I’d find myself scrolling through my phone or doing something else with the TV on in the background. I turned to the same things over and over again out of boredom or looking for a distraction. With millions of TVs in homes across America, I’m likely not alone in this.
The Benefits of Little to No Television
There’s actually a long list of benefits to limited television, or to not having one at all.
The average American watches more than four hours of TV per day, which adds up to 28 hours a week or two months per year. This means that if a person lives to 65 years old, they’ll have spent an estimated 9 years watching TV, according to Nielsen.
Studies reveal that binge watching shows led to increased depression and anxiety in college students. Hours of TV watching can lead to an increase in sedentary lifestyles and impaired cognitive functions, like decreased memory capability and the ability to plan and organize. The Journal of Brain and Cognition found that we increase our risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease 1.3 times for every additional hour of TV we watch.
No television, or even just limited viewing and strict schedules, can lead to better quality time and more time spent being active or outside.
Couples who have a TV in their bedroom have sex half as often as those who don’t.
While these statistics are already sobering, the data is especially clear when it comes to couples who have televisions in their bedrooms.
It may feel good to get into bed at the end of a long day and turn on the TV to wind down, but studies show that both the length and quality of our sleep decreases. It also affects the last thing we think about before we go to sleep, and might even become the first thing we think about when we wake up. Additionally, those of us who have a TV in our bedrooms have sex half as often as those of us who don’t, and are often less satisfied or sexually fulfilled. What’s better, a few juicy episodes of Outlander before bed, or the real thing?
A Short List of How I Spend My Time Instead
So, am I Susie Homemaker with the body of Jillian Michaels now that I don’t have a TV in my house? The short answer is, not at all. The long answer is, I’m working on it.
When I got out of college, I noticed that the past few years of reading academically dense studies and essays had almost killed my love of reading, and I really wanted to get that back. In the past few months, I’ve read tons of fiction, short stories, non-fiction, and poetry, and I feel like I’m finally getting back to being as obsessed with it as I used to be. I love getting caught up in a good book, not being able to put it down, and I’m always on the hunt for something new to read. My husband is a big reader as well – everything from sci-fi and obscure fantasy to financial advice – and we love discussing things we’ve read or want to read together in the future.
I’ve noticed that my house is cleaner as well. For me, cleaning is an act of therapy because I enjoy tackling a bathroom or a dirty sink and getting it back to how it’s supposed to look. I’m usually caught up on laundry or washing the dishes, which gives me more time to look into meals I want to make, shopping for new outfits, or planning and organizing how I want my home to look (even though we don’t have a TV, I’m very much – unashamedly – a maximalist when it comes to decorating).
When I get home from work, I don’t immediately turn on the TV like I used to. My job is extremely stressful, which means that I give my eight hours a day to what needs to be done in the office, and then actively spend time relaxing or enjoying being at home. I turn off my work phone before I even leave the parking lot, and listen to podcasts or lift weights when I get home to let off steam. My husband and I leave our jobs outside our home, meaning we have more time to enjoy each other’s company, and we’re not focused on bringing our work into our safe place.
I’ve regained my love of reading, and my house is cleaner.
Do we still watch a show or a documentary here and there? Sure, but we’re more invested in it if we do. We have a tablet we share between us, but we’re not subscribed to every channel or every streaming service, meaning that there has to be something we really want to see if we’re going to dedicate time to it. Actively watching 30 minutes of TV instead of passively watching six hours a day has made a ton of difference.
I know that for many, a TV and the right show can be a security blanket or a form of comfort, and coming home stressed from work every day meant that for me, having a distraction or something to do without putting in much effort became important to me. Unfortunately, this also meant that I would be so intent on not thinking about work that I’d turn on the TV for eight hours and zone out.
It can feel good to accomplish nothing at home after a long day of work, but after falling into that routine for so long, I noticed how much it was affecting my valuable free time, my relationships, hobbies, and productivity.
It might sound crazy in this day and age with new shows out every day and a 24 hour news cycle to invest less time in media, not more, but take it from me, once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back.
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