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Looking back - a year without TV

Posted by Nathan House, 26 December 2012 · 3,445 views

On January 1st I will have gone one year without watching a single television show or movie. In anticipation of this landmark, I thought I’d write why I did it and reflect on what a TV free year – something many people will never experience – was like.

Why I did it

Most people will admit that TV is overall a bad influence and a waste of time, but that doesn’t stop them from watching it every day. According to the Internet – the source of absolute truth – American’s watch on average over five hours a day of television. This leads to my first reason for going without TV:

Reason #1 – Time

While each day has 24 hours in it, since most people sleep about eight hours a day, that means the “waking day” is really about 16 hours long. So, five hours of television is about a third of the waking day. The average life span of an American is somewhere around 80 years old, give or take a few years, which means that the average American - dying in their beds, many years from now – will have spent a full THIRD of their waking life, about 26 years, watching television. A third! What wouldn’t someone on their deathbed give to have 26 more years of real-life experiences?

Although I didn't watch 5+ hours of television a day like many people, I still watched enough to significantly cut into my work day. Last summer I had a full-time internship where I worked 40+ hours a week. Instead of coming home and watching a few hours of TV each evening (like most people), I worked on my business. The same thing goes for weekends – many times in the past I would essentially be a "couch potato," playing video games and watching TV much of the weekend. Instead, I worked on my business. The end result was that I was putting in over 40 hours a week on my business in addition to my full time internship. There's no way I could have done that if I watched several hours of TV each day.

Reason #2 – It’s addictive

Admit it, you’re addicted to television. Don’t believe me? Try going a few months without watching any TV shows or movies – I guarantee you’ll go through some sort of withdrawal. I can image many people reading this and thinking “I could do it if I wanted to, but I don’t see any reason to do it.” Yeah, that’s what addicts say.

Part of the reason I wanted to stop watching TV is that I knew I was addicted to it. I didn’t watch anywhere near the national average of five hours per day, but I still watched a lot every day, perhaps around two hours on average. In addition to TV being a waste of time, I wanted to see if I could kick the addiction – I did, but it wasn’t easy. I legitimately went through withdrawal after I quit watching TV, and although it got easier as time went on, I never really got over it.

Reason #3 – It is a negative influence

I am convinced that television (I’m including both TV shows & movies when I say that) has had a tremendously negative impact on our country. Most movies and TV shows are an incredibly unrealistic portrayal of reality and in many (if not most) cases, send very negative messages.

Just like the Coliseum, the masses now flock to theaters to be entertained. Real people don't die, but our brains likely don't fully comprehend that. Do some reading on how TV desensitizes people.

I won't go into detail on this point because there are already tons of articles talking about the negative effects of television (everything from brain development to eating habits to a person's behavior).

Reason #4 – The medium exists to inculcate and advertise

Television and movies, which I have been lumping together, are a little different on this point in that movies aren't generally so much about advertising (although product placement in movies is becoming increasingly common) as they are about sending messages and straight up making money.

When it comes down to it, television essentially exists for two reasons:

#1 - Advertising: http://www.turnoffyo...rry.Mander.html

Television is mainly about advertising. 'nuff said.

#2 - Inculcating the general population

Do you really think CNN is unbiased? News stations have owners, and those owners have agendas. The same group of people control the general direction of television, with regard to what airs, and thus have the power to tell people what they want them to hear. Many people believe what they see on TV without questioning it (such as what is reported on news stations), but even those to do question its authenticity still see and remember, which influences their beliefs and decisions in the future.

Reason #5 – I don't like movie stars

Here are a few reasons:

1. I don't think they deserve what they make (the famous ones, at least)

I know, I know, it’s supply and demand, but I still think it’s ridiculous that famous actors get paid so much just to act in a movie. Maybe it's not illegal, or morally wrong, but it just doesn't seem right to me. That someone should be paid to the tune of $20 million dollars per movie seems wrong to me, even if it's not.

2. People worship them

Nothing to do with jealousy, it just really annoys me. No one should be worshiped the way famous actors are, and especially not actors – after all, they're just acting! It's really disturbing how many people are completely obsessed with famous actors. Look at the magazines next time you checkout at the grocery store and you'll know I'm right.

3. Most of them seem like jerks

The vast majority of famous actors seem like total jerks.

Reason #6 – I don't like supporting stars and studios

I don't like buying movie tickets, or movies and TV shows, because every time I do I'm putting more money into the pockets of movie stars and the uber wealthy who own the studios and, perhaps even more importantly, I'm making a statement (however subtle) saying that I support them. In general I do not support famous actors because frankly they seem to usually be jerks, and the studios are clearly just out to make money and are in bed with the MPAA (see below).

Reason #7 – The MPAA is bad

Ever read about the girl who spent two days in jail, faced three years in prison and a hefty fine for filming three minutes of a group of friends at a movie theater birthday party (with the screen in the background)? Well, it happened:

A birthday celebration that culminated in a trip to catch the blockbuster movie "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" could land 22-year-old Samantha Tumpach in prison for three years.

The Chicago, Illinois-area woman captured three minutes of the film on her videocamera while taping part of her sister's surprise party at a Muvico theater in Rosemont.

Theater managers contacted police, who arrested Tumpach. She spent two days in jail. Now she faces a felony charge of illegally copying a movie.

"The motion picture industry has encouraged theater owners to adopt a 'zero-tolerance' policy prohibiting the video or audio recording of any portion of a movie," Muvico Entertainment, which oversees the theater, told HLN's "Prime News."

The MPAA is a viscous organization.

Here’s another story: a teenage girl films a 20 seconds of Transformers on her phone to show her brother that she had seen the movie. She faced up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

This insanity was made possible due to the The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (sounds friendly, right?) of 2005, and specifically the subpart Artist's Rights and Theft Prevention Act of 2005, which dictates that:

Anyone who "knowingly uses or attempts to use an audiovisual recording device to transmit or make a copy of a ... protected work... from a performance of such work in a motion picture exhibition facility..." may be imprisoned up to three years for a first time offender, and up to six years for a repeat offender, in addition to any fines that may be levied under the U.S. Criminal Code for copyright infringement. This could apply to merely taking a cell phone snapshot of a theatre screen.

Does it really make sense to impose a law stipulating that a person who takes a snapshot of a theater screen on a cell phone can be imprisoned for three years?

I'm not advocating piracy, I just don't think there should be laws that severely punish citizens for doing something as simple and harmless as taking a snapshot of a movie theater screen. Would that be annoying? Yes. Should they be kicked out of the theater? Maybe. But three years in prison? That is insane! I also don't think people should be made examples of.

Moving Forward:

So, the question is, after the new year rolls around, will I start watching TV again? Answer: Yes.

While I still feel that TV is a negative influence on, well, pretty much everything, it's really entertaining and the bottom line is I miss it. I've also had to pass up lots of social events (seeing movies in the theater, movie nights at friends houses, etc.) because of my blanket TV ban. In the future, I will watch TV, but in moderation. I think pretty much anything done in moderation, even bad things, is generally acceptable, and that's the position I will take with television moving forward.

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