I was raised on television. Every night that I can remember in my youth, we ate dinner together and then settled in for three hours of watching television. I could tell which day of the week it was by what television shows were on. It was free entertainment, provided nightly by the three networks and, once in a blue moon, by PBS. To do anything other than spend a night in front of the TV would have felt strange.
Perhaps that’s the reason why I dislike TV so much now. I watched some of the Big Ten championship last night (but not much, because the game was a laugher), but beyond that I avoid television as much as I can. I believe that I’m better off for it too, because television gives us dreck like Jersey Shore and the Kardashians and other things I would probably be repulsed by if I knew about them.
I came to the realization–much too late in life–that watching television is as passive an activity as can be. You’re choosing what to watch, but once that decision is made, you’re letting someone else tell the story, and lead you around mentally for as long as the show lasts. And you’re letting the sponsors nudge their way in, to sell you whatever it is they have to offer. But they fill in the gaps on the canvas of your life, night after night. And your life isn’t any better as a result.
So when I saw a video of Angus T. Young (sorry about the vodka commercial that comes before it) of Two and a Half Men, a very successful TV show that I’ve never watched, I felt vindicated in some way. He’s likely signed his own death warrant in the television industry, but he did speak the truth. And not just about the “filth” of his show, but of the harmful effects of television writ large. Watching this screen, and letting it become your reality, does some real harm to people.
Reading a book, or going for a walk, or even spending some time on the internet, is a much more rewarding experience–both intellectually and emotionally–than watching TV could ever be. And if it takes a person who’s made lots of money in television to remind us of that, let’s not let that lesson go unheeded. Turn off the television, and live your life instead. It will feel really good, I promise.