In 2005, I turned off my TV for a year. I had no cable and (despite promises of my local networks) no air-conducted television signals. I did it partly for financial reasons and partly because I noticed I’d been using the television as background noise but never really watching it. It wasn’t as though I went into media blackout: I substituted running the CNN scrawl or watching hours of Law and Order re-runs with renting movies through Netflix and watching videos online (I kept my cable Internet). All-in-all, it was a good decision for me, and I didn’t return to the televised world until I moved to Oregon.
I have recently been considering dropping my cable subscription again. Cutting the service would save me a significant amount of money (though sadly I’m locked in on my monthly TiVo subscription for at least another year and a half), and it would make me go back to listening to background music instead of background TV, which has more of a distraction effect. Beyond which, I’m not sure it makes sense for me to have TV in a traditional sense, because I rarely “watch” it — I let CNN run while I’m working on other things, most of the time; every series I’m currently watching or following I have watched mostly through DVDs, and being a season behind doesn’t really bother me. (I’m also a fan of watching shows online, via Hulu or Fancast or network sites). On paper, it makes sense to call Comcast (bastards!) and shut the thing down.
But I’m resistant to turning the TV completely off. Here are my objections:
- I would miss the news. Online news, which I read constantly, somehow doesn’t have the same effect for me as video news. And I haven’t yet found an online video newscast (though I’m told they exist) that could meet my needs. There are a few “video podcasts” that come close — “NBC Nightly News” is available daily as a podcast, and “Anderson Cooper 360” does a pretty good daily video, too, but neither of these updates on weekends and neither offers live video — meaning that if something blows up, I’ll be refreshing the New York Times article instead of listening to “this just in” on CNN. We can debate endlessly which is better in terms of fact delivery, but I want that immediate update ability. I want to be able to switch on the television and hear “we’re getting reports that…” when something’s up. (Anyone have any online news video sites to recommend?)
- There’s a lot of good stuff out there. Part of the reason I’m not using my TV much right now is that the TiVo (which I’m, yeah, paying for every month) has been broken for a while, and so I’m missing a lot of the content that I could be enjoying. Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel show, for instance, or the recent IFC marathon of Oscar-winning films. I feel like there’s only crap on, these days, but that may just be poor planning and poor attention.
- It’s an election year. On principle, I don’t like the news networks’ coverage of the election because of their propensity to, I think, shape the race by early calls, horse-racing, etc., but… I can’t seem to turn away when there’s a major primary being decided. There’s no news on TV that I can’t get on the Web, election-wise, and I could probably get it with much less useless, scripted fighting and certainly less empty rambling (looking at you, Blitzer), but… it doesn’t feel like an election unless CNN is running in the background.
So, I don’t know. I go back and forth. I think the concerns above are mostly emotional considerations, where as the reasons to cut the cord (so to speak) are more factual and reasonable. The only on-the-air show that I’m caught up with and watching right now is “Bones,” which isn’t returning to the air until April 19 (!!).
The fact that I’m spending time thinking about this and writing about it is probably a great sign that I should be using my time more wisely on many fronts.