My Relationship with the Tube


I’ve come to notice that over the past five years my television viewing has decreased sharply. Up until the end of college I watched a lot of TV on my free time, both with my friends and by myself. Since then there’s been a slow but steady transition away from the tube. I still watch a decent amount of sports and a few shows, but just not every single day for several hours.

I tend to spend more of my free time doing things. This wasn’t really an intentional shift. I’ve just noticed myself more interested in reading a book or going to the gym or going for a hike than I am in sitting down and channel surfing.

I’m not really sure what this means. I have, however, anecdotally come to notice that the majority of the successful people I know don’t watch a lot of TV. I think this is because it’s hard to spend a lot of your time passively watching something that requires very little brain power while still accomplishing exceptional things.

13 comments on My Relationship with the Tube

  1. Nev says:

    I used to watch a TON of TV too. I hated to admit it, but I’d sit down for dinner around 6:30…scarf a meal and watch Seinfeld or something.

    Yadda Yadda Yadda it was 12:30 at night and I just wasted 6 hours doing NOTHING.

    I now watch virtually zero TV on a regular basis, with the exception of Family Guy and The Office on Hulu (but only while I eat lunch or dinner).

    I started going to the library more and more and my stamina for reading (extremely useful information) has reached hours at a time.

    Cutting TV out was one of the best things I ever did too…totally agree.

  2. tim says:

    As you know I totally agree. I stopped watching TV about 13 years ago and I think it was one of the single best decisions I’ve ever made. It has freed up so much time and allowed my life to shift to a less structured lifestyle that I’ve been allowed me to learn and experience so much more actual living then “zoning out” in front of a TV. The bulk of my friends are a bunch of zombie’s, you wake up turn on the tv and get ready for work, you suffer through 8 miserable hours at a job you hate and race home to watch more tv until you go to bed. What’s most shocking is that most of the population seems to think this is not only fine, but what life is all about.

    I would guess that the average follower of this blog spends an abnormally large amount of time on the web, and in front of their computer in general. I know I’ve filled at least 50% of my previous TV watching time with surfing the web. However, most of my surfing revolves around learning, growing and business – I do have hulu desktop and occasionally watch a show, but it’s the exception rather then the rule.

    As you and Nev alluded to, there seems to be a shift among those who don’t watch TV, they tend to want to learn and typically read significantly more then their TV watching brethren. Even reading fiction, I strongly feel, does a lot of good things for keeping the mind sharp, alert and thinking. I do not have a strong enough understanding as to why this seems to be the case, but reading clearly stimulates the brain in a very different way then TV does and this difference is typically VERY obvious.

    Assuming you have a portal to the outside world, I can see absolutely nothing but good coming from turning the TV off for good. It is important to keep up with what goes on in your area, however with the internet and a few key sources this task is very simple and most importantly can be done at your leisure.

  3. Adam McFarland says:

    Well said guys.

    It’s almost scary how similar my habits are to yours. I also rely on Hulu to watch Family Guy and The Office, and then SouthParkStudios to watch South Park. That’s about the extent of my regular TV watching, and it’s usually while I’m eating as well.

    I do still watch a fair amount of sports, but a lot of times it’s when I’m out with friends. If it’s a game that I really want to watch at home, I still usually have my laptop or a magazine on the couch with me and I really only start paying full attention to the game at the end. If it wasn’t for sports, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t even have a TV in my house.

    As far as fiction reading (or reading in general), there’s another benefit that translates to the rest of life and business: you become a better reader and a better writer. Written communication on the web is so important. Being able to learn faster and communicate your thoughts better is priceless.

  4. Rob says:

    I too watch very little TV. I’ve never really watched a lot, and since it’s been possible I’ve watched TV-on demand from streaming websites etc.

    When I moved into my new flat last September it was 3 months before I plugged the tv aerial in – up to that point I’d just used it for watching DVDs, pre-recorded shows etc. & a bit of xbox.

    I got a Topfield (Tivo type device) last June and that put the final nail in the coffin of TV for me – almost everything I watch is pre-recorded using timers and searches (I can give it strings and keywords and it auto-records the shows for me, which is a great way of finding new stuff). When I do sit down in front of the TV to watch something I’ve recorded I find it difficult to make it through a complete show without grabbing my laptop to look something up, or tweak something – usually pausing the tv while I do it. In this way, it can take a whole evening to complete an episode of Frasier…. maybe I have attention span problems!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      I’m the same Rob. I can’t watch much of anything without my laptop or a magazine or a book. I think for me it’s a matter of actively doing instead of passively consuming. I just can’t focus my full attention on something that takes almost no effort.

  5. Joshua Holt says:

    I was exactly like Nev. Hate to admit it, but dinner and Seinfeld would draw me in to hours of TV. Maybe I would stop watching around 8 or 9, but by that point your I would be mentally disengaged.

    I’d like to say I broke the habit through self-determination but all I did was move to a place that didn’t have a TV. More evidence that the default choice (or lack of choice) is more powerful than I want to admit.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      I’m moving again in July and have contemplated how long I could go without cable. It’s an interesting thought to just not set up the TV and see how far it goes. One thing I started doing at my first apartment after college was keep a TV out of the bedroom. I’m a big fan of that – I think it really hinders my sleep having it in there. I can flip something on “just to relax” and then waste away 2 hours of sleep that I really could have used.

      • Joshua Holt says:

        It’s incredibly easy to go without cable. You’ll miss the sports, but that’s it. Obviously that’s not a minor thing, but I found that cutting down on the sports I watched was just as good for me as cutting out the sitcoms. For the important events or occasional games, I just hung out with friends. I think we set everything up once during football season in 2008. I certainly didn’t regret that. Now I don’t have a TV or cable.

        • Joshua Holt says:

          Also, forgot to say that I’ve never had a TV in my room. Not out of principle or anything, I just never have done it. The default option really is powerful!

  6. I too have seen my TV watching decrease as well, but I attribute it to blogging. I find myself spending more and more time reading. Reading other people’s blog posts, books, news articles, etc.. in order to find things to write about it.

    I still watch TV w/ my husband at night, but I don’t crave the tube as much as I use too.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Great point Andrea. Blogging and reading other blogs is where a lot of my TV time has gone. I’d much rather fire up Google Reader than the tube. I get so much more info on the exact things I want to learn about.

  7. Adam McFarland says:

    Update – this post was featured over on Brazen Careerist today. There are some good comments over there too.

  8. Anthony says:

    Well, I easily watch ~15 hours of TV per week, haha… I really like a handful of TV shows, and once baseball is in season, the hours go up from there. But I don’t really see anything wrong with it. In fact, I consider it a great strategy for getting things done that would otherwise be dull and fruitless. We all know the stuff I’m referring to – the light work/reading/etc that you feel almost annoyed to have to spend time doing. If you combine those activities with watching a show/event you enjoy, then you just converted TV from a passive activity to a great supplement that helps distract you from the annoying work.

    And hey, it doesn’t hurt to just kick back and be passive every once in a while either. Granted, there are better uses of time, but life isn’t always about efficiency.

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