For almost the past ten years, I have not had regular access to a television. Although Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and Sunday morning cartoons certainly played a role in my childhood, I was a dedicated bookworm from an early age. Throughout college, neither I nor my roommates ever had televisions. After I moved out, I found myself in a situation where there was a TV. I totally ignored it. Then came the switch to digital, which required me to pick up some adapter, which I never did. So there it sits, used for the occasional film and otherwise silent and mute. Since I’m not a visual media person, I’d be just as happy for it to go away altogether.
Aberrant? Maybe. I get odd looks when I say I don’t have a TV, because my lifestyle isn’t otherwise extremely alternative (apart from the whole vegetarian and fostering unadoptable cats thing). But I think it proves a point: a lot of the things considered necessities in western culture aren’t really necessary at all.
Since I never watched much TV to begin with, I don’t miss it. I don’t feel neglected. I don’t care about new stars, plot-lines, or reality shows. And perhaps because I don’t have TV in my life, I have room for other things. I wish I could say that these consistently included Kevin, Brie (awesomest blind foster kitty ever), pottery, reviewing, writing, reading, and drawing — but as often as not, I end up wasting time online. I may not be in the same boat as people with TV habits, but I’m in a similar boat. And even as my neighbors who spend their evenings bathed in the eerie blue glow of their flatscreens would claim that TV is a necessity, I would probably also claim internet to be one.
Somehow along the way, in our evolution as a consumer-driven society, we’ve forgotten how to distinguish between necessity and desire. Since our basic needs — food, water, shelter — have been met, we find new things that we ‘need.’ Car. Laptop. Mobile phone. Electric kettle. Daily hot shower. More clothes than I can wear in a month. INTERNET. And I’m not even a techy, a shopper, or a collector. Your list might well look different from mine, but it’s unlikely to be much shorter.
We’ve become a society so consumed with consuming things that I think we neglect what we really do need: good health for ourselves and the world we live in, enough time to spend with the people whom we love, and enough head- and heart-space to explore activities that truly make us happy to be alive.
Just something to think about before hitting a power button — of the TV or the computer.