Notes

Wed 2019-07-17 20:31

While really more of a hipster virtue signaling piece, this article about giving up TV for a month piqued my interest. Mainly because I did sort of the same thing over a decade ago and saw somewhat similar results. To be clear - I didn't "give up TV" as in I ceased to watch all video entertainment or educational content (which seems to me akin to neo-Luddism - let's just pretend it's 1920 and video isn't a thing).

What my wife and I did was to give up watching broadcast television, cancel our cable TV subscription, and stopped watching any streamed video content with advertising.

Now, I don't think that video content itself is necessarily unhealthy, although I would agree that video doesn't exercise the imagination in the same way that non-visual content can. Personally, I think the problem with TV is a combination of two elements:

  • Channel flipping and the proliferation of junk content. Back in the day of three major networks and maybe one or two local channels, your choice of TV content was much more limited. You cycled through four or five channels (maybe twice) and if there was "nothing on" you turned off the TV and did something else. Generally we look at choice as being a good thing - we want choices. But with tens of over-the-air channels available now in most areas and hundreds of channels available to cable subscribers, flipping through the dial can keep you busy for hours looking for something to watch. When you don't watch broadcast TV, viewing content becomes intentional. You are there to watch a particular show or shows, not whatever's on. Not to mention, with all of those channels there are still 24 hours in a day and the networks need to fill the air with something. Which means any old garbage finds a home in one timeslot or another and there is no shortage of mindless, cheap-to-produce junk food programming.
  • Pervasive, insidious, and manipulative advertising. When you take the slick packaging off of it, advertising is mind control. The purpose of advertising is to change your behavior: to make you buy something you would not have otherwise bought, go someplace you wouldn't have otherwise visited, or do something you wouldn't have otherwise done. If your reaction to that notion is "wait, that's not true..." consider for a moment: if you would have otherwise bought, visited, or done that thing anyway - why would some company pay to show you an ad? Doing so would be squandering their profits. The ad industry deliberately uses the term "conversion" to describe a person being convinced by an ad to do a thing. If you've been "converted" then by definition your mind has been changed - implicitly, against your will.

So I agree with the linked article's suggestion: quit watching TV for a month. Even if only to detox your brain from advertising and addictive programming. If you watch broadcast (or even non-premium cable) TV channels everyday, you're probably accustomed to the ads. You've become desensitized to it. Give up broadcast TV for 30 days and then come back and watch it again. The amount of ads, and their intrusive and offensive nature, will blow your mind. Having now become re-sensitized to it, you'll probably ask yourself "how on Earth did I ever sit through this crap before?"

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