Organic Couch Potatoes

There’s something pretty simple I didn’t have until this year—something that you probably take for granted.

A television.

Can you imagine your world without one? Seeing as I didn’t even have an indoor toilet until last year, I figured a TV was rock bottom on my list of priorities. I caved at the beginning of this year (okay—my husband Nick MADE me cave), and since then I’ve been making up for lost time.

I’m lovin’ the way TV is connecting me to more information, more laughs, a broader world-view, and a network of educated opinions that I’d otherwise go without.

But making up for lost time doesn’t mean wasting it. I’ve long been a proponent of keeping television in its place, and that hasn’t changed.

Well, not too much.

I’m learning that keeping it in its place means two things: not watching too much, and watching the right kind.

The type of TV I watch is just as important as how much. I’ve decided to pay attention to the way different programming makes me feel.

I steer clear of news stations with incendiary pundits who seek to incite conflict or anger (you know the ones). Instead, I seek out the channels that present facts and events in a broader context and alert me to international events outside my immediate sphere. Then there are certain kinds of reality shows that profit from the shame of others. Sadly, these programs are all too common, and they wouldn’t be if we voted with our remotes. I don’t want to feed into a culture that’s riveted by self-destructive and amused by the unfortunate or misguided.

I’m willing to bet that, deep down, you already know how to differentiate between “organic” television and “junk” TV. But just in case your senses have been dulled by the tube’s consistent glow, take my simple quiz (that I devised for moi).

Answering “yes” to the following questions indicates bad TV:

  • Do I enjoy seeing this program because the dysfunctional characters make me feel better about my own life?
  • Does this program make me feel angry about the state of the world?
  • Does this show make me feel pessimistic about human nature and my fellow man?
  • Does this station only offer me bad news?
  • Do I feel irritable or powerless after watching this?

Even one yes is a red flag. It’s an enormous, wildly waving, fire-engine red flag accompanied by blaring horns. The programming at hand isn’t good for you. It doesn’t feed your soul, it doesn’t educate you in a constructive way, and it is a profound waste of time and energy.

But answering “yes” to the following questions indicates keeper TV:

  • Does this show inspire me to do some good for myself or others?
  • Does this program give me a sense of hope or wonder about other people?
  • Do I feel refreshed, empowered, or upbeat after watching this?
  • Does this show expose me to new opinions and viewpoints—has it made me think?
  • Does this show make me laugh—without making me bitter at the same time?

Yes to my keeper TV questions is a sign of “organic” television. It uses my time well and leaves me better off than I was beforehand.

And I’ve told myself I mustn’t forget the very best TV viewing option: OFF.

Leave a comment 6 Comments

  1. Kristy says:

    There are 2 old, old, old TVs in my house. One is connected to an X-box and is in my grandson’s bedroom. The other is in my living room and connected to a DVD-VCR player. I did not get a converter box. The last time I watched that was with my granddaughter on Aug. 11, when she was last at my house. We watched a Dora the Explorer tape from the library.

    There have been times when I haven’t had a TV at all. I saw the Prince of Wales/Lady Diana Spencer wedding at a neighbor’s house. I saw this year’s royal wedding on my computer checking every two hours, to see if anything new had been posted.

    There have only been two times when I have gone to a big box store to see a news story. One was the President’s inauguration (I wanted to see Mrs Obama’s outfit). The other was September 11, 2001. In each case I heard the news on the radio but I had trouble visualizing it.

  2. Kristi says:

    We have a beautiful TV that’s connected to the computer via wireless internet, but we have no cable or satellite. We have a Netflix subscription allowing us to stream TV shows and movies. No commercials to tell me how I should feel and what medications I should take to feel that way. No other advertisments I would be embarrassed to watch in mixed company.

    For news I read the newspaper and listen to radio. If it is something I feel I need to more about then I look it up on the computer.

    We gave up TV completely for a couple of years except for movie rentals. It was one of the best things we did as a family. We spent more time together do things that actually produced tangible results.

  3. Kim K says:

    I have to say that this is a good, thought-provoking post….I thought about the last time I was moved to sit up straight in my chair, completely immersed in wonder- watching Globe Trekker on PBS. I will probably not ever travel the world, but this program brings it to me and it’s truly an experience to watch. Instead of saving my “viewing time” for something like Globe Trekker, I find myself gorging on the local news or, worse, reality shows or sitcomes. No wonder my anxiety level goes up according to the amount of TV I’m watching. Thanks for the insight!

  4. Pam C in Canada says:

    I haven’t had tv channels for 2+ years now. I only want to watch like 5 channels & not the other 50 that come with the packages (and because they aren’t all available on ONE package, I would have to get at least 50 other dumb channels). I really don’t miss it at all. I would like to watch the news once in a while, but for the most part, I’m ok with not having it. I have a bunch of movies (DVD & VHS) – my friend says I’m better than a video store! – that I watch & re-watch. I have 3 or 4 tv series on DVD. I don’t miss the dumb commercials, aimed at promoting obesity & medications to fix the “problems”. I don’t like “reality” shows or talk shows. So for me not having tv isn’t such a sacrifice. It really doesn’t bother me.

    These are really good questions to be asking yourself too! I did a report for school (2 years ago now) about the effects tv has on children’s behaviour, if any, and you can definitely tell what parents let their children watch by how they act & what they say. It’s terrible. I will have a hard time letting my (future) children watch tv.

  5. Darlene Ferree-Winchester, Ohio says:

    I have not had t.v. since 2005. And do I miss it? Hecky fire, no! Too many commercials and way too many bad shows. If I want news, I have my laptop. I use my t.v. to watch movies that I get at my local library and I get to watch a full movie without interruptions.

  6. Susie says:

    We haven’t had T.V since our eldest daughter was born. She will be 29 in April. We lived in the country where we couldn’t get reception but we have also lived in a major city center where it seemed vital to have t.V. I have never missed it except for watching the olympics.
    It amazed me how my co-workers would schedule their lunch breaks in order to watch their favourite sitcom. Yikes. They talked about the characters as though they were their best friends. Of course I never knew what they were talking about. One day they asked me what shows I watched. I said none we don’t have T.V. They thought I was strange and wondered what I did with my time. My reply, I don’t have time for T.V., by the time I got home from work, there was dinner to make , laundry to be done , help with the home work . To wind down I read a book or many books, quilted , painted, sewed etc.
    My favourite experience around the debate of T.V. came from a sales rep. trying to get me to buy her cable companies offer. When I told her we didn’t watch T.V. she was aghast. She asked if we had kids. I replied that we did. She said well, what to they do? My reply , sports, school, lots of homework, art, read books for pleasure , talking on the phone with their friends and being with their friends. I also explained that I didn’t need to have nor want to have the constant battle of T.V. verse life_ home work , chores , good nights rest etc. She said, well your right and good for you for not having T.V. I hope she wasn’t being monitored by her boss, she would have lost her job. We did have junk night which was movie night and candy when the kids were little. As they got older we watched movies on weekends, usually a Saturday night when they still wanted to be home with us.
    Because we didn’t have T.V. to run to dinner became a stimulating time for our family. Everyday we gathered at our round table( it really is round) and had a good simple dinner and disscussed our day. World events ( gained through radio and our journalist brother inlaw), teachers, friends , work , school,philosophy, the environment , everything and anything. Our kids loved to be included in these discussions.
    Did it make our kids differrent? Well it did in that they missed those intellectual disscussions when they went out into the world and were establishing their own lives. Their friends didn’t have those kinds of disscusions yet. They had to wait for them to come along. Now looking back I can see how it has helped them to think and evaluted their thoughts and ideas about the their world and the world at large, with out being heavily influenced by T.V.and the sensationalism that comes with that medium.

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