My Constant Aversion To TV
When I watch TV, even for a little while, I hear life calling me.
I used to watch TV. I mean, broadcast TV, the kind that we used to get for free, over the air. Then I got cable while living in an apartment. But even then, I would record the shows I wanted to watch then. And back then it was The X-Files and Babylon 5. If I watched anything else, it was the news for the weather.
I really don’t understand the major American preoccupation with the news. I’ve tried watching network news and I have to say, it’s a downer. People killing each other, hurting each other, and generally being nasty to each other. That’s depressing. So when I watch the news, I watch the weather and leave it. The rest of the news I can read.
I’ve tried watching sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond and MASH. I’ve tried Two And A Half Men. I’ve tried I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show (I was totally smitten by Mary Tyler Moore as a young and adorable actress). But I keep hearing the laughs, the laugh tracks, and it all felt so synthetic to me.
Now, as a middle-aged man, I can watch whatever I want to watch, when I want to watch it. And as a father, that means, I can watch whatever I want when the kids are asleep. But as a middle-aged father, and someone who wants to overcompensate for his own absent father, I’m with the kids until they go to sleep. I build their character by spending time with them. And that means I will be up late, dosing off in the middle of an episode of Goliath or Colony.
This isn’t to say that there have been some series on Netflix that keep me awake. Titles like River, Travelers, The OA and Daredevil had great cliffhangers and they kept me alert. But still, I heard life calling. I heard my keyboarding out to me.
“You need to get to sleep early so that you can finish your next article before the kids get up.” If I watched TV, I’d be up until 11 and I’d wake up too late and my kids would find me early in the morning, especially around the end of Daylight Savings Time. When the clock falls back, they find me as they’re still adjusting to the time change.
But even when I find that the content on TV is interesting and engaging, I still hear something else calling me. I can go for a walk when it’s not too cold. I can read an article while trawling for inspiration. I can write another article in the evening, though I really like to write in the morning when I’m fresh. I like to not suffer from decision fatigue when I write because writing requires improvisation. And improvisation is better in the morning for me.
My kids are no longer toddlers. They are curious about everything still, so I have revived card games, having tried them in the past without much success. But now, my kids are old enough to start winning games and so they keep coming back for Uno, Go Fish and now, Crazy 8. And when the kids win, they want to play more.
With each game, they are burning power, burning sugar. They scream and yell when they get a good hand, and it’s great to see that they know what a good hand looks like. They enjoy the challenge of making me draw cards in Uno. And they love the suspense of two people calling Uno in the same pass. My girls will even team up to try to beat me, and they do.
Card and board games are just one more way for me to spend time with the kids, and I use that time to build their character. I show them how to be a good sport. I show them how to keep playing even when you lose a game, for its only one game. And everyone has a chance to win.
And as I play with them, I can see them getting tired. They become lackadaisical. They lose their train of thought. They are easily distracted by other things. They lose interest in the game and find an almost genuine interest in retiring to bed. I say, “almost” because they suffer from FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out.
My wife and I work with them to get them to sleep. We read stories, tell stories, or just give them company until their brains say, “Ok, lights out.” And then they’re asleep.
At the end of a long day of work or play, after the kids are asleep, I want to either sleep or watch TV. And when I watch TV, I keep falling asleep. So I read. I scroll through my Twitter feed. I check out Feedly, my newsreader. I might look at Facebook for articles in my feed there, too. But I still find that sleep is the best answer. There is no harm in going to bed early.
I used to have FOMO myself. I’d want to see the next episode or season of a series I was watching. Or watch a little YouTube. I would remember someone saying in social media that there is a limit to our capacity to consume content. We can only watch so many shows, so many movies, and life beckons.
We need to go to the bathroom. We need to eat. We need to exercise. We need to socialize. We need to take care of ourselves. And for me, writing isn’t just something I like to do. Yes, I enjoy creating content, and yes, I enjoy sharing my content with others. That’s what makes writing such a joy for me.
But there is something else. I write to stay sane. I write for mental health. I write to organize my thoughts. I research, write and publish articles because I learn something new every day from writing. I use writing and publishing to check my assumptions. I write to see if you feel like I do. I write to see if you think there is something more than what we can sense about life than just what our senses tell us. I write to see if you agree or disagree.
And then I think about content creation vs consumption. It’s true that I get my inspiration for articles by consuming the creative work of others. But I found a curious dynamic between TV and me. The more TV I watched, the less I would write the next day. And the more I read, the more inspired I became. I also found the same is true of exercise. Countless ideas have come to me during walks, strength training or just playing ping pong. I’ve outlined articles in my head during exercise and typed them up during the break.
I have an ongoing battle in my mind between creation and consumption. I am constantly working to strike a balance between consumption and creation. And as far as TV is concerned, creation is winning. I would rather write than watch TV. I would rather spend time with my family than watch TV. I can always think of something else to do besides watching TV.
So I write on.