Cutting the (TV) cord

Well played, Brave New Bookstore.

I loved television as a kid and a young woman. As a single adult, there’s not much to love.

I was in love with The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Ties, The Wonder Years, Punky Brewster, among others. I feel lucky that I came of age in the ’80s and ’90s, when there was truly a diversity of experiences represented on prime time television. It exposed me to the lives of middle class blacks and whites — something I knew nothing about firsthand growing up in the Bronx. What shaped me most, though, were images of women living in community who valued their friendships: The Golden Girls, Designing Women, Living Single, Ally McBeal and of course, Sex in the City.

Maybe because I watched so much TV as a kid, when it was a cheap substitute for real cultural entertainment, as I got older, I soured on spending hours in front of the tube. The more I fell in love with books and committed myself to writing and meditation, actually, the more sensitive I became to the shifting messages transmitted by television. I was also overwhelmed by all the choices of packages, and their expense.

Sometimes, TV was a way to make small talk with my friends. If I couldn’t connect with them about some crazy thing at work, school or in my personal life, at least we could talk about that crazy Carrie Bradshaw. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t much care for that level of conversation. I wanted something deeper. But what, exactly?

I had a bare bones cable set up in my house until 2 months ago. I had approximately 20 channels. My cable bill was about $21 a month. No big deal in terms of price, and it could be sweet every now and then. Every three months or so, I’d get a bunch of the premium channels like HBO or Skinemax Cinemax and I’d be delighted to watch True Blood at home and then I’d be too lazy and not invested enough to call and pay however many hundreds of bucks it costs to buy these channels.

I wish I could tell you that I had some epiphany that led me to finally call my cable company and cancel, but like a lot of things in my life, it actually happened by accident.

I hit some button on my remote, and the thing stopped working. I eventually tried to hit all of the buttons on the thing, and then it really stopped working. It appears that my luck with cars also extends to my television watching habits.

The thing is, I felt liberated, not frustrated. I don’t miss having cable at all. What I was missing is actually connecting with people in real life. The Olympics helped connect me with my friends who could not help themselves from posting play-by-plays on Facebook and Twitter – and I caught the highlights online. I’m planning to see the True Blood finale with a group of friends, which is something I wouldn’t do if I had HBO at home.

Now that I’ve cut the TV cord, I actually feel way more connected to the people around me. The other thing is that I feel much better about myself. I’m not one of those old lady-types who will shake her cane at folks, blaming them for how I feel. But in the interest of not going completely off the grid or being one of those pretentious jerks who looks down their nose at people when they say, “I don’t have a TV,” I have to say that I had underestimated the power of all the information coming at me in the form of marketing, dating shows, fake reality TV programming and the like.

Part of claiming my happiness as a single woman has been bolstered by paring down areas of my life that make me feel like crap. Often, being disconnected from TV, like the Internet, is like getting free, instant happiness. I used to think that TV served as good background noise when I became an adult, but it actually made me feel even more alienated.

This whole life-without-TV-plan, however, is not flawless. Football season is upon us, and now when I’m out with friends, I feel like I have to remind myself to close my mouth when I look at the flat screens and all the colors at bars. I also feel like I might have been more fun when I at least had something pithy to say about the last thing I saw on TMZ.

At least my dog still thinks I’m mildly interesting. I think.

4 thoughts on “Cutting the (TV) cord

  1. I went for over a year and a half without tv, because a a single mom I couldn’t afford it. Now that we have a new home again, I haven’t hooked it up because again, I am watching the bills. The kids hate it, but i don’t mind it at all. The only thing I miss is the news sometimes, and yes. Football season. It really is liberating though. Wish more people in my life would back away from the tv and hang out more =)

  2. Well done for not having a TV and realising how much rubbish it wants to brainwash us with in the name of capitalism and consumerism! I’ve never had a TV since I left my mother’s home because I’ve never had the money, the space, the time, the interest, etc. I find it depressing to sit in front of a TV screen; it makes me feel like a dumb vegetable.

    I once went to a party where the TV was on, so people didn’t talk much; they were just killing time together. Call that a party? I politely suffered it for an hour or so, then left.

    It’s sad that so many people can’t see how many more exciting things there are to do around them. As you say, you can better appreciate it all when you don’t have a TV telling you who you should be.

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