A few months ago, I was sitting at my fiancée’s apartment, curled up on the couch with her watching How I Met Your Mother. Inherently, there was nothing wrong with what we were doing. It’s a very funny show and we really enjoyed watching it together. The problem was we had spent the last three hours watching How I Met Your Mother. In that entire time, I don’t believe we spoke ten words to each other.
There we sat, on the couch, holding each other, feeling as if we’re bonding, yet not really connecting at all. I realized I knew more about what Barney Stinson was thinking than what my loving fiancée was thinking.
This thought hit me like a punch in the stomach:
How much time do we spend watching TV, and is this healthy for us?
Being a somewhat obsessive person, coupled with un-medicated ADHD (I was diagnosed as a child and my parents refused to put me on drugs, for which I am very grateful), I decided to research the effects of television on couples.
The results were not very good.
Generally speaking, couples who watch lots TV tend to argue more often, have less sex, lead unhealthy lifestyles, and are less satisfied with life in general.
I began searching for positive effects of television on adults. This was a surprisingly difficult impromptu research project. There is very little on the internet explaining how TV helps adults. There are a few articles around how educational programing can be good for children, but apparently after the kid learns to read, it’s better to get a book.
The last straw came from a Brian Tracy quote I stumbled upon on Youtube: “Poor people have big TVs and small libraries; rich people have small TVs and big libraries.”
I decided I would much rather fall into the latter category.
Speaking with my loving and oh-so-patient fiancée, I asked her if we could do an experiment: 60 days with no television.
She listened to my reasoning and asked for a small concession: 1 movie night a week.
I did the math: we would be reducing our television time from roughly 25 hours a week to 2; seemed a reasonable deal, so I accepted her terms.
The first week was very tough for us. We had gotten so used to vegging out on the couch when we were home, there seemed little for us to do. To make matters worse, we were in the middle of the hot season in Antalya, Turkey, so traveling outside was out of the question. We walk EVERYWHERE in Antalya and did not really like doing that in 107 degree weather.
A funny thing happened after about five days: we started talking more. A lot more. I learned more about her in the next 60 days than I had in the last 6 months, and I loved it. She really is a fascinating person. On top of that, we both spent more time doing other activities we enjoyed. My reading time quadrupled and she spent a lot of time crafting. I now have a favorite winter hat thanks to this rekindled hobby of hers.
After the 60 days were up, we decided we wanted to keep watching How I Met Your Mother. We spent the next three days watching 2+ hours of that show. The normal American watches 32 hours a week of television, so we were still low on the consumption, comparatively. But, to me, I felt a sudden shift which I didn’t like.
I became moodier, less interested in listening to her, less interested in my reading, and generally lazier than I had been. Similar reactions from her caused us to argue more and snap at each other over silly things.
This led us to permanently reinstate the “1 movie night a week” rule.
That was 8 months ago, and we are never going back.
A quick run-down of the benefits we enjoy which have fully cemented this decision:
1) We get along much better. It’s rare that we argue and when we do, we listen to each other instead of trying to find distractions.
2) Our cooking has gotten much better. Now that we don’t rush through the cooking process in order to plop down on the couch, we take our time and enjoy each other’s company while cooking.
3) Meal times are slow and peaceful. We really take a moment to enjoy what we prepared together.
4) Our view on the future is brighter. Before, we didn’t talk too much about the future. A lot of our conversations revolved around TV shows we enjoyed. Now, we talk a lot about what will happen next in our lives, not what will happen next on Prison Break.
5) My business is less stressful. I don’t feel constantly strained for time, and when things pile up, it’s much easier for me to focus on the task at hand without seeking mindless entertainment.
6) We are more interesting people. This seems almost counter-intuitive, because a big fear I had when I started this experiment was that I wouldn’t be able to talk to my friends about TV shows like I used to. This has proved to be completely the opposite. Although we don’t talk about TV, with the reading we do and the projects we are always working on, we have really great stories to talk to our friends about. Not to mention, they always want us to come over and cook now :).
7) Our social life has improved. When you don’t have anything to watch on TV you find things to do. We try to spend at least one night a week visiting friends for dinner. It’s a great way to keep things fresh and build relationships.
8) We are much more active. We take walks all the time and love taking our dog to the park. We did these things before the experiment, but now we do them much more often.
These are the benefits I can think of right now. Really, there’s an overall sense of happiness I never knew we were missing before. I don’t ever want to lose this feeling over a television again.
Now, it’s your turn: what do you think would happen if you gave up television for 60 days?
Please leave your comments below; I would love to hear your thoughts J.