Life Without TV: Cutting the Proverbial Cord to TV and Netflix

life without tv

My TV-viewing paradigm is shifting.  I am not saying that I know where it is shifting to, but something must change.  Intention, perhaps, must play a bigger part in my TV viewing habits.  I recently sold (in a big “stuff” purge) my TV in an effort to take control of that elusive something in my life….???

To say that I love TV is an understatement.  And in the same vain, to say that TV has had a profound affect on my life is also too little; it has helped inform and transform me into the person that I am today.  I mean Star Trek, Kung Fu… need I say more.  The 70’s were filled with quality family shows that taught character and value-based thinking and we only watched for a few hours here and there.  My generation was referred to as The TV Generation and I was in the original intended demographic for Sesame Street.  It was the perfect friend for an introvert.  TV is both my best friend and nemesis.  It is my addiction.  But, TV has changed.  It has become more invasive and more easily gotten too – a blessing and a curse for sure.  It has become more 1984-ish.

Knowing that I have an addiction, I have always tried to keep the TV entity at bay.  I always only had one and it was only in the living room; never the bedroom.  Furthermore, I have ever only had an antenna to receive the free channels, except in one apartment where cable was included in the rent, as I do not believe in paying to have more commercials come into my home.  (Side note: Which is probably why I liked Netflix so much.)  But, even with these parameters in place, TV became “just too much”.   Much like many of us minimalists have / had reached a saturation point with our stuff, so too had the TV, for me, become an apparatus for over-consumption.

I am certain that I started down the TV over-consumption path quite by accident.  First there was “The Big Switch” when we all had to go digital.  I procrastinated until the last possible second and there were no more converters available.  Faced with the option of no TV and feeling the slightest tinge of withdrawal at the mere thought of losing my beloved TV, I bought the new kind – flat screen, very big, etc.  It was beautiful – my own little movie theater.  And it has been a downhill slide ever since.

Further exacerbating the TV problem, I have been a Netflix subscriber since the very beginnings of the company – about a decade+ I think.  I loved Netflix when it was a mail service.  It was just so easy.  It was groundbreaking.  When it was just the mail service I got started on catching up on all the shows I had missed over the decades, re-watched old favorites, and they even suggested many that I liked and watched.  But here is, I believe, where TV became too 1984 (just too much for me) – streaming (which I love, love, love)…  I am positive that my viewing habit increased when they started streaming and I was able to binge watch favorite shows unchecked by having to change a disc or mail something back.

You know it’s bad when there is a term containing the word “binge” and it becomes a common part of the American vernacular.

The catch-up is over and the rate at which they make and release new material is not nearly as fast as I can watch it.  I have reached a sort of saturation point.  It is no longer adding value to my life.  About a year ago, I had a similar feeling and cancelled the subscription for about 6 months.  I got it back in the summer, when I have more free time.  I was shocked that there was hardly anything new to watch.  In less than one month I was caught back up.  I guess I kept the subscription out of habit?  And on an even sadder note, I had binge watched some new and old things, that I didn’t like all that much but seemed to have little control over.  I just kept pushing the continue button.  Why, why?

The telling factor is this:  When I binge watch things or even just re-watch things – I feel bad about myself.  I engage in a self-loathing of sorts as my life is put on hold.  It’s a seething anger under the surface (in the unconscious mind I suppose) asking and demanding to know – “Why am I not doing something with my life?”  But, I can’t seem to look away.

Along with my TV-viewing paradigm, so too, my Netflix paradigm is shifting.  I have cancelled my subscription again and figure that if I do pick it back up at some point in the future it will only be for a month or so at a time, just long enough to catch up on things I can’t get elsewhere.

The standard TV seemed so outdated that I began to wonder why should I bother with the old-style machine anymore?  And yes, I am talking about the big beautiful one.  It was too large, heavy, and not mobile.  With all the free-antenna channels that I have there are actually only 5 – 6 shows that I like to watch and all of them can be seen after airing on the internet at each channel’s website.  There are a few more shows I watch that are only available online for a person without cable.

I began to ask myself why I needed the big contraption in my house anymore?  I have a computer, tablet, and phone on which to watch things.  Why live by a network’s airtime schedule or tethered to a big contraption that dictates how your living room must be arranged?  Most of the time I watch my shows after they have aired anyhow, via a hookup from my computer to the TV.  The internet network TV channels have come to be the convenience of Netflix, but without paying.  For me the TV became a glorified screen on which to view things transmitted via the internet.  It was also background noise.  Something to turn on in order to not be lonely or to hear your own thoughts.

When I thought about a future without TV (and Netflix) I looked forward to the quiet and my own thoughts and even the struggle of finding new ways to “occupy” time.  Like reading a book?  Or, just being?  Etc.

Here’s is what I have learned / experienced after several weeks of no TV and the massive “stuff” purge – sorry they are a bit intertwined:  

  • I am struggling with what to do with myself sometimes, but I have noticed that I am doing more of the following things: reading, writing, meditating / thinking, listening to music, listening to books on tape, listening to my downstairs neighbor’s life, getting things on my to-do list done, and wondering why I have so much time on my hands and how I should fill it?
  • I do not think that the struggle with how to use my new-found time has even begun to hit me yet, as I have been very busy with work lately and I have been cleaning up, rearranging, fixing, adjusting, etc. the house after the big purge.
  • The intersection at where these two massive changes meet is here:  Sitting on the floor is hard.  (I had read that it would be an adjustment.)  It is like a workout / exercise.  I am getting better at it, but it is not easy to jump up and down off the ground as you would off the couch.  Much greater effort is involved.  So, watching a show on a computer at a table while sitting on the floor, I can tell you, is an act of intention!!!  
  • I find myself becoming very impatient at the length of a television show.  There will be no internet binge watching from the floor.
  • TV watching now has a time, place, and purpose that is very limited in scope.  That’s what I wanted and that is what I got.  Be careful what you wish for.

Although it has been a bit difficult, I am committed to the situation in which I have placed myself.  I am especially interested in seeing how it all works out.  Will I paint more?  Will I work on my novel more?  Will I maybe be less of a hermit?  That’s a scary question for an introvert.  Etc.

As I attempt to change my habits toward TV watching to something a little more positive, healthy, and productive I have to wonder if cutting the internet cord is a possibility.  I pay $75 dollars a month for only internet (high speed), no fancy packages.  This seems outrageous to me!  I will be watching my data usage carefully as my new situation progresses to see if it is a doable, cheaper, and realistic option to perhaps switch to a phone hot spot setup.  Mindless internet browsing, TV watching, and wasting-time stuff all brought under control via mobile data limits.  Think of the possibilities.  It would be nice to cut that cord as well.

Post written by Monica Gaylor.

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