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The TV Fix

The TV Fix

Turn off the tube, turn on your mind.


Social engineers in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World had a simple plan for indoctrinating children with the values of their society. Recordings of cultural mantras were played again and again under the pillows of infants and toddlers until the messages became carved into their subconscious minds.

To a large extent, we do the same thing to ourselves. We do it through television.

Violence. Greed. Revenge. Exhibitionism. Sex. Vainglory. Materialism. Power. These are the values that form the steady diet our children and we ingest day after day, evening after evening, weekend after weekend.

At least that's how I grew up. Throughout junior high and high school, my parents strictly limited my viewing to two hours on weeknights and four hours on weekends -- a total of 18 hours per week (if I didn't cheat.)

True, that was less than two-thirds of the current national average, but it was over 5600 hours through six years of secondary education. Assuming that my consumption at least doubled in the summertime and during vacations, my total television consumption during those six years adds up to almost 7000 hours, or 290 days. That's four-fifths of a year, about 20% of my waking life between the ages of 12 and 17, spent with my head stuck in the boob tube.

The "boob tube" -- presumably so called because of its power to turn a thinking person into an imbecile. But the term suggests another, more sinister meaning. An infant sucking at its mother's breast cannot draw its sustenance until the nipple is placed squarely into its mouth. And we do the same, with remote controls in hand, allowing foreign thoughts, values, and attitudes to seep into our minds, without even the effort of having to suck.

Our brains are more active when we sleep than when we are watching TV.

According to at least one study, our brains are more active when we sleep than when we are watching TV. Indeed, perhaps television's greatest danger lies not in the corrosive influence of lust, avarice, and the 8000 murders witnessed by an average twelve year old, but in the way it makes us passive, dulling our minds as effectively as lobotomy.

Is this the legacy we wish to leave our children? Do we aspire toward becoming a nation of two hundred million brain stems deadened by thousands of injections of two-second images and five-second sound bytes, unable to follow a syllogism from beginning to end, unable to propose solutions because we don't recognize or understand the problems, unwilling to allow our minds to be stimulated by ideas instead of images?

My wife and I got rid of our TV years ago. Except for the 5-inch black and white that gets pulled out of the closet for such events as the World Series and the Olympics, our house is TV-free. We don't miss it. What's more, our kids don't miss it. They're also reading several years above their grade levels, playing sports, learning musical instruments and, perhaps most important, talking with their parents. You couldn't pay us to bring a big-screen TV into our home.

Turn off your TV for one week. Cold turkey.

Perhaps you're thinking: "I'm different; I don't let it control my life."

Okay, prove it. Turn off your TV for one week. Cold turkey. And if you do last the full 168 hours, you might just find that the joy of reading or conversing or whatever you do to occupy your mind is far more satisfying than the old electronic I.V. drip ever was, and that the sounds of your own real-life existence are far more engaging than the chatter of make-believe people.

Then see if you can keep yourself from going back.

May 25, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 19

(19) Anonymous, February 15, 2018 12:34 PM

I do not watch TV on Shabbat

This has not always been easy to accomplish, but I am happy to report that I have been reading a lot more. The decision to get rid of one's TV set is a personal one. However, I can understand why people from all religious and secular backgrounds would consider taking such a step. In my home, we have TV free zones. I especially enjoy listening to the radio while I cook!

(18) Tom, May 14, 2012 1:09 AM

I got rid of TV in 2009

Everything you wrote about TV's harmful effects is correct. After years of considering getting rid of TV in my home, I finally did it in 2009 after a particularly sad event. The benefits of no TV have been many. Much more time for study, conversation, and thinking.

(17) Anonymous, October 23, 2002 12:00 AM

two cents about tv

I believe that most people would like to think that watching tv is not wrong - just doing "nothing" for a while. I hold that tv-watching is not just the absence of the positive, but actually an increase of the negative. The negative effects of tv-watching are far reaching and multi-faceted. (And I say this about tv as the medium - before you even get to content.) One cannot imagine the difference until one has separated themselves from the binding chains (yes, chains! Have you ever tried making plans with someone on "Dawson night"?) of tv for at least one whole month.

(16) Rita Levin, June 26, 2002 12:00 AM

TV is not bad

Just like everything in life too much TV is bad. Most people, however, confused too much tv with bad tv. We have TV at home and we watch it almost every night. An yes, we turn it off and sometimes don't watch it at all. We communicate and do other activities. When we watch TV we play a game where we find mistakes or unrealities in what we are watching. I find that very educational, as well as entertaining. So please stop telling people to stop watching tv. Tell them instead to be responsible for everything they do.

(15) Betty Senseman, May 31, 2002 12:00 AM

Excellant article!

This was an excellant article. Everyone should read this. Thank you. Betty

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