I will never forget the last time I watched television:
I was living in an apartment in mid-town Manhattan, watching CNN’s ongoing coverage of the Gulf War – the first Gulf War, mind you, under George Bush Sr.
Red tracers were shooting across the night sky, scud missiles were flying, falling, incoming, incoming, and… BOOM!
My TV set blew.
It scared the bejeebers out of me. After collecting myself, I unplugged the set, wrapped the cord around it and put it in the coat closet. I never replaced it.
As a child, teen and young adult, I watched TV like anyone else, and I had favorite programs through the years, including All in the Family, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Little House, The Wonder Years, Cosby, Cheers, Star Trek: The Next Generation and a few others. They were comforting and helped to form me, without a doubt.
A busy city girl, my social life was active with many friends. I used my down time at home to read and exercise and meditate -- that is, to take care of myself.
After a while – and this may seem impossible – the habit of television left me.
'Scud Stud' - CNN's Arthur Kent 1990
Nine years after I turned off the tube, my husband and I married and decided to continue going without television. This made for some humorous conversations with phone and cable companies over the years who genuinely did not understand the phrase, “No, thank you” to cable hook-up. This phrase had to be restated several times in a conversation, usually to “but this is for television” responses; and eventually it had to be explained, usually to someone stunned speechless on the other end of the phone.
The measurable effect came when we had children. Our kids were raised without television. They were calm, log-sugar kids with long attention spans.
That said, we took steps to make sure the kids did not suffer from cultural withdrawal. We have utilized our television set as a monitor. We share with our children the good movies and programs we enjoyed, as well as some current series we approve of for our kids. So they know Hannah Montana, and iCarly, and some other favorites. That’s all.
(My husband and I did the same with X-Files and another series or two: we bought or rented the boxed sets.)
What the kids have never had to endure:
- the frenetic pace of television today;
- the consistent break in story-telling every three minutes
- incessant commercials screaming at them to buy something
- Disturbing and violent ‘news’ stories
- The fear, the fear, the fear, the fear, the fear.
Most Americans still don’t realize the fear factor of television. It’s the fear that sells and compels.
We believe that TV is a way to relax. But studies show it stresses us out.
I haven’t been stressed by television since Arthur Kent was called the Scud Stud.
So far so good.