Yes, I must ‘fess up: for the past few weekends I have been holed up quilting and watching…um….well, British science fiction (Torchwood and Dr. Who). I did make it to my guitar lessons, and did manage to visit friends, but in between I was developing a peculiar obsession for the impossibly dashing and handsome Captain Jack Harkness (aka John Barrowman; yes I know and I don’t care). In fact, Facebook is now asking me if I want to switch my language preference to UK English, which I find amusing as I am now thinking with a British accent and obnoxiously dotting my conversation with words like “brilliant” and “tosser”. (I keep telling myself it’s just a phase and I’ll get over it, while wondering just how Facebook seems to know so much about my Netflix habit). I also love how my favorite BBC actors turn up in different shows, like Ruth Jones from “Gavin and Stacey” and Peter Capaldi from “Skins” guest-starring in Torchwood episodes. (The most head spinning was discovering Billie Piper from “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” was one of Dr. Who’s companions. I’m still kind of reeling from that.)
It’s been so busy and stressful at work these past few weeks that mentally checking out for awhile was really necessary. However, that much television (even if it is watched on a computer via Netflix) is just too mind-numbing, and these binges have reminded me why I started limiting my TV consumption to one hour a day. In addition to it just not being that good for me to sit around for hours at a time, and in addition to not getting anything productive done, watching a lot of TV makes my brain sluggish; all it wants to do is watch MORE. It simultaneously drains me and makes me twitchy.
Truthfully, I’ve always been conflicted about television. I’ve gone through phases where I didn’t even own a TV, eschewing it completely, and while I lived in Maine I had only the most basic cable package that only included the 4 major networks (along with a slew of home shopping programs and a couple of Canadian channels broadcast in French). I’ve also gone through phases where I’ve wasted inordinate amounts of time channel surfing, watching old sit com episodes I’ve seen at least five times. I don’t think TV is inherently evil– I’m not against people being entertained, and some of the most popular shows (like LOST) are thought-provoking and compelling. And I’ve learned about things I never would have otherwise, whether it was the PBS series on Mormons or how to install bathroom tile on a DIY show. But I guess it’s sort of like nutritional guidelines – there’s good TV and bad TV, and everything in moderation.
After my weekend binge, I was curious to find out how much TV people really do watch. According to this, the average TV viewing time in the US is 28 hours a week, or roughly 4 hours per day. I usually get home around 7:30, so if I watched 4 hours of TV a night I would literally usurp all of my free time each evening. There would be no time for reading, writing, talking on the phone with friends, or soaking in the tub (which is where most of my reading gets done). When I watch TV I am usually multitasking – knitting or sewing, or even surfing the web – but there’s no question that TV slows me down; often I realize that I’m only knitting or stitching during the commercials. In other words, it really is a gigantic waste of productive time and energy for me.
Totally by coincidence, I also discovered that National Turnoff TV week is next week – April 19-25. I’m telling you right now I won’t do it completely – I’m too hooked on LOST- but I am vowing to turn it off the rest of the week, if nothing else to catch up on my reading list. Or the gazillion unfinished projects I have littering my workbaskets, my writing folders, or rattling around inside my head. Also? Recently I discovered this piece by Russell Davies about "how to be interesting", and, go figure, "watch a lot of TV" did not make the list.