Sunday, October 24, 2010

Turn off the TV? It's Easier When You Don't Have 78 Channels.

Around seven or eight months ago, Crystel and I got the idea to have our cable turned off. This decision was partially a cost cutting move, but it was mostly to help pry ourselves away from the endless channel surfing. We wanted to spend more time doing other things, and if we did sit down in front of the TV it would be to watch a movie. Comcast offered a package that included around 13 channels for only $15, so we did it. The only problem was the channels never went away.

That all changed last weekend when we returned from a road trip to find ESPN had disappeared (apparently the change took effect when we unhooked our TV last week to have some cabinet work done). At first I was a little depressed that I couldn’t catch football highlights, but I remembered why we had the cable turned off in the first place, and read a book for a while instead.

Something else happened the same night that we became cable-free. I finally got in touch with one of my two best friends from high-school. I’d spent the weekend in my hometown and tried to look him up while I was there. I got his number from a mutual friend and sent him a message, and he called me back the next day. We talked for over an hour just catching up. Anyone who knows me will understand how hard it is to keep me on the phone for over five minutes, so this was quite a feat. Of course, not watching TV had nothing to do with this occurrence, but if you believe in signs, it was a pretty strong one. The conversation I had that night with my high school friend was one of the best I’d had in quite some time.

So in one day, I freed up more time for important things in life by removing much of the distraction of TV and I also did something more important; I reconnected with an old friend. It had been at least 6 years since we’d spoken and while so much had changed in our lives, it still felt like I was having the conversation circa 1997. It’s funny how time doesn’t take away the things that made you friends with someone in the first place. I’m not sure why I’ve been so distant from some of my best friends, but I am making it one of my personal goals to change that. As I look back over the past 10 years, I can’t pinpoint a time when I stopped hanging out with some of my best friends, but it’s definitely happened. Much of the problem stems from my own selfishness, and not making time for people.

My point in all this is that you should occasionally make time do something besides sit in from of the TV. Reconnecting with someone whose friendship you may have neglected is just an example of one of the many things you could do. It’ll make you feel much better than an hour (or four) of ESPN. The excuse that you don’t have time is just that, an excuse. Make time, even if you have to cut off your cable. Having your cable turned off is a bit extreme, but if we would all pull ourselves away from the TV more often and genuinely interact with people, I wonder how differently we would see the world. What if people spent more time reading books, going for a walk or even doing something creative? I’m not one of those people who thinks the TV is evil, but I do think it is one of the many crutches that serves to keep us all isolated from other people…even when we are in the same house together. How many times have you spent hours with someone and not had a conversation because you were both engrossed in the TV?

So does this sound crazy to you? Would you ever consider turning off your cable or at least limiting you TV viewing? Do you have any friends you’ve reconnected with after a long absence? What about any ways you’ve managed to carve out more free time for the important things in life? What are those more important things?

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