Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Elf, of Apikorsus Online, has a very interesting link, post, and comments today about a family's decision to get rid of their TV.

I am all for that.

First, a disclaimer: TV is not inherently evil, and in fact does have some uses. Sesame Street is terrific. Lots of the educational shows trump anything you'd get in a book or online. And even some of the "garbage" shows can be a fun "escape," if taken in moderation by adults. I certainly empathize with those who clear their schedules to watch their favorite shows; I used to be hooked on Babylon 5. And of course, TV is the great cultural equalizer; I feel a special connection with others of my generation who can sing every word of the theme songs to "Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes" (why knowing those lyrics is of any value is beyond me, but hey, it connects all the children of the 80's.) I do consider sometimes getting TV service here in Israel, to help me learn the language and gain more exposure to Israeli culture.

But --and this is a big "but"-- the disadvantages of TV far, far outweigh its minimal value. There's the issue of kids, of course: the violence and sex they are exposed to, too young, and the games they could be playing and talents they could be developing instead of watching TV for hours a day (and as the link from Apikorsus points out, limiting your kids to only an hour a night doesn't really work). Sure, I used to watch plenty of TV, and I think I came out OK. But when I remember how much homework I didn't do, or did badly, because of TV, and all the drawing and imaginative play and reading I could have increased, it's sort of sad.

Also, as I posted on Apikorsus, I can point to specific images that went into my head from the TV that traumatized me. And it wasn't because my parents were lax. It was because I'd be watching "appropriate" TV, and an "inappropriate" commercial would come on. Or I'd go into the room where my father would be watching and I'd catch a glimpse of something too violent or sexual to be age-appropriate. And sometimes I'd even stick around to watch more. It's not a good situation.

Then there's me now, as an adult. I have no kids, so why not watch TV?

Well, first, because the TV is really, really addictive. Once it's on, the eyes stay glued to it for hours. And I'm trying to get other things done in my life, like blogging for example, which is at least interactive and engages my brain (I think). If I had a TV, I know I wouldn't limit myself to Hebrew-language programs. I'd spend hours a night watching murder mysteries and reruns of "Gilligan's Island."

Second, most of the programming really is garbage. When I go to someone else's house and watch their TV, it's unbelievable to me what garbage it is. I wonder whether the programming has gotten worse, or whether I've become sensitized, having not had TV for almost 8 years now (I do have a monitor and VCR to use for videos). Either way, the level to which TV has descended is shocking and disturbing, or should be, even to people who aren't frum. You don't have to be frum to be appalled by "The Bachelor." But especially if you are frum, it's appalling. Not because it's "the outside world" but because the behavior on the show is inherently antithetical to Judaism.

I have nothing against people who have a TV. I certainly don't believe that they are any less "frum" than I am. I didn't make my choice to live a TV-less life because I'm religious. I did it because I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I limited how much time I wasted. There are people who really need the TV as an escape. I have my own escapes. But I certainly urge anyone who has TV, especially if they have kids, to consider getting rid of it. In America, it seems that most people don't even consider TV a choice. It's deemed a necessity. But, truly, it's perfectly expendable. And once gotten rid of, it's not missed.

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