Wednesday, February 01, 2006

TV and Me

Occasionally it comes up in conversation that I don't watch TV. People often ask why. Here is an attempt to answer that question.

This is a picture of the window to the bedroom I lived in from about age 9 to 18 and for some periods of time after that.

If the camera lens had taken in a few more feet to the left, you would see the antenna for the house of my growinguphood.

When I was 16, that antenna was struck by lightning. It blew out our television and the computer that was hooked up to it at the time. (I'm dating myself, I know.)

My parents did not replace the television, so I didn't watch TV the last three years of high school. When I moved into the dorm for college, we did not have a TV in our dorm room until my senior year. My senior year I took 21 hours in the fall and 19 in the spring, in addition to copy editing the yearbook. I know I did watch and enjoy "Moonlighting" and "Thirty-Something" a few times that year. And I would watch "Newhart" whenever I got a chance. But I was too busy living life to spend time sitting around watching other people's real or imaginary lives.

After college I moved to Lubbock, TX, to study in a mission preparation program. I know we had a TV in the apartment, because I remember watching the news sometimes and crying over the famines and wars going on around the world, and deciding that I couldn't handle watching the news, that I would just pray for world events and inform myself through reading. And I had more homework there than I'd had in college, so there wasn't time for just sitting around watching things for fun.

Well, then I moved to Italy. If you've ever tried to watch TV in Italy, you know why I didn't spend time in front of the screen there! The 30 minutes of American news we got each morning (actually the evening news from the day before) was all I watched, if I got up in time for it.

Then it was Croatia. We did have TV there, because one was left behind in the apartment we rented. But I did not speak Croatian when I moved to Croatia, so all I could understand were the American sitcoms they would show with subtitles. And I guess after such a long fast from sitcoms, I had lost the appetite for most of them. Besides that, the war was often on the screen, which was harder than watching the news in Lubbock had been, because the war was also part of our daily life.

My husband and I knew that TV was pretty officially not a part of our life when we heard about a show that we did want to watch. We turned on the TV set, and nothing happened. Then we realized that we had never reconnected it after using it with a video recorder to produce a video production about the humanitarian aid program we worked with. We had finished the video more than three months earlier.

We've been in the States over eleven years. In all that time, I know I've watched a few PBS programs, some Olympic ice skating, and news coverage of September 11. I've seen some children's TV when watching children at other people's houses.

But for the most part, TV is just not part of my life. I love a good movie, and we subscribe to Netflix. And we have rented and watched reruns of Northern Exposure and The Bob Newhart Show.

So, back to the question, Why do I not watch TV? Honestly, I think it is largely because that bolt of lightning broke the habit. I watched quite a lot of TV before that. I don't know what would have happened if I had been a regular watcher throughout high school. Probably would have watched more in college and might not have been able to imagine and live life (at least American life) without TV.

What I can say for sure is that I'm thankful that I feel no need to watch TV. When I do occasionally catch bits of shows, I am generally motivated to leave the room. Once you're no longer accustomed to TV, it can feel like an assault on many levels!

And today I read this:

Much attention has been paid to the amount of time Americans spend watching television. Cultivation theory has been important in exploring behavioral effects of television viewing for many years. However, psychosocial health has received much less scrutiny in relation to television viewing time. This investigation examined the hypotheses that television-free individuals and viewers adhering to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations (up to 2 hr of viewing per day) would display a more positive psychosocial health profile when compared with more frequent television viewers. Results confirmed the hypothesis for women, but not for men. Our analysis showed that moderate television viewing, as defined by the AAP, provides a similar relation with psychosocial health as being television-free. Results are discussed in a cultivation theory framework.

Life without TV? cultivation theory and psychosocial health characteristics of television-free individuals and their television-viewing counterparts.

Hammermeister J, Brock B, Winterstein D, Page R.

I find real life challenge enough to my psychosocial health. Why mess it up with TV?

So, thank you to the lightning, and to my parents for not replacing that TV. I'm not sure they considered the lightning a sign from God, but I know it brought me blessings.

Hope that answers the question.

(And don't you think the view from my bedroom window is prettier than anything you can see on TV, anyway?)


Lawrence Underwood said...

I remember that. I also remember a little Underwood lad who loved coming to my dorm and watching Television when he could. Funny how the only thing we really ever watch is something on a dvd.

Lisa said...

Well, siblings, I'm jealous. As you know, I married into a tv-watching family and tv IS a part of my life these days.

Pray for lightening to strike twice in the same place. :-)