Like many people of my generation, the television was a kind of a babysitter when I was growing up.
Nobody talked about childhood obesity or Type II diabetes, probably because physical education was still a big part of the school curriculum back then. Home computers were still a few years away, video game technology was limited to Pong, Atari and Intellivision, and nobody thought television could be a negative influence.
As I grew older I watched less and less TV by choice, and although I still do put in the odd marathon session when Im tired out from something, I think Im happiest when the television is off. But I do suffer from a bit of withdrawl.
Its not my imagination research has shown that television waves, the flashing lights and colours beamed into our retinas, do have a pleasant hypnotizing effect on viewers, both at the conscious and subconscious level, stimulating areas of the brain that are normally only active when we sleep. Its normal when you turn the television off to feel a moment of disorientation, and to be tempted to turn the box back on.
My problem is that Im drawn to TV like moths to the light. If Im at a bar and theres a television on, my eyes will automatically drift to it even if its curling. I was at the Boot Ballet once for a friends birthday (really) and I couldnt take my eyes off the snowmobile video playing in the background.
Im just doing what Ive been programmed to over the last three decades of my life, but I really wish I could stop.
Adbusters, the Vancouver-based counter-culture magazine that monitors modern advertising and its negative impact on society, is one source thats helping me to break the TV habit. Id recommend regular trips to www.adbusters.org for reality checks to anyone, and for people to participate in TV Turnoff Week from April 25 to May 1.
If you havent participated before, this is exactly what it sounds like.
Its a challenge to go one whole week without reality television, music television, rerun television, or any other kind of television. With no hockey this year, it should be a piece of cake.
Its important to do it for the full week, because it takes that long to get over your TV withdrawl, and to realize all the things you could be doing if you werent spending every free moment hooked on the airwaves. You can read, listen to music, catch up on household chores, do a few art projects, learn to do something new, have friends over to play board games and chat, write a few letters that are well overdue, and catch up with the people you live with but havent really spoken to in months because the television was always on.