Growing up TV-free (a survivor story)
There’s an episode of Friends where Joey, incredulous at someone’s claim that they don’t have a television, asks, “You don’t own a TV? What’s all your furniture pointed at?”
When I was little, my family had a small TV tucked away in a pretty little cabinet in the corner of our living room. To the untrained eye, it looked like we didn’t have one at all, which was exactly how my parents wanted it.
We ate our dinner together at the table, and talked to each other. It was a very rare treat to eat in front of the tv.
At first we had a cable subscription, but the rule was that we weren’t supposed to watch anything in the summer, then my parents cancelled the cable completely and we could only watch VHS rentals, often from the library, which, admittedly did instil in me an early appreciation for BBC productions, such as this crazy yet charming slice of imagination.
Still, sometimes a ten-year-old just wants to rent a non-enriching MK and Ashley Mystery, you know?
I was always fascinated by the constant presence of the televisions at friends’ houses, places with giant screens, multiple screens, on-every-hour-of-the-day screens!
The reactions I got when I told people about the lack of tv in my young life are kind of fascinating in retrospect.
Kids just squinted at me suspiciously and pronounced me “weird” or asked if I was a mennonite or something.
Adults were worse. Most would get defensive, thinking that my parents’ choice was somehow a judgement directed at them. As much as I hated not being allowed to spend as much time as I wanted lounging in front of a screen, I hated people making fun of my family more.
So I learned not to tell people. Instead, I figured out that I could listen to global tv on my radio, tuning in to Friends, Frasier and the Gilmore Girls like they were 1930s radio dramas, so I was up to speed on a few shows, and babysat at houses with extensive cable packages whenever possible.
Meanwhile, the lack of tv at home meant I was forced to find other ways to fill my time and stifle boredom. It helped to make me a voracious reader and to make me crafty, curious and creative. It meant more time spent running around outside, playing games and chatting with the neighbours.
I think it was really good for me. That time to be quiet and bored is something I’ve been missing lately. I’m surrounded by screens now (though I still don’t have a television) and it’s way too easy to shut boredom down or distract myself from any other negative feelings with the click of a mouse. There’s always some new must-watch show to see, and while I do like to support the arts, I maybe don’t have to do so single-handedly.
So while I’m not ready to can my netflix subscription completely, I do think it’s time to take a page from my parents’ book and start scheduling in some daily boredom to see what my brain creates.
Did you grow up watching tv? Do you find your iphone/laptop/other gadgets have taken a toll on your creativity? Let me know in the comments!