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Making deliberate TV choices

If someone said that they started cutting out junk food, not eating chips straight from the bag until the bag was gone, and switched to consuming higher quality foods, then told you that they started losing weight and feeling better, you’d probably say, “well, duh.” It’s not just food diets where this applies.

I read a post recently about a couple that decided to cut their TV cable, which isn’t all that revolutionary (Carly and I got rid of our TV & Cable TV service around 2005), but I found their explanation for why they did so well thought out. It wasn’t the cost (although that is a good reason). They did it so they could live more intentionally.

But Kathy & I felt it was time to live more intentionally. That the bundled mass of television channels was enabling easy & bad habits of watching junk.

I can relate to that. When there was a TV in my living room, the TV was on all the time. I’d sit in front of it while on my laptop half watching stuff that wasn’t important enough to devote my full attention to.

Now, when I watch shows (and I certainly watch my share of shows) I do some intentionally. It’s a deliberate choice to watch something. When I do that, the choice tends to be highly distilled entertainment. It’s not 10 minutes of local news distributed over 30 minutes between commercial breaks and weathertainment. Instead, it’s stuff that holds my attention throughout the show.

Granted, there is a downside. I have no idea which pharmaceuticals I need to ask my doctor about.

Not having a cable full of TV channels entering my home achieves three things for me: It decreases the quantity of shows I consume while increasing the quality while saving me a bunch of money.

The toughest sell in cable cord cutting seems to come from people who love watching other people play sports. People who like watching other people sing, date, or argue with each other (reality shows) are a close second. If those things are important to you, cutting the cord is a bigger decision. Before cutting the cord, I watched The Apprentice, American Idol, and The Bachelor. If a TV is always on, shows like that fill a void. If you’d like to see a weather forecast, there are certainly more efficient ways to find that information than television.

By the way, I don’t believe this is some sort of elitist perspective on media consumption. I’m just saying that choices change – and often for the better – when one makes proactive choices.

This post was written by Ed Kohler and originally published on The Deets. Follow Ed on Twitter: @edkohler

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 08/30/2012 - 11:50 am.

    I receive my Internet service through Comcast, and I found that receiving both Internet and super-basic cable (local channels plus CNN and public access) was cheaper than Internet alone.

    But it was an easy decision to cut out the rest of the channels. I sometimes went for days without turning the TV on, and it was around 2005 that I realized that I was paying large sums of money for channels that I never watched.

    At present, I watch an occasional PBS program (as long as it’s not one of the increasingly frequent pledge drive weeks) and some of the foreign dramas on MHz Worldview (public access Ch. 76). I also use the TV for playing DVDs or streaming Netflix or Acorn TV through a Roku device.

    On the rare occasions when I tune in to the other network channels, I come away with an overwhelming impression of brainless exhibitionists on the reality shows, comedies that consist mostly of people yelling unfunny insults at one another, news programs that seem to have been written in capital letters with crayon, and dramas that have less emotional depth and complexity than the average cartoon.

    If there happens to be a TV program that appeals to me, I don’t mind waiting for the DVDs or for the program to show up on streaming.

  2. Submitted by Kenneth Liberec on 08/30/2012 - 11:56 pm.


    Let’s see here, I haven’t had cable TV since 2009, but I still watch lots of TV… And in better HD on network channels than cable or satellite. It’s called free digital over the air televi,sion. I’m watching Ozzy Osbourne’s version of “Shock the Monkey” on “The Cool TV” right now. Now it’s “Man of Constant Sorrows”. by “Charm City Devils.”

    Free digital TV rocks!!! Why pay for something that’s free?!! Cutting the cord doesn’t mean doing without TV. And, it doesn’t mean simply streaming video from the net (which you must pay for). TV is free, STOP PAYING FOR IT!!!

  3. Submitted by Emily Sojourn on 08/31/2012 - 09:15 am.

    I agree with the “deliberate” part…

    …but I think you can achieve the same results without ridding yourself of cable.

    I made the exact same observation of my own TV watching habits just the other day — that was I choosing to be more deliberate. The irony is that I believe 21st Century cable allows me to be that premeditated

    I didn’t have cable for 15 years. Somewhere around 1996 I got tired of the cable company’s billing games and disconnected for a decade and a half. I didn’t miss it.

    Then on-demand, DVRs, HD and truly quality television programming came along and my view changed. Programs like MAD MEN, BOARDWALK EMPIRE and many more offer TV writing at its best. AMERICAN HORROR and SUITS are just plain fun. On-demand allows me to watch on my schedule and HD TV is far better quality and reliability than trying to stream from my laptop. Finally, I’m getting “bang for my buck.”

    But the “deliberate” part has to come from me and not from the delivery method. (Sort of like I can’t realistically expect everyone around me to stop eating candy because I choose to go on a diet. I have to learn how to overcome the temptation) I find that when I vary my evening activity to include reading a book while listening to music, a *small* amount of time spent online and *only then* a deliberately chosen TV show lessens my stress and makes me feel refreshed. Also, I’ve amassed a huge and lovingly collected DVD library and I usually make time for a movie at least once a week.

    The best of all worlds of course would be ala carte ordering. I know that I’m paying for more channels than I watch and that bugs me. If I could create my own package, that would be best… but that wouldn’t allow the Cable companies to make their mint, would it?

    Still, I think you’re absolutely correct that “deliberate” is the key to reclaiming our enjoyment of movies, TV and music again. They have become far too ubiquitous and only through thoughtful consumption will they have meaning again.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/31/2012 - 10:38 am.

    That seems to be

    the key component – the “deliberate” part. I pay for the most basic cable you can get because, at least with my TV and in my neighborhood, I couldn’t get even halfway decent reception otherwise. Purchase of several different brands and styles of antenna did nothing to improve the situation, so I opted for basic cable.

    A sustaining member of TPT, I find the seemingly endless pledge drives annoying, too, so I don’t watch whatever they’re broadcasting during a pledge drive. I have no idea what the latest sitcoms are on weeknights, but I do watch travel and some (not all) of the cooking shows on TPT. I tune in to local network affiliates to get the weather (yes, I could get it from the web, but actual living people on the screen are often more interesting), and while I’m not much of a sports fan, there are occasional events broadcast that I’ll watch. Otherwise, network news, regardless of channel, strives to be a poster child for that tired cliche, “If it bleeds, it leads.” I can do without that, so I do without it. In a normal week, I watch about 3 hours of TV. The rest of the time, I have other things I’d rather do. Numerous hobbies, reading, web-surfing, playing music, getting outdoors, etc.

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