TV's not for the techie and tame

Published as "True life: I don't watch TV" in the The Next Great Generation »

Whenever I find myself asking TV-related questions (Is “True Blood” the TV version of “Twilight”? What’s “Glee” all about? How’s Rihanna’s latest music video? And I hear MTV isn’t on air anymore?), I always have to follow with a rather defensive, “Sorry, I live in a cave,” or, “I’m really a 70-year-old in a 22-year-old’s body.” Acquaintances stare at me puzzled, but a few of my friends aren’t surprised.

I don’t watch TV. Not on weeknights or weekends. I only occasionally watch TV serials and BBC documentaries on DVD. And whenever I glimpse local TV shows in buses, I prefer to take a nap. In fact, I’ve had this (anti-)habit for four years now.

I live in the middle of a metropolitan capital city. I don’t belong to an Amish-like cult, nor am I an extreme leftist boycotting “the boob tube” for being a capitalist medium. I’m not work-obsessed, and my friends can testify that I’m no social freak. And we do have a TV set at home — HD, huge, cable enabled and complete with a second sub-woofer.

Oh yeah, and I have an academic degree in mass media.

Still, I don’t watch TV.

For the techie and tame

We’re in an age when people spout opinions on the growing influence of digitization and the Internet left and right. Television now shares its clout with social media and the Web, and it doesn’t allow control the same way our mobile devices and laptops do. New media could easily replace the original functions of TV, only the latter has become the more convenient and developed option.

But TV, for me, is not the wisest way to get information these days. When I have unlimited online reports and the major dailies to read everyday in the office, waiting for the more valuable news on TV poses to be a waste of time. I’m over the days when I’d flip through channel after channel to look for a show with substance and depth but also entertainment value. The first two seasons of “Gilmore Girls,” about a fast-talking, lovable mother-daughter tandem, topped my list, and the early seasons of “Lost” unfolded a fascinating puzzle that made a curious university student probe into the hidden meaning of the characters’ philosopher labels.

The boob tube’s capacity to positively influence ethical sensibility has also steadily dipped. Shows for young people today are nowhere near generic, but they seem to promote social and intellectual values below those in the ’90s. One recent TNGG post explains: “The difference between ‘Buffy [the Vampire Slayer]‘ and teen shows today is that it wasn’t about gossipy cliques, sex or melodrama. Buffy was about friendship, courage, love, sacrifice and, of course, lots of action.”

Van Gogh over Gaga

Comedian Groucho Marx once said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

We can better understand this non-viewing habit if we see the downsides as positives. Surely it’s hard for kids and teens to feel left out whenever classmates talk about a much-awaited episode from the night before, but yuppies can easily adapt this lifestyle.

Now, I’m not saying everyone should quit watching TV, but it’s definitely worth a try. From my experience, I’ve found that other activities prove to be more essential.

Going to the latest exhibit, watching a comforting indie film, exchanging opinions on current events with (equally geeky) friends, visiting church for prayer and its architecture, reading a well-designed coffee table book and seeing live musical performances in a nearby park are options anyone can readily look forward to after a crazy day in the office.

Another thought to consider: In a philosophy class I took, a professor once revealed that within one 80-year lifetime, we won’t be able to see all the films we want to watch or read all the books we want to read. We then have to choose the best of what we can get so that at the end of our lives, we can say we’ve only seen the best of what the world has to offer.
Photo by Lubs Mary on Flickr under CC BY-NC-SA license | by Zoltán Horlik under CC BY-NC-SA license