Take away the binky

What if you just -- stopped?

A little while back I referenced the idea of a media blackout. I didn't say that I quietly put the blackout in place as of that post, and have consciously avoided the hamster wheel of news since then. Unsurprisingly, I'm happier. I pick up tidbits from friends on facebook and twitter, but by and large, the world is passing me by for a while.

Jeff and I are considering taking another, more blasphemous step. We bought a media device that lets us play video files on our house server, as well as Netflix Instant streaming, youtube, and another couple of sites. We're getting ready to do a media overhaul in our living room (our TV is a decade old) and he asked a question that I'd thought about before but never seriously voiced:

"What if we cancel our satellite subscription?"

The idea of more channels, more options, has a cachet of luxury. We both grew up in rural areas where the norm was a couple of snowy air channels, and diving into the realm of cable, tivo, and satellite was a luxury. Shows for our interests! Shows for every niche! Game shows, shows for women, cooking shows, britcoms, monster trucks, and reality shows!

Funny thing about cacophony: after a while, even the most well-meaning babble becomes just more noise.

This weekend, we talked about our usage habits, really and truly, and acknowledged that it was time to reconsider them. The media box could let us access movies and TV shows from Netflix, but it would encourage us (ok, Jeff) from what he termed "junk food" shows. The Tivo has helpfully figured out that Jeff will turn on a West Wing rerun or a home improvement show to pass the time, and there's no real inducement to turn it off. We don't get anything new, just the comfort of the familiar.

So what if we took that all away? I made a crack at work about "putting down the binky," but the statement has merit. What happens to your free time if you take away the TV binky? I admit I'm curious. It'll be more of a change for Jeff than it will be for me, but it'll be an adjustment for both of us.

I think it would be good for the world to pass us by for a while. Let us pick and choose what media we want to consume, instead of absently, constantly grazing.

We've got the media box set up, and I've populated the Instant Queue with some movies I think we'd enjoy. We've turned down what the Tivo is recording. A good mantra: own your tech, don't let your tech own you.

Anyone got a less tacky punchline than "stay tuned"?

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I had children.  You could get more cats!

Are you saying that the lack of television caused you to have more children?

If so, then I think we can safely say we know what YOU did with your time.  :)

We went through this when we dropped cable altogether.  (I always feel strange saying "we don't have TV anymore" because we have *a* TV, just not anything broadcast to it.)  The initial step was a lot more productivity - we'd watch whatever we had on Netflix, even a few episodes back-to-back if it was a show, then we'd turn the TV off and go do something else.  Longer-term, we now waste our time on the computer instead :-P but I really have felt absolutely zero inducement to go back to watching television.  Netflix instant and varous cable networks' websites satisfy that "let's watch something mindless" every once in a while, and I really don't miss it the rest of the time.

When I cancelled my cable tv upon starting school I thought it was awkward and hard. Now, I don't care if I ever get "real" tv back again. :) I can watch what I want to watch via my own methods. 

I fully support the getting rid of your tv tactic. I think you will eventually be happy with it. :) The adjustment is weird, but you will find so many other things to fill your time :D

In our house, that would be a sad, sad time :) Neither of us tend to turn on the tv "just for the noise" although my mother does, and it MAKES ME CRAZY. For me, in part, it's because I can't NOT watch something if it's on the tv (unless for some bizarre reason, there's a baseball game on, because that's really a game made to listen to, and not watch unless you're THERE)

Now, we have a group of TV shows that we watch, and generally enjoy - in our case, we pretty much watch them together, and we rely on our DVR for that. Eureka, Iron Chef America (C LOVES to watch "Iron Chef Michael Symon!!!"), Good Eats, and we've picked up White Collar, Burn Notice, and sometimes he watches Royal Pains. We're also pretty serious football fans, and it's a social event on Sundays during the professional season. We'll be HOME, come HANG out, bring some food, watch the games with us. We get to see people, we watch our game, and have fun. But when our shows are on hiatus? We... just don't watch TV. Like, ever. Movies? Yes. Random crap on the tv? No - that's how I know the husband isn't feeling well - he turns on the tv to watch random crap.

Then there's C. She doesn't get to watch much tv, and her tv time is entirely based on stuff we let her watch. She does like to watch the cooking shows with us, and she gets Sid the Science Kid (which is a freakin SPECTACULAR show). 

As for "what would I do with that time?" Probably less, actually. For me, TV time is pretty much prime crafting time. I knit or spin (or fold laundry) pretty much any time I'm sitting on the couch, and since everything we watch is on the DVR, it's easy to back up if I miss something visual. :)

Yeah, you guys have a TOTALLY different usage pattern than we do. Then again, I think I knew that from you mentioning "hey game's on c'mover etc etc."

I was down to a few shows that I cared about at all -- Doctor Who, Good Eats, True Blood, Top Chef. At least two of those are on hiatus at any time. Jeff still follows House. The rest is just snack food. (West Wing reruns, I'm looking at you!) I tried following sports but it was just too much of a tv-time commitment; we junk-fooded on the Olympics but past that, our sports watching was limited to the college football championship only because Jeff's alma mater was in it and they'd probably revoke his diploma if the chip in his head said he wasn't watching.

The shows we do care about, we have alternate means of seeing rather than a satellite subscription.

Also, I totally envy you about being able to craft while watching TV. I wore bifocals for a while in my early 20s to assist in switching from closeup to distance vision, and though I don't wear them now, I can't do closeup work while watching television. I have to choose one or the other. Switching back and forth takes several seconds each time, and gives me killer eyestrain. I chose quilting. :)

We did this about a year and a half ago. It was a decision we ended up making because we needed to save money somewhere desperately, and as it was we were watching most of our television at that point through Hulu or Netflix anyway. The only time we turned on broadcast TV was if we sat down during dinner (I know, I know.... bad us) and that was usually reruns of something.  So, we ended up dumping it.  It was totally surprising how quickly the idea of broadcast television began to feel 

foreign and antiquated. Whenever I visit friends and they turn on TV and say "Let's see what's on!" it feels so weird...  I got really used to asking myself "What do I want to watch right now?" instead. 

The tricky part I find is figuring out what's available where and for how long...  and there are some shows that just flat out aren't available and I wish they were. Depending on what you like to watch, it can be hit or miss.... but I have to say, it's worked for us. :)

We have not completely gotten rid of cable, but I have found that I have been watching it less and less. I keep throwing more and more in my Netflix Instant queue and, strangely, still am not really watching a lot in that. I am happier spending the evening with the TV off and reading a book, maybe listening to some music at the same time. I definitely feel more accomplished when I do that, even if I am just reading a brain candy book.

In 2003, when I went to grad school, I dropped the lavish cable package that I had had in Chicago.  This was partly for financial reasons ($100/month takes a much bigger bite out of a stipend than it does out of a salary) and partly to force myself to concentrate on my schoolwork.  In Chicago I had pretty much every channel I could want; in PA, because of the placement of my apartment, I couldn't even pick up the over-the-air broadcast channels.  There was a brief adjustment, mostly involving me mourning the loss of my beloved IFC, but I got used to it pretty quickly and grew to appreciate why my parents have never had a TV in their house.

When I moved to DC I didn't even consider reinstating cable.  My TV picks up the major networks, some shopping channels, and a gloriously batshit public access channel.  Between that and Netflix, plus, you know, books, I'm covered.  I just don't miss it, especially because TV shows come out on DVD usually about two months after the end of their seasons; I can see whatever I want that way, and waiting that long isn't a big deal either.

We got rid of cable a few months ago. Maybe more. This was something I never thought my HUSBAND would suggest since he was always the TV addict. But he did and I was thrilled to get rid of it. I watched way too much FoodTV and crap like that. My 7 year old was glued to the set often, even though we tried to limit his usage.

Unfortunately, I seem to be spending too much time online now. I think it is partly summer (too hot to go work in my sewing room). But my son actually reads sometimes and we are playing more games. I would never go back. Cable has hundreds of channels and there is still nothing worth watching on, for the most part. Well I guess I do miss a few science/history/nature shows once in a while. But that can be gotten elsewhere.

As a follow-up: as of last night, it's a done deal. See the entry "Soon, the brave new world."