Monday, October 24, 2011

Cutting the cord. A few words on life without a television.

We used to have a TV in the kitchen. After the kitchen was repainted this summer, I decided to put the TV in the garage.

Unplugged, on a shelf.

I cancelled cable, too. Why have cable if there's no TV, I say?

Life without a television hasn't been that difficult. It's actually been quite pleasant. I feel like I bought some time.

Considering what I've read lately, it might be a good thing to rethink watching television. According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American spends over four hours each day watching television (that's 28 hours a week, two months non-stop for a year).

If the average American lives to be 65, s/he will have spent a total of nine years watching television.

Time (which I'll get into in a future entry) is just too important to me the older I get.

And what can be accomplished in nine years? Children can be conceived and can grow well into elementary school in nine years. A person could graduate from high school, go to college to become a doctor and open their own practice over the course of nine years. Relationships can begin, end and begin again. A seed can grow into a sapling and become a tree that produces shade over the course of nine years.

Do I really want to spend that span of time in front of the television?


Despite this lack of a conventional mechanism with which to watch my favorite shows, I don't go without.

And I do keep informed. Despite my lack of television, I know what's going on in the world.

Because now I watch everything I like on my computer. The difference between life with a TV and life without is that I decide when I'm going to watch. It takes a conscious effort. Television isn't an easy companion; it's not background noise.

And the internet as a media delivery system is a growing trend.

According to a recent New York Times article, watching television in the conventional manner, commercials and all, is going by way of the newspaper. "More viewers than ever are using their laptops ... to watch shows they once saw on a TV screen. The problem is that even legal online services only generate a fraction of the revenue that cable does. ... And if more viewers begin 'cord-cutting' - canceling their cable subscriptions in favor of online options - it's hard to see how television producers could avoid the same kinds of cost reductions that are killing newspapers. That would mean fewer 'Mad Men' and more 'Real Housewives'."

So we have a few choices when we cut the cord. Maybe even more than we think.

Everything old is new again. Case in point: podcasts.

Podcasts are the modernized version of the golden days of radio, and they're filling a lovely audio niche. Best of all, the podcasting world is completely unregulated.

Podcasts can be found from many sources, but anyone with a smart phone is just an app away from Stitcher (my favorite). Stitcher automatically streams without synching or downloading.

Stitcher lets me know how much I've been listening. I have my own queue of favorites. Radiolab. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. The Onion. So many more.

Since last April, while I've been driving, cleaning my house, working in the yard, working at my job, I've listened to 1,034 hours of content.

Because podcasts are unregulated, the content podcasts have to offer is like a beautiful playground no one but you and your friends know about. Anything goes.

So, in short, there are options to Life After Television. There's the Hulu, the Netflix, the scores of other internet options. Life without a screen opens wide with podcast possibility, thanks to Stitcher, Itunes and other services, which are, in large part, free.

In my experience, there was very little static when the Television cord was cut. I feel like I gained some time, some money, and some silence.

I think I have a bit more remote control.

It's been good to cut the cord.

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