Why We Watch

Yesterday was filled with living, and no television.

We were out early to hunt through stores for necessities. Next was a family picnic which included a trip to a park with a fountain you could walk in. The fountain was an equal delight on a hot spring day for children and adults. The weather was perfect for a motorcycle ride, but we should have used a little more sunscreen. After getting home in the evening, I found my brand new plants dry and dying from the day’s heat so potted them. We finished our day watching the bats swoop through the yard and listening to the frogs and crickets.

There are many days more filled with television. If I am sick, I set up with everything needed within arms reach and plant myself before the television with the remote in hand. I already know I am not going to do anything else. If I fall asleep, that is fine.
In fact many people fall asleep to the television. We called it “nuking” the kids when my sister turned on the snow to help her babies fall asleep. Many televisions have a feature that you can set for the television to turn itself off anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes.

I, like many people, have the television on most of the day when home alone. Television keeps us company. Not all shows demand our full attention, as much as they strive to keep it. We may putter around the house; even flip through a magazine or book, with the company of the television. I often like to have needlework in my hands. The needlework is repetitious and doesn’t take a lot of thought, but I can just hold it if I become engrossed in the program. The needlework provides another function; it keeps my hands out of the snack bag. In addition the feeling that television is keeping you from accomplishment is removed because you are “working” on something you like to do. Men have also found things to do with their hands while watching television: basketry, carving, sketching, math problems, number puzzles, drawing plans for future projects, and yes, men like needlework too.

Sporting events on television have become a focus of family togetherness and social gatherings. Even if you don’t follow sports, a sports themed party is fun for all. The serious fans gather around the biggest TV in the house, and other TVs are on for those who just want to keep track of the score, and the replays of important plays causing all the shouting in the other room. Programmers are well aware of the popularity of theme parties and will devote time to party planning, menu items, constructing invitations, and decorating.

No sporting event? You can have a party to watch an award show, or movies on the TV. Programmers create party themes to keep people coming back, and we do because we love to socialize.

We watch TV while we exercise to distract our minds from the boredom of pedaling a stationary bike, walking a treadmill, or other torturous device. The programming distracts our minds from the stress we are inflicting upon our bodies, and allows us to put in a little more time.

We watch TV to alleviate stress. The stress of work, paying bills, dealing with people, the stress of family life, and simple boredom are all alleviated with the programming on television. Just this morning, hearing about people living in war in the Middle East and people struggling to keep their family farm we talked about how much better things are for us with our comparatively minor problems. Television programming does distract us from life’s problems, big and little. TV is like a little vacation.

Studies have shown that our brainwaves actually change with preparations for watching a program. From the moment we pick up the remote control our brainwaves attain a calmer pattern. We select our programming, and happily watch, while our brainwaves remain calm. When our program ends, and we turn off the TV, our brainwaves return to their former state. This is why we say we are addicted to TV. There are other ways to deal with stress: breathing deeply, mediation, journaling, yoga, walking, and other exercise. Our TV is there, easy, a sure thing.

We watch different amounts of television based upon what is going on in our lives. If the weather is bad, we will watch more, If we are confined to the house, we will watch more. If we are infirmed, we will watch more. Television helps us pass the time and entertains us.

Of course too much of a good thing can be a problem. If you are watching TV instead of spending time with your family, stress will increase in your home life until the issue is resolved. If TV watching keeps you from taking care of your home or yard, your comfort and happiness will decrease. If TV watching keeps you from exercising and taking care of yourself, your health will suffer.

As in all things, balance is the key. I’ve never read an obituary that says, “He died in his sleep, leaving a TV behind.” Don’t be the first to have the remote pried from your cold, dead hand.

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