The Empty Calories of Life?


A brief back and forth exchange on another blog has had me revisiting the topic of television.  I’m not blaming TV for the world’s ills, and I used to watch a reasonable amount, but the older I get the less time I have for it.

I certainly do not watch anywhere near the daily American average of 2.7 hours a day.  If we add in reading/computer time – the average person is working on 3.8 hours a day for 26.6 hours / week.  If I add up my time on those activities I’d say:

  • TV – currently down to around 1 hour a week (Glee if you must know and it’s getting close to getting the boot).  Sports – never watch.
  • Movie – between the wife and I, we’re lucky to get in one a week together – 2 hours.
  • Physical Reading – between commute and weekend of
    5 hours.  Even split between entertainment and work/educational – 5 / 2 hours a week / 2.5 a week.
  • Internet News – Probably a solid hour a day, via an RSS reader (which really helps cut down time and lets me skim titles – which in many cases is all I need to stay current on important topics such as Klum/Seal’s divorce), of which probably 25% could be attributed as work related rather than personal.  5.25 hours/week.
  • Computer Gaming – much more erratic, one of the first things to go under time crunches.  3-4 hours a week, sometimes a bit more, often less.  I used to game a lot more – a good 10-18 hours a week.

Total – around 14.75 hours a week on these activities.  Gaming, TV, Movies are the first to go when time is short.  Some of the web reading and book reading is due the commute length, not a lot else to do productively with the time anyway.

So why is that?  Primarily, because I don’t think it’s a fantastic use of my life.   To adapt an old quote, no one says on their death bed ‘I wish I spent more time watching TV.’

First, let’s be honest, there’s a lot of mediocre quality stuff on.  Plus they rehash the same plots over and over.  How many sitcoms revisit the same topics you’ve  seen before in the past – where little <insert child’s name here> learns cheating on exams is bad?  Or the mystery ones where you are more or less trying to figure out if they are going to go with the obvious solution or the twist suspect?  Sure, some shows do it better than others, and there are variations on the theme, but new ground-breaking stuff – not that often.

I prefer hearing a lot of buzz around a show and then watch it when it comes out on DVD if it keeps up.  I watched Lost after the buzz in the first season.  I watched Battlestar Galactica after the series was over.  (I realize I am depending on others to sit through a lot crap to filter it out for me, while telling you to stop doing this, but this is just for you guys, the people who read my blog, I’m not too worried).

“Reality” TV – pass.

Informational / educational shows – sure they are at least improving you in theory – but you’d sit through a lot of tosh to get the good stuff.  And really, how many times can you watch a history channel show about the tombs of the Egyptians?  I used to watch lots of HGTV, net impact.  Small.

When you watch TV, you are setting aside your own creativity and stamp on the world and substituting it with the output of someone else’s.  You’re receiving their life instead of living your own, picking up their ideas instead of coming up with your own.  You’re a consumer, but you don’t change the outcome.  Even if you yell at the television, it’s not a conversation.

Same with sports.  I like to do, not see. Those guys are skilled professionals, no doubt. They can do some amazing stuff.  But that’s them living their life, their skills.  The game score doesn’t change if we watch or don’t watch (once again, in large numbers this theory becomes untrue due to how sports teams make money and pay the salaries, but I’m not worried about altering the world here.)

Computer games are better to me, but only a little better.  You have to be interactive at least, and you have to drive them forward usually with whatever skills are needed, but you are still sitting inside the creative world of the game makers.  A 2 out of 10 compared to TV’s 1. Again, I cut back as I’ve come to realize this.

Fictional Books – you can argue are very similar to TV – the 1800’s version of TV.  And to a large degree you’d be right.  You have to work the mind a bit more, so that’s good, but still, the limits are the author’s.


I know I’ll have a lot of regrets when I go – working too much, not enough patience, not really a people person, not keeping the weight off earlier, etc – but I’m pretty sure I won’t regret my reduction of television watching.

I get that people are tired and looking for something easy, especially after a long day.  And you can be challenged by TV when it’s quality. But much like full calorie soda, you have to decide if it’s worth using up your daily budget of hours on it or not. I bet you could find something more rewarding to do.

Or combine it. My wife watches more, but she also tends to combine it with other tasks she needs to take care of. A friend watches sports, but only taped games while he’s on the treadmill.

Anyway time to stop staring at this screen.

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About J.

40 year old IT guy on a health and fitness kick.

Posted on January 25, 2012, in Health, Personal, Weight and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I watch a bit of tv but more to exercise with the wii and I watch probably too much computer screen reading stuff. I agree with you, it kills our creativity and sometimes I just wish we didn’t have one (Don’t tell the husband loll). I make food choice to stay on my calorie budget and you are right, I should make time choice too!

  2. I came by from Erica’s blog:) We watch wayyyy too much TV. But it is the primary evening pastime for myself and my husband. And we watch a lot of shows when we are doing cardio. I love my TIVOs. Yep, we have TWO!

    • Two tivos huh? I joke because my wife still prefers the VCR to the dvd recorder, and a tivo would not be worth buying her.

      Dual-tasking with tv on is alright in my book. I have a friend who does that, and as I say, the wife does various tasks with it on.

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