Television addiction : 10 reasons to turn off the TV

The passive nature of watching television makes TV prime territory for addictive tendencies. We review the nature of television here, and offer 10 reasons for you to turn off the TV and consider possible television addiction here.

minute read

Life without a television

In this world we live in, television is taken for granted to such an extent we can almost think it’s impossible to live without. Not having a TV is even difficult to imagine. If we feel we’re watching too much and try to cut down on the habit, we may find our first attempts are not completely successful (as with any addiction). We might almost give up on the idea entirely.

But there are so many people who have found a way to quit smoking, drinking, and other addictions that we shouldn’t give up on the idea. These people, their families and their friends know that what seems impossible can truly happen. And if those miracles are possible, then putting television in its place has to be possible. TV affects us in ways that are more subtle, maybe not compromising our lives but maybe our quality of life. And quality of life is a good thing to protect.

TV addict or not?

We think that television will be a nice reward for a long hard day but in reality it might be taking one of the most precious things we have: time. It goes so quickly and there is never enough. When we look back, will we think we have made the most of our time?

Some people are able to watch a little bit of TV – I’ve known people like that – but unfortunately I am not one of those people. When I am in the same room with a television, I find it very difficult to keep my attention on the people or events happening nearby. I feel as if I’m being absorbed by the TV. If I sit down to watch a program, it is difficult for me to get up when the show is over and go on to some other activity, even if the next show isn’t all that entertaining. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

We need and deserve to relax at the end of the day but when watching television, I don’t feel a good kind of relaxed. I feel sluggish. When I’m absorbed in a show my mind is somewhat entertained, but the rest of me is incredibly bored and wants to be doing something. I can keep myself occupied eating but that’s hardly a good thing. When I’m tired enough to need sleep, I can stay up late watching something mildly interesting, and then I pay for it the next day.

Most of us know the urge to numb ourselves when we’d rather not feel something, and using TV in that way might be somewhat healthy as a temporary reaction but not too helpful long-term. I’ve found that if I spend too much time in the safe world of television, I put off facing or learning from the more difficult experiences in life, the ones we all hate to go through but grow the most from in the end.

What I dislike most about TV is that while it’s on, I can’t think! I can’t think the train of thoughts that would normally be running through my mind and I can’t think my own thoughts. I feel like talk shows, news shows and documentaries push a constant flow of someone else’s ideas at me without giving me time and space to digest them, analyze them and question them.

Top 10 reasons to turn off the TV

1. It’s passive in nature — feels like someone else is in charge

2. Allows us to procrastinate or avoid real life situations

3. Difficult to transition away from watching TV so we watch more than we planned

4. Although we’re resting it’s not the best kind of relaxation, not always restorative

5. Occupies our attention with someone else’s programming, so there’s little opportunity to use our imaginations

6. Allows us to numb out or ignore emotions

7. Little time for reflecting on ideas presented or independent thinking

8. People with us are no longer the focus of our attention

9. No opportunity for dialogue or responding to TV programming — a one-sided conversation

10. It takes too much time!  The Bureau of Labor Statistics says we average 2.8 hours/day (equal to more than 42 days around the clock nonstop per year!)

Screen-Free Week

Screen-Free Week is April 18-24. This event, formerly known as TV Turn-off Week, can be a gentle reminder to stop and consider the place TV has in our lives, and to remember that we do have a choice. People talk quite a bit about the effects of advertising on kids and the influence of media content, but what they don’t talk about, which also has an important impact on us, is the passive nature of television and how it can be like an addiction. Anyone who has experienced some misgivings about the amount of television they watch could be surprised to see what a week without TV would bring. It’s definitely possible, and who knows what might happen…

About the author
Lyn Joon is working to raise awareness of television's impact and the possibility of life without TV.


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  1. I can’t believe you didn’t mention the damage to relationships in your list of reasons to unplug.
    I am a TV widow. My husband has spent every evening and weekend staring or sleeping in front of a TV — for 45 years. He has no idea how much richer his life would be had he enriched his family relationships. Feels hurt that his kids seldom call, but really, his life in front of the tv has made him insensitive and somewhat vacant. Nice guy, but it’s sad how tv has distanced him from us all.

  2. Dear Allison
    I too have the same addiction you have described about yourself including bipolar depression. I have been in bed for three months with no desire to quit my addiction.
    I have a doctor that I see but have been unable to get to see him. I can’t get the I don’t want to message out of my head. So I have not gone to the doctor as I should have. Everything is falling apart!

  3. I find that for me, TV is a way to escape from life. I struggle with depression, and when I watch TV I can “zone out” – it’s a way for me to passively hide from life completely. It’s hard. All of the “TV” that I watch, I watch on my computer. I find that if I watch more than 30 minutes of TV by myself – either on the couch or in my bed – it is all I will want to do for three days straight. And sometimes that actually happens. It’s like going on a bender. I’ve gotten apps for Google chrome like “Stay Focused” and some of the parental control apps to limit my time on non-work sites to 30 min/day and to flat out block various TV sites (hulu, amazon prime instant videos, etc). I’m also working with my doctor regarding my depression. It sucks and is hard, but it’s better than essentially not living and just hiding behind a screen as life continues all around me. And when I do end up hiding by watching TV, I hate myself and feel awful, which pushes me to watch more TV, and is just an unhealthy cycle. TV is my crack, and I seriously have to stay away from it. It sounds ridiculous, but sadly it’s true.

  4. Hello Sweet Brier. I agree that TV can be an art form. So I try to stick with programs that inspire me and make me feel some deep emotion, rather than programs that just take my attention off my self and my life.

  5. I know that today there are lots of ppl avoiding books.but the real thing is that what we wanna find in books we wanna find in our imagination and enthusasm to even the smallet but best things will reduce dramitcally and after some time we are living in an imaginary world in front of us and we dont have do anything to have a real happiness and satisfaction in our life exept the other’s life nad words on TV.
    after all TV is amazing.wonderfully atracting and facsinating.It’s an art and we should be fascinated by its involving attraction.but living with tv is better to live inside of it and forget about our own story.

  6. I have spent most of my adult life in college. Yet I have nothing to show for it because I wasted my time in front of a TV and failed. DVR and On-Demand have made excessive viewing easier, not quick and convenient. I am gonna try a screen-free week. But I am not going to wait until April.

  7. We think that television will be a nice reward for a long hard day but in reality it might be taking one of the most precious things we have: time. It goes so quickly and there is never enough.

I am ready to call
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