TV or not TV…that is the question.


  1. An Amish elder was once visited by some city slickers who asked him why he didn’t have television. He stroked his beard, thought for a moment then asked them if they had seen anything on TV that week that they could recommend. There was an embarrassed silence. He’d made his point.David Palmer is a former Anglican priest who blogs from Britain. Check out his anthem for getting rid of your TV.

    I grew up without a television, and didn’t really miss Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies that much. We don’t have a television now, but we do have a nifty wide screen TV and home cinema. We use the screen for limited Playstation gaming and watching films.

    Ten Reasons for getting rid of the television:

  1. It saves money. You can cancel your cable subscription
  2. It gives you more time to pursue a creative hobby
  3. It gives you more time with people
  4. It restores your perspective on reality
  5. No TV helps to cleanse your imagination
  6. No TV means more silence (including visual silence)
  7. It’s counter cultural and radical (and this makes you feel good)
  8. It puts you in charge of the culture rather than the other way around
  9. You can still watch football at a friend’s house and this way you’ll strengthen your friendship (and drink his beer instead of yours)
  10. It gives you more time to pray.

Do you have television? Do you really need it? Have you recently or ever given up TV? What diference did it make? What are your thoughts?

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  • While my wife and I still have a television, we don’t have cable and rely on the rabbit ears when we do end up watching the networks. We usually use it to indulge in our Netflix subscription, which is far more fulfilling than most of the insipid programming on television nowadays. Plus, there’s no commercials. We have also decided that, in the New Year, we’re going to have at least two nights a week of no television at all. I know I thoroughly enjoyed this past weekend when, without even trying, we kept the box off. I love the silence, always have, and now I’m so very glad to be able to enjoy it with someone else. 🙂

  • Give up Heroes? Prison Break? Friday Night Lights? Studio 60? House?Some of the best drama, whether for excellent writing about the human condition (House, Friday Night Lights) or just excellent story telling (the others above) is on regular network TV.We pick and choose, tape what we want and watch it at a time of our choosing. Our television serves us, not visa versa. Just as when we choose books, plays, movies, or other story telling devices to use when we choose.I see no reason to have to be “all or nothing” with television. One must simply select with intelligence and care … as with so much else in our culture.Send that Amish farmer to me. I’ll give him a list and good reasons to watch the shows. 🙂

  • I’m with Julie D. There are many excellent television shows right now, with good writing and acting.Of course, you can enjoy nearly all of them on DVD after the season is over and for the shows that engage in shameless cliffhanger endings, this method is often preferable! (But you lose some of the water-cooler moments at work.)

  • I always tell people we do not have TV which is true and untrue. We have a TV set. We do not have cable, a satellite dish or an areal. We do have a pair of broken rabbit ears that pull four stations moderately well. Mostly we use the set to play rented or borrowed DVDs.Our first seven years of marriage we had no TV. I had not had one for five years prior to that.We bought one after the death of my mother in law that followed the death of our son; we were drained and needed to be vacant, a TV set seemed the answer. We went into shock at how much TV and ads had changed.We kept it so that our then young children would have something to run videos with.Even having a set its usage has been very limited. Our kids are massive readers and have not suffered culturally among their peers at all. Do I think TV evil? No. However, I have much better things, more engaging and creative things to fill my time; reading, writing, prayer, conversation, volunteering… There are excellent TV shows to watch, I have no argument there but even then there are better ways for my time to be spent.

  • I once decided that I watched too much tv and gave my tv to a local parish that was looking for one. I went without television for about a year and it was good. I read more, I prayed more and generally slept better (not sure the connection).It wasn’t until football season that I finally broke down and purchased a small tv. It’s one thing to make a sacrifice for a better life, but quite another to give up my beloved Oklahoma Sooners!

  • jeron

    I went on retreat to the Abbey of Gethsemani once. the guest master, fr. matthew kelty, told us retreatants that when we left the monastery, feel free to take home some cheese … take home some fudge… but don’t forget to take home some silence. if i watch t.v. anymore, it’s usually EWTN for fr. corapi or PBS. i like using my t.v. for my blockbuster subscription. that’s it. i have more time for reflection and prayer, and don’t feel as compelled to own the next big thing, to “be in the know,” or be wearing the latest trend. honestly, good riddance. like fr. kelty says, beethoven 24 hrs. a day is still noise. embrace the silence for interior communion with God. 🙂

  • Thanks for the mention of my Blog Fr Dwight. I agree with some of your commentators that TV isn’t “all bad” and that there can be the occasional “quality” programme (though actually depressingly few in reality). Nevertheless TVs do have a tendancy to take over… I defy anyone not to admit that there have been times when they have just turned the telly on to see if there is anything worth watching, only to find themselves two hours later still in front of the telly, having watched a pile of junk!It isn’t a question of is all TV “bad”, but rather is TV really the best use of time… even from a recreational point of view?

  • While somebody is always trying to get us to think about getting rid of the TV, nobody dares to say get rid of the internet or cell phones, which can often be worse.

  • Good comments. Certainly we mustn’t say TV is bad per se. I guess its a case of moderation in all things, and remember who’s in charge.

  • I got along for several years without a TV back in my single days. I never missed it. We now have a set but I mostly avoid the darn thing. There are a few worthwhile programs but most of what is offered is unadulterated garbage(especially so called reality shows). Give me a good book any day.I`ve managed to survive quite nicely without a cell phone too.

  • jeron

    I thought I was the only one who has never had a cell phone! :DLet’s hear it for being unplugged!

  • I have a cell phone PDA. It contains my contacts, date book, notes and email. I can make phone calls, get the Divine Office online, check all the saints days and readings…You can have my TV, but not my cell phone.

  • jeron

    ok a PDA w/divine office hookup is sounding kinda nice! 😉

  • “Turn off the television. It is not necessary for relevance. And it is a deadly place to rest the mind. Its pervasive banality, sexual innuendo, and God-ignoring values have no ennobling effects on the preacher’s soul. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles almost everything. I have taught and preached for twenty years now and never owned a television. It is unnecessary for most of you, and it is spiritually deadly for all of you.”–John Piper (“Preaching As Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation,” TrinityJournal, Spring 1995, p. 44)Of course, not all of us are preachers. And I’m pasting this into my browser while watching my team lose a bowl game (multitasking, you know). But I agree with the comments above. TV is the killer of silence and contemplation, things we can surely use more of in our lives.

  • I gave up TV for lent last year. Wow, talk about you don’t realize how addicting something can be until you remove it from your life. I did go back to watching tv since then, and actually purchased a new one (mainly for football season), but I am trying to keep a good balance.

  • We live in the boonies and don’t have cable, so we get one CBS channel, which we will watch for emergencies (it was on during 9-11). Otherwise, we listen to NPR, and get other news from newspapers and online sources. We do watch movies we rent occasionally…maybe once every two weeks at best. Kids will watch a kids video maybe every other day for 30 minutes.Mu husband was driving the no TV idea in our house…esp. after kids were born…and I was mildly resistant. But I have to say, it is probably the single best household decision we ever made, in terms of raising our kids. They clearly have longer attention spans than other kids at their school, and they aren’t begging for the latest “kids need to have it” item. In short, it helps us form their identities as themselves, the beautiful people God created them to be, and people secure enough in themselves who are able to then care for others. Frankly, it has made a difference for me as well…a greater ability to listen to my own lights rather than be defined by the vox populi. It’s about formation. How do you choose to be formed? What are your influences? Do you think you can watch and be the untouched critic all the time? Maybe you stronger people can. I can’t. Having said that, I don’t have a problem with some TV programming, really. Some of it is funny and entertaining. I watch it when I visit my parents twice a year and enjoy some of it. So if you want to watch, fine. But my life is better without it, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to take the plunge. It’s hard at first and then you really don’t want to go back. Honestly. I read books, listen to the radio, music, blog, etc. It’s a full life and I don’t miss it one bit.

  • I’ve done both: TV/no TV. We’re now into “closely regulated TV.” What I noticed about no TV and/or TV with no commercials (military base in Japan) is that my children are less materialistic. They get along better and PLAY with each other. And I, a normal 35yo mom, feel better about myself as I’m not seeing all the unattainable ideals of beauty in the culture 24/7 via the TV.We moved back to America in August and since then “had” to get satellite. I am overwhelmed with choices and frequently just watch the Guide in awe. I usually settle for HGTV and reruns of Andy Griffith. The kids do Animal Planet and some cartoons. When the contract expires — we’re going back to “very regulated TV” which for us means “Extreme Home Makeovers” and Netflix.

  • SIC

    I’ll admit that there is good programming on television. However, unless you know specifically what you’re looking for, I’d say it’s like wading into a cesspool to find a dime…really, is it worth getting up to your armpits in manure just to find the good stuff?I enjoy tv as much as the next person. Used to come home from college and watch hours of the stuff. I still like renting DVDs once every few weeks — including tv shows.However, I still believe the number one thing anyone could do to dramatically improve their lives (and the lives of their family, and their community) is turning off/getting rid of the television, perhaps with an exception for live coverage of major events or commercial-free DVDs that have been carefully and intentionally chosen.Folks, there is a WEALTH of research documenting how TV is ruining our lives, and the lives of our children:1. TV promotes violence. There are literally thousands of studies demonstrating a link between television violence and real-life violence, especially among children and teens. (This is to say nothing of the countless cases where young people have specifically imitated violent acts they’ve seen on tv.)2. TV skews our perception of reality. Numerous studies have shown that television skews our perception of reality…for instance, people who regularly watch the local television news consistently perceive the crime rate to be many, many times higher than it actually is. Teens who watch television are more likely to believe that sexual promiscuity is the norm when in fact it’s not. And don’t let’s get started on the effect that television campaign commercials have on our political awareness….3. Television promotes consumerism and materialism. One fact: Advertisers spent $40 billion on tv ads in 1999, $1.3 billion of which was aimed at little kids. They don’t spend that money for no reason, folks. They spend it because it’s effective.4. Television undermines family life. The average household has a tv on for 7 hours and 40 minutes per day. 56 percent of american kids age 8 – 16 have a tv in their bedroom; 36 percent of kids under 8 have a tv in their bedroom. The average American spends more than 4 hours a day watching tv. Kind of hard to promote family life under those circumstances, isn’t it?5. Television undermines education and learning. Studies show that watching 10 hours or more of television per week negatively affects kids’ education. The average American kid watches nearly 20 hours per week watching television. most watch tv before doing their homework. And MRIs of people watching television show that the tv-watching brain is in a state closely resembling a coma. Some of the most important brain growth occurs before age 18…when kids are watching tv rather than being active, they’re not exercising their brains.6. Television promotes obesity. This should be obvious…not only aren’t you being active, but people who watch television tend to eat more (because of all the commercials for food) while eating television than, say, someone reading a book.Many of the facts here are taken from;/factsheets/FactsFigs.pdf…you can also go to the Poynter Institute website for some of the studies.And we haven’t even touched on the negative spiritual effects that unregulated, passive television watching can have. Basically you’re opening the door of your mind to whatever the dominant culture wants to throw in there. Also, watching a lot of television — even good tv — uses up time that could be better used doing something good for yourself, your family, or your community. It’s no accident that community involvement has gone down as television watching has gone up.So yeah, watch an occasional game or political debate or DVD…but make sure YOU CHOOSE, not the culture. And if it’s true that we get to watch a review of our entire lives during our particular judgment, I for one don’t want to see a bunch of reruns for “Friends.” I’d rather see myeelf making friends….

  • DGus

    Can we at least agree that cell phones are of the Devil?

  • The cell phone was co-invented by God and the hymnwriter of ‘I Walk Through the Garden Alone’We know this from the lyrics, ‘and he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other,can ever know.’How else could they do this except with a cell phone?