Television tells me what I want to hear. If it starts talking smack, I can push a button and it becomes palatable again. My television doesn’t call me a codependent borderline personality or file a restraining order. My television gets me. I watch too much of it. Sometimes WAY too much.
And that’s why I believe that I and the world needs less of it – but not an absence of it.
The reality? Television is not my friend. Neither is it my enemy though. It’s safe to say that at it’s best, television is my frenemy. I understand that it is a distraction and an escape, which I need in spurts to catch my breath and press my reset button. It’s like a B12 shot.
But I also possess the faculty to recognize the line between short term pleasure and full-fledged detachment from reality, even if sometimes I recognize the line only after I’ve crossed it and powered through two seasons of a Netflix original series and a bag of taco-flavored Doritos in one afternoon.
Still, I am not sure everyone knows their line. Or that there even is a line. Binge-watching is becoming as widely accepted as bathing or driving a car. And unless you travel in some strange circles, even more widely accepted than bathing in one’s car.
Here’s the deal.
When its powers are used for good, television can be informative, humorous, even intelligent.
It’s been a comforting presence during long nights riddled with anxiety and illness. It serves to occasionally remind me that there are worthwhile humans in the world. And floating in the mesmerizing aquatic glow of the television is delightful. It really is.
Until the moment it isn’t anymore. Here are some signs that the line has been crossed:
- The happenings of the Kardashian clan begin to take on an intellectual quality that is (entirely) in your imagination.
- Watching 2:45am reruns of MacGyver has left you obsessed with making a lifesaving device from a lightbulb, an egg timer and a George Foreman Grill that takes precedence over your personal hygiene.
- You develop television induced cataracts and don’t care that you now have to wear ridiculous looking glasses because you never leave your house and, what’s more, you’re able to view Dog the Bounty Hunter with a clarity you “never imagined possible.”
Sometimes I know I have hit the off button and then take a look out the window or sit on the front stoop or the porch or the roof – hang upside down from a tree – and watch the sitcom of my neighborhood, the traffic, the sky, the landscape, whatever presents itself.
I’m bound to see something I’ve never noticed before or maybe even meet someone who could change my life because Judge Judy sure as hell isn’t going to.
If nothing else, I’m changing my view, and thus my perspective.
And on those days when I need the comfort of a public place, I know where to find establishments where customers don’t run in hair-tearing agony if not provided the distraction of television overkill. Places where people make eye contact and whose necks are not cricked like that of a bird who’s just had its head stem snapped by a cat. Establishments where absent are the bone-jarring hollers and mating calls of sports fans.
And if there is a television or two, they are the friendly sort that broadcast cartoons or public television on mute. It’s such a refreshing change from the constant barrage of sports or news or, at its absolute worst (and nearly everywhere in Florida), FOX News.
I understand the importance of viewing the exquisite comedy/drama that is my own life. And I don’t need a selfie stick to do it.
Nobody does. I just need to keep my frenemy television in the off position long enough to keep the practice of self-awareness alive.
Then I can go ahead and turn it back on… as needed.
Steph Ruopp is a freelance writer/educator/yoga teacher who has a regular meditation/yoga practice when she isn’t gripping her Roku remote.