These facts and figures about our TV viewing habits (PDF)
April 23, 2001 4:01 PM   Subscribe

These facts and figures about our TV viewing habits (PDF) come from the TV Turnoff Network, which is busy promoting TV-Turnoff Week April 23-29. Can you quit cold turkey for one week? At first it's seriously difficult to fight the urge to turn on and veg-out. But after the first few days you discover you have time for everything you always wanted to do, although the TV urge doesn't disappear quite so quick.
posted by fleener (42 comments total)
Does feeding the VCR with tapes so I can catch up next week count?
posted by fpatrick at 4:05 PM on April 23, 2001

When I was younger I used to watch A LOT of TV. I still played a lot of sports and went outside to play but the spare time was spent in front of the boob tube. Then, in '94 I got my first Gateway PC and later a cable modem. TV turned into about 4 shows a week that I watch regularly and now I just web browse and play videogames in my spare time. I could easily go w/o TV for a month as long as I had my computer and a decent Internet connection. I think the role of TV in people's lives(especially males between 14 and 35) has drastically changed in the past 5 years.
posted by suprfli at 4:10 PM on April 23, 2001

[Warning: self linky love ahead.]

Amen! I'm on the bandwagon (and, apparently, so are a few other folks).
posted by fraying at 4:15 PM on April 23, 2001

i spend so much time online surfing i rarely watch tv anymore.

i've substituted one drug for another.
posted by thc at 4:23 PM on April 23, 2001

the turn off your teevee folks want you to turn off your computer, too....
posted by rebeccablood at 4:32 PM on April 23, 2001

I don't even have a TV.

On the weekends, I spend a lot of time outdoors, enjoying the beautiful parks, scenery, people and Spring weather in Vienna. Alternately, I travel - hop on a train to Prague, or Venice, or Innsbruck.

In the evenings, I read and enjoy my suana. Just finished 'Lord Jim' and 'Nostromo' by James Conrad. Am now working my way through 'thus Spoke Zarathustra', by Nietzsche. 'The Dialogues of Plato' are next in line.

So, yeah, you can sign me up for TV-Turnoff Week.
posted by syzygy at 4:37 PM on April 23, 2001

Rebecca: That's the 2nd time you've posted that, but I haven't found anything to support it. Where did you read that exactly? Url, please?
posted by fraying at 4:51 PM on April 23, 2001

I understand that too much tv will rot your brain(our family watches very little of it unless you count the various incarnations of Star Trek) but I was annoyed by the sign outside a local elementary school touting the TV turnoff week. Nothing gets under my skin worse than being nagged by a child-and it is not the school's responsibility to monitor tv use. It is mine. And if I want to watch "The Weakest Link" it is my business.
So there!
posted by bunnyfire at 4:57 PM on April 23, 2001

fraying: i'm running win98+ie5.0 (demonspawn) and when i go to her link i get a "bink" and dialog box asking me to turn off my computer and get a life ... if i was cool i'd link to a screenshot ... maybe in my next life

if i turn off my computer, i couldn't (bear|bare) to come back and wade through 7 days of links ... i guess it's down to 6 days now

and yes, it's evil how mesmerising and trance-inducing a tv will appear after i haven't seen one for months ... i moved from yosemite to oregon and been hooked to the tube ever since ... i want to sign on ... i'm down with idealism ... but how will i survive without my mefi?
posted by dukejohnson at 5:02 PM on April 23, 2001

I'm thinking of starting a "TV Turn-ON Week".

You can have my remote when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands. :)
posted by owillis at 5:03 PM on April 23, 2001

In honor of turn off week, I will not watch anything. But I will tape Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake to watch the following week. These shows teach me a lot about my country.
ps: syzygy: read American authors. That eurotrash has no moral goodness. Support American writers if you must read.
posted by Postroad at 5:08 PM on April 23, 2001

I watch one hour of TV a week these days: Star Trek. Nothing else is worth my precious time. And no, that's not really sarcasm.
posted by Ravagin at 5:09 PM on April 23, 2001

Here's what the dialog box looks like.

There doesn't seem to be any other posted information about computers, though.
posted by mgtrott at 5:13 PM on April 23, 2001

what i find interesting is that tv turnoff week doesn't occur during a sweeps month, but the week right before one. that way, when everyone goes back to watching television next week, loads of good stuff will be on, and we'll all get sucked back in. it's brilliant!
posted by bluishorange at 5:16 PM on April 23, 2001

Whoa. Teach me to look at the adbusters link and just assume that I know what it's gonna look like. That dialog on is totally insane - especially since there's nothing about computers in any of the tv turn off week material I read. Plus, using a computer is totally unlike watching television. Active vs. passive. Duh.
posted by fraying at 5:24 PM on April 23, 2001

Argh, now I'm even more irritated by TV turnoff week than I was before. Why the assumption that we have no lives if we're on the computer?

I vote for no adbusters week! ;)
posted by megnut at 5:37 PM on April 23, 2001

I'm off line right now!
posted by Pokeyman at 5:47 PM on April 23, 2001

I can't do TV turnoff, I might miss Jerry Springer... this week it's "Men WHo Want To Marry Their Daughters" Can't wait!
posted by ImAlwaysRight at 5:54 PM on April 23, 2001

I was toying with starting a "turn the internet" off day... But then I realized that was stupid, seeing as how the internet is what allows me to collect a paycheck, so I sacked that.

I still plan on not watching TV this week, but seeing as how I only watch 4-6 hours a week anyhow I guess this is a minor contribution on my part.

I vote for no adbusters week!

Meg, I agree wholeheartedly. Those guys are on their high horse more oft than not, even if their intentions are good. But then again, so are most people who are out to make a real difference.
posted by dincognito at 6:01 PM on April 23, 2001

Why on earth would you want to turn the TV off just for the sake of turning it off?

Sure, I get that there can be a pretty big noise to signal ratio at times, but some of most compelling, educational, amazing things are available on TV. I mean WKRP in Cincinnati taught me the basic structure of the atom for Christ sake. Nobody can tell me that The West Wing is a waste of an hour. For that matter, the GLH infomercial is a pretty good half hour if that half hour happens to fall between 1 and 3 in the morning.

The whole TV is a waste of time, and naturally I only listen to NPR when I'm not playing my own mix tape of aboriginal chants and reading Sarte in the original French just seems like so much pretension to me. All of those things are fine, and I enjoy all of them (or would if I could read French - I only speak very basic Spanish since that's what Sesame Street taught), but I enjoy an awful lot of what TV has to offer as well. You don’t have to like TV. I don’t particularly like mushrooms, so I get the whole different strokes kind of thing (or facts of life if you prefer). But, I do get annoyed by people who brag about not liking TV as though that were some sort of positive attribute. Give me bread and circuses any day.

posted by willnot at 6:37 PM on April 23, 2001

I can still watch my Replay, right?
posted by nicwolff at 6:48 PM on April 23, 2001

well, look, I'm not turning off my teevee because I rarely have it on in the first place. and, while it's true that I *do* things with my computer, it does work in my life in a very similar way that teevee does for most people. I click on this, I click on that, I update mefi to see what's new, I set it to recent comments to see what's new, I update every hour to see what's new.

my information consumption vastly outweighs my output, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, it's clear that the cost benefit of this just doesn't add up.

I'm not turning off my computer, but I'm perfectly happy to admit that I'm wasting vast swaths of my life here, and I think I need to do something about that.
posted by rebeccablood at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2001

Mefi addiction can be a frightening thing. Mine gets worse when I have school writing deadlines, which says more about me than about MeFi. I have wasted vaste swathes of the past few years in largely passive internet usage. There have been benefits, but they could have come at 1/10 the time-cost. So for now I am going to unplug the network connection in my library carrel and see what happens to my "productivity."
posted by mecran01 at 7:08 PM on April 23, 2001

TV has enriched my life. I love TV. TV is my friend. Megnut is right on target - the snooty 'tude that many cop towards TV is nauseating. Anybody remember a little show called "60 Minutes?" Or how "All In The Family" demonstrated how stupid bigotry is? Or how watching the news helps us understand the world we live in? Or enjoying the humor, drama, and occasional camp of classic TV? Or rediscovering, for the 27th time, how brilliant "The Wizard Of Oz" truly is when it is shown on/near Turkey Day each year? TV is simply a tool, like the shovel, the computer, or the automobile: it is neither good nor bad. HOW we choose to spend our viewing time determines the virtue or lack thereof.
No, thanks, all you "No-TV" whiners - I will echo owillis' post from above: "You can have my remote when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands."
posted by davidmsc at 7:22 PM on April 23, 2001

I am a smart woman. I do charity work, I donate money to causes, I work hard, I work out, I read important works of fiction and nonfiction. I spend time with my friends, my dogs, my husband, and my neighbours. I am doing everything that I am supposed to do, and I am doing it well. And if I want, once a week or so, to sit down and spend an evening of relatively mindless entertainment in front of my television, who are these people to tell me that is wrong?

Every moment doesn't count. Every thing you do isn't important. It isn't supposed to be. Sometimes it is ok to read a bestseller, eat food that isn't particularly nutritious, or...(gasp) be entertained by a sitcom.

Worried about the damned kids? Don't turn off your tv. Get out your damned chequebook and donate to your local school library.
posted by kristin at 7:53 PM on April 23, 2001

I think their intent is really more of "what is your addiction?" for many, many it's tv. for most of us, it's probably the computer; for some it's books.

it's just an opportunity to try something different, and for most people, no tv is a huge change.

and while most things are driven by advertising, tv is really IN YOUR FACE with it. imagine a website where you had to click through a full page advertisement to get to the next part of whatever you were reading. only we accept it with tv, because we're used to it. so getting away from those advertisements has to wash your brain out a little. plus, if people really *were* choosing tv instead of just having it on all the time, advertisers would lose a little of their power as well. which might be appealing to some.

really, it's a matter of making thoughtful choices. if you're thoughtfully choosing tv shows but thoughtlessly choosing web sites (to use me as an example), then turning off tv isn't going to make a statement or a difference at all. on the other hand, if you try it for a week, you might find out that you depend on tv much more than you thought. it's just an experiment.

high horses back in the barn. no one can make you do anything.
posted by rebeccablood at 8:06 PM on April 23, 2001

"plus, if people really *were* choosing tv instead of just having it on all the time, advertisers would lose a little of their power as well. "

I dunno about that, Rebecca. When I'm watching something, as opposed to having it on, I tend to notice the commercials more. Although the only TV I watch is an occasional episode of Jeopardy, Whose Line and Dark Angel once in a while, and Fox Sports World. Although I did tune in for the Lewis-Rahman fight, that was a huge cross.

posted by Kevs at 8:45 PM on April 23, 2001

Re links about the TV-Turnoff folks also wanting you to turn off your PC (fraying, rebeccablood), this PDF mentions them directly and indirectly a couple of times:

Average number of hours per day American children spend in front of a screen of some kind: 4 hours, 41 minutes

Percentage of young adults who admit to postponing their bedtimes for the internet or TV: 55

I think a lot of the reasons they cite for not watching television (no physical activity, violence, little or no educational value, children accessing media without supervision) could apply to PC/Internet use. Like TV, you sit on your ass, get bombarded by ads, you wouldn't want to let your kids loose on it without checking on them once in a while, and 99.9% of it is complete and utter crap. The only difference is the violence bit - on your PC, it's interactive.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:21 PM on April 23, 2001

Now perhaps I'm a bit off kilter here, but it seems that TV Turnoff has less to do with the television programs themselves, and more to do with the constant marketing and advertising that surrounds them.

The idea is to remove oneself not from pleasant entertainment, but from the watchful gaze of the advertising world.

Which is why I've simply disconnected my cable - I'm still watching movies (powerful and thought provoking ones only, of course). Though my TV isn't always "off" I have definately tuned out. And as for computers, I can only guess that the AdBusters design folks took a few liberties with the web site.

All that said, I've already noticed that I'm able to be far more productive without the television on. While I never really watched it much, I often found myself turning the thing on for lack of anything better to do. Arriving home from work, it's all to easy to let a brief rest turn into an all night homoginzation session.
posted by aladfar at 11:09 PM on April 23, 2001

willnot, I'd forgotten all about that!

It seems there are several chem students who began their careers at Flytrap U. Here's a transcript of the scene where Venus explains the atom.

I do agree that the internet is far better than TV. Once you get drawn in it seems many people find they want to start creating and building things. That's good. It's interactive, rather than passive. That's good. It's also full of advertising and makes people fat. That's bad.
posted by dhartung at 12:48 AM on April 24, 2001

I'm not saying that I don't like the occasional bit of TV, but I just don't have much time for it. Occasionally, it hovers in the background like white noise. Still, it's my opinion that every good relationship requires at least an hour a week of watching cartoons together in bed.

Of far more importance to me than TV is keeping up on the Internet. I don't work in a vacuum... I need to know about the latest disconnected ideas out there in order to innovate. As James Burke says "Innovation most often occurs when ideas or things are brought together in a way that never happened before. When such juxtaposition occurs, the result is greater than the sum of the parts. One and one make three. "

The best ideas are often the ones that are blindingly obvious after the fact. Case-in-point--the humble post-it note...
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:04 AM on April 24, 2001

"Or how watching the news helps us understand the world we live in? "

Since when does watching the new help us understand the world we live in? The news is nothing but a one-sided interpretation of the facts (sometimes not even that much). You are getting a better understanding of the world around you but please realize that the information you are receiving is being filtered through a lens. TV = media = propaganda = brainwashing. Keeping that in mind helps me deal with the "entertainment value" I'm supposedly missing out on.

I used to watch a lot of television until I bought a set of turntables and a mixer. Since then, TV seems pointless and every time I DO sit in front of the television, I have this nagging feeling that I'm wasting my time, and that I should be concentrating on the things in my life that mean more to me...the things that allow me to express myself creatively (music, writing, and design).

IMO, the internet has FAR more to offer than television because there are no filters or censorship which allows for more ideas and different views. MTV, CNN, NBC, etc etc... they are all agents to control your mind and keep you from your own thoughts...think about it (wait till commercial if you have to).
posted by GrooveJedi at 4:41 AM on April 24, 2001

Jerry Springer, Star Trek, Dark Angel? These are the finest examples of TV you can come up with. Thank god for the BBC!

There's crap on TV here too of course, and some of the American shows are pretty good entertainment (Although the seasons are twice as long as they should be).

I can find some pretty worthwhile stuff on TV without trying very hard, and won't be bombarded with adverts every five minutes either. Just last night I taped an ep of Simon Schama's History of Britain off BBC Knowledge, and the original Traffik off Channel 4. Later in the week Brain Story will be repeated and I'll probably tape that too. Late night on Channel 4 this week they are re-showing a series on philosophy.

I understand the spirit of turn off your TV week, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by MrImpossible at 6:03 AM on April 24, 2001

For once could we have a week where someone isn't asking us to do or not do something?

Instead of "A Week Without This" or "A Day Without That", could we just all have "A Life of Moderation?"
posted by bondcliff at 6:29 AM on April 24, 2001

TV Worth Watching. Give me my PBS and my sports channels and I'm good to go. I wish I could pay a la carte for the 3 or 4 cable channels I watch rather than 80 that I could care less for.

I agree with bondcliff. Is "A Week Without Extremism" too much to ask?
posted by gimli at 6:34 AM on April 24, 2001

A quote from Michael Moore: "There are two reasons why people don’t watch cable TV - either they are poor, or they are making a statement. Lots of (people) tell me how proud they are to not have cable. Their refusal to watch the WWF and reruns of 'The Beverly Hillbillies' is why (they) will never attain true power in this country. "

Amen, bondcliff.
posted by mac at 6:56 AM on April 24, 2001

Which particular Transvestites are we talking about here, and why do we want to turn them off? What have they done to you? Let them have their fun.
posted by anapestic at 7:14 AM on April 24, 2001

I look forward to "A Week Without Books," when all those lazy bastards put down their non-interactive tree-corpses and finally wise up to the fact that they're wasting their lives.

Crikey. Give up the Sopranos? The X-Files? Anything else I feel like watching, just because I feel like it? Nuh uh. Because once I do that, I'm kind of stuck with having to listen to anti-TV people pedantically describe all the fascinating books they're reading, and it can't get worse than that.
posted by Skot at 9:00 AM on April 24, 2001

I Know Exactly What You Mean, Skot!
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 10:33 AM on April 24, 2001

Rebeccablood said:

"While most things are driven by advertising, tv is really IN YOUR FACE with it. imagine a website where you had to click through a full page advertisement to get to the next part of whatever you were reading. "

Imagine it?! Hell... it's already here practically!

...and who said that you could click through?

Maybe we'll need to make a web equivalent of TiVo just to skip past all the damn ads again...
posted by markkraft at 12:51 PM on April 24, 2001

Those folks who successfully disconnect themselves from TV typically find they are happier for having done so. If you find something that makes you happier, what's wrong with encouraging others to give it a try? Maybe they'll like it too, and then you've helped make their life better.

I don't own a TV and don't want one. When there is a TV around my brain shuts down. I hate that feeling. I feel uncomfortable and a bit dirty after an evening of tv-watching, like the barrage of advertisement has left some kind of imprint on my skin. I can't stand it. I know there is plenty of good stuff to watch - I used to spend hours watching the Discovery affiliates. But the ADVERTISING! You just can't get away from it. It spoils the whole experience.

If the tube really makes you happy, go for it - nobody's business but your own. But it's often hard to realize what tradeoffs you're making until you step out of your situation for a while, and that's what the TV Turnoff Week is about. It's just a chance to see what you could have instead. (I do agree that there are far too many of these special-meaning weeks and days and months - it's kind of silly by now.)

posted by Mars Saxman at 2:35 PM on April 24, 2001

I own a TV but I only use it for watching movies on tape or DVD.

When I moved into my new apartment I didn't get cable right away, because the only option was AT&T (and I've heard bad things about their cable service). I thought about DSS, but I just kept putting it off and putting it off ... it's been over a year now and still no cable (or even an antenna).

I've done that before, of course, but this is by far the longest I've ever gone without TV. I don't really miss it that much. (I still go to movies and rent movies quite often though.)

Whenever I visit other people who do have TV, I'm surprised to find I've forgotten just how good some of the stuff is. The best is when channels like TV Land or Sci-Fi have marathons of older shows that aren't on any more.

Still, I'm pretty satisfied with just the occasional watching at friends' houses. I certainly try not to get pompus about not watching TV, and am really turned off when other people do so. (I'm not saying anyone in this thread is doing that, of course.)
posted by Potsy at 2:32 AM on April 25, 2001

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