by Brook Noel
I have always found it extremely difficult to watch television without multi-tasking. A few years ago, my daughter and I were both sick. She had strep and I had an ear infection. We were on our 3-day-doctor-ordered “lounge” when my daughter fell asleep while lying next to each other in the living room. I picked up the remote and began flipping through the channels.
I was awed by the entertainment-power in my hand through this 7-inch remote control. I hadn’t even realized that a channel 999 existed! It took me over an hour just to surf through the options—lifestyle, entertainment, gossip, food, reality, music, news, sports… and every subcategory one could imagine!
The previous week I had read…
…while there are 2.5 people in the average US home, they are outnumbered by their 2.73 television average per home. The average home has the television on for more than 8 hours each day! And the average person watches 4.35 hours of television daily.
One of the laments I hear most often is about “lack of free time.” If the average person within the United States watches 4.35 hours a day… well, that’s over 30 hours per week! Watching television has become a part-time job for many and a full time-job for many others! No wonder we don’t have a lot of free time–if we are TV-watches we all have a second (or third) job!
I couldn’t choose between the 999 stations because by the time I made it through looking at all of them, over an hour had passed and I now had 999 new options. Instead, I reached for a pile of paper nearby. On the top, I had one a set of index cards with a spiral binding. On the first index card I wrote, “The Channels of Our Lives.” I figured if the networks have pinpointed our interests so well they can support this many stations, this extensive 999 channel guide might be able to teach me a thing or two.
I began a list of all the stations someone in my household might watch. I then imagined what activity would have to take its place if we couldn’t watch it. After all, the shows we watch represent our interests, right?
I began dividing up the categories and channels and listing them one per card, looking for an equivalent activity. I was just about done with the station list when my daughter woke up and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was making a “Channel Guide for Life.” My plan was to review our life channel guide when we were tempted by the remote to check for activities that might add more fulfillment, interaction and balance to our lives. I think Sammy thought I had taken too many antibiotics.
“Why do you like to watch cartoons?” I asked.
“Because they are funny.”
“Okay, so what else makes you laugh?”
I tried again. “What else makes you laugh that isn’t on a screen?”
This took a little more thought. “Playing a game, reading a funny book…” She quickly began to list activities while I wrote each one down on the back of an index card. On the front I numbered the stations, Cartoon Life Network #1, Cartoon Life Network #2, she quickly took over the numbering, adding funny names for our imaginary networks.
“I also like movies and spy shows,” she offered.
“Why do you like them?”
“Because they capture you in and you get lost in them.”
“What else captures you ‘in’?”
“Reading, painting, drawing…” We began another set of stations around “entertainment.”
Here is a sampling from our “Channel Guide…”
Playing a family game
Getting together with a friend
Playing with the dogs
Pictionary ® game
Apples to Apples ® Game
Whoonu ® Game
Trying a new recipe
Preparing a nice dinner
Coloring / Drawing
Sewing Projects (misc)
Watching a sunset
Setting up bird feeders
Looking at the stars
Easy make-at-home experiments
Planting a tree
Learning about the environment
Learning about issues that are important to us
Doing something each day to make a difference
Random Acts of Kindness
Reading the newspaper, forming and discussing our personal opinions
Going to a concert
Learning an instrument
Then I offered for the next week that we should turn off the television for the whole week and try our Life Channel Guide and see what it was like to actually “do” instead of “watch.” I could see Sammy’s eyes light up at the thought. Her expression interested me. It was almost as if we forget that we can actually “do” these things and the television becomes a means to vicariously do the things we would like to do.
Your Weekly Challenge:
Make a channel guide to your life. Keep it with your remote or television guide. Before turning on the TV, check your personal channel listing and see if there is anything more fulfilling within that guide–I bet there is!
Variation: If, like me, you aren’t a big television watcher, adapt to this to the free time you do have. While many people say it is impossible to find extra time in the day, I believe we can all find at least an hour in each day if we want to do so. I divided my personal channel guide into interests and time increments. Even in 10 minutes, there are many rewarding things I can do!
Reluctant Kids: Can’t get the family to turn the TV off for a whole week? Choose one or two days to try your channel guide. If they still won’t join you, try it yourself! When they hear your experiences they will likely join you!