Turn off your TV. No, seriously.
Do yourself a favor and turn off your TV. I’m not saying get rid of it and I’m not saying don’t ever watch a movie. But please consider turning off the mainstream TV for a month and see what it does to your life.
The level of advertising aimed at your household is at an unprecedented level and to some extent, we have developed filters for the constant barrage of commercials that used to be only on TV and radio. Commercials are EVERYWHERE, especially with more and more places such as grocery stores and doctor offices using closed circuit TV and paid advertising. You can’t use the restroom now without seeing it. A local gas station even tried something recently where they had small screens installed on the gas pumps. While you refilled on unleaded, you would hear at deafening levels what would be on TV tonight and which processed foods were available to eat while watching your favorite shows. The only thing more annoying than the commercial feed itself was the competing sounds from the neighboring pump’s feed. Luckily I wasn’t the only one to hate the damn things, and the gas station finally set them to “mute” by default.
My point is this. By turning off those commercials, you are turning off the constant stream of voices telling you what to believe. When you turn off one of the biggest sources of that commercial feed, you suddenly find yourself wanting less. This is basic psychology used in such nefarious things as brainwashing- if you keep hearing the same thing over and over again you will start to believe it. If you keep hearing over and over that you are not beautiful until you purchase this product, or you that you deserve to have that expensive new electronic device even though your old one still works, or even that you need that medication to ever have a chance at happiness, YOU WILL START TO BELIEVE IT.
Before we go any further with this conversation, I feel the need to make something clear. Lyle and I had already made the choice to turn off our TV’s before we found each other, but he was the only one to make that choice as a conscientious objector. I wish I could say I did it was that way for me as well but, it was really for more, err… annoying reasons.
When I first moved to the mountains I actually had a contract with a satellite TV provider. However, when they came up to switch everything over they found there were too many trees in my rural area to get a signal and let me out of the contract. It was a tough transition at first, but I purchased one of the digital antennas to help with the adjustment. I had a LOT more to do outside now that I had property, but at least I could watch the regular channels in the evenings while relaxing.
My experience with a digital antenna didn’t go so well. In fact that is an understatement. Have you ever gotten the feeling that your electronics have a mean sense of humor? The timing of that antenna was ridiculous, religiously going out at the precise moment a sitcom would get to the punchline. The commercials came in great, the lead up to the joke would have a couple of black outs, then when it was time for the joke itself? THWIP. Black screen. I missed the punchline of the entire fall season of Modern Family in 2012, I’m not kidding. There were other random things as well like PBS never came in except on Sunday mornings while Martha Stewart Cooking and Martha Stewart Baking were on. I’ll admit, those could be cool to watch as Martha is all about cooking from scratch and I definitely have an appreciation for that…
Anyhoo, there finally came a point when I got so sick and tired of the TV going in and out I finally just kept it off. I do rent videos on a regular basis, but I don’t watch day to day TV anymore. Around that same time in the interest of saving money, I cancelled all of my magazine subscriptions that were based around consumerism whether advertently or inadvertently. I only kept a few that were directly useful to my household that are based on homesteading and building skills.
Then a funny thing began to happen.
My budgets for everything from clothing to discretionary spending started getting fat with cash. I had slowed down and then eventually stopped making random emotional purchases. It became clear to me that what I had been hearing over and over on a daily basis had made a huge impact on how I spent my time, efforts, energy and money. And don’t even get me started on how much money I save from not having a cable or satellite bill! As of October 2015, I have now repurposed almost $5,000 for other things. Like vacations.
I like vacations.
With the major reductions in commercials and advertisements, I stopped worrying about having the latest and greatest. I stopped thinking I was out of touch if I didn’t have mascara on. I stopped fantasizing about having my house look like it was just photographed for a magazine.
I started thinking about how my vegetables and meats were raised.
I started thinking about how many chemicals were in the commercial products I used.
I started thinking about what kind of impact I was making on this earth.
Those commercials drew me away from what was really important, namely living a life with intention and purpose and love, where the living breathing beings around me had more importance than inanimate objects. A place where my own life has no more and no less value than another.
Now when I see advertisements I have to laugh with relief that I am no longer subject to their messages. I fantasize about my future hog pen and milking cow, rather than a crystal chandelier. I purchase my clothes at a thrift store and jump with glee at how little I can spend, rather than name-drop my purchase of a brand new $100 t-shirt.
My hope now is to teach Lil’ A the importance of this message. It’s a challenge when so many advertisements are geared towards children and they are estimated to have $1.2 trillion in buying power a year. That’s trillion. With a T.
I hope that as Lil’ A grows older his memories of the experiences on his birthdays will far outweigh any memories of the toys he got. I hope that he smiles as he thinks of our Sunday morning breakfasts cooked together while he was on a step-stool, rather than of eating a Happy Meal at McDonalds. That is what I hope for him because what I see of other children scares me- corporations have a firm grip on their minds. If I was susceptible to feeling inadequate and less-than based only on what they told me as an adult, what will the next generation grow up feeling with this absolute tidal-wave of daily advertisement??
My eyes are open now and it is a fascinating state to be in. I’m curious… would you be up to the challenge of turning off your TV for a month?