TV, youtube, satellite, and even Netflix, can be immensely satisfying. I tell myself, "today has a been a long and tiring day, I deserve some TV now!" It is a source of relaxation. Watching TV halts the chatter of my mind, it takes away the burning churn of ‘overthinking’. Temporarily, I move away from all my ‘problems’ and am transported into another world. Who wouldn’t like that?
In the last 5 years, there have been at least 3 periods of more than 6 months in length, when my wife and I completed switched off our TV and canceled all subscriptions. Recently I met some friends who have done the same. They seemed happy about it. Intrigued by our discussion, in typical MBA style, I made an analysis. I sat down and drew a graph of my ‘happy’ periods in the last five years. Times when I felt peaceful, yet driven and excited, and most importantly I felt ‘alive’ and moving towards my dreams. Then I mapped the ‘no TV’ interludes onto the same chart. And guess what, they seemed to correlate almost perfectly!
So, was the absence of TV causing the ‘happy state’? Or, was the fact that I was feeling happy about my days, resulting in the absence of the need or compulsion to watch TV?
Watching TV is satisfying. The human mind needs to feel satisfied. Else it becomes restless. It has a certain level, lets say 100 units of satisfaction, that needs to be reached every day before going to sleep. If my day has given me 80 units of satisfaction (through my work, interactions with people, exercise, experiences, hobbies, etc), then there is still a gap of 20 units. If my day was at 60, then there is a huge gap of 40. TV fills this gap brilliantly. Thats why often I feel ‘addicted’ to TV.
Whats wrong with that, I hear you asking. The problem is in the way that TV fills the gap. If there is a crack in the wall, I can certainly fill it up with some loose mud. But, it won’t be as effective as filling it up with cement. The crack will go on increasing. TV steals away the time that I could be using to read something useful, take an online course to acquire a ‘next decade’ skill, spend some quality time with my family, or make a few calls to old friends. These are things that would move me closer to increasing the ‘satisfaction quotient’ of my days. TV steals that time. Hence satisfaction tends to keep decreasing.
I have nothing against TV. I love watching House of cards and Game of Thrones every now and then. But I find that mindless, daily, habitual TV watching deprives me of many good things.
In fact, I have realised that the TV watching habit is kind of like a ‘daily satisfaction meter’. If Im watching long hours of TV out of habit everyday, those are the times my days are really not going the way I'd like them to. It’s time to make some changes!