Everyone watches television (TV) from a young age. Sometimes a break from stressful lifestyles, depressing situations, or simply the need to fill time is necessary. Today, TV has seeped into many people’s lives, becoming addictive. However, there are a plethora of more productive activities we can turn to for relaxation. Many of these, including reading or sports, have better effects on our mood and focus. Only a little self-control is needed to avoid the addiction, mood swings, and aimless passing of time, which all result from too much TV.
To clarify my point, imagine yourself in a quaint little ice cream shop with a hundred different flavors: pistachio, strawberry, caramel, chocolate, cotton-candy… and so on. Binge-watching would be the same as ordering all hundred flavors and gulping down ice cream after ice cream without any appreciation for each morsel of goodness. Afterward, you would feel sick to your stomach and most likely throw up. Watching TV moderately, then, can translate into enjoying one scoop of your favorite flavor. I believe the latter to be highly desirable, and I would like to caution against the first method.
I have experienced the lure of TV, firsthand. I strive to do my best in school. However, like many students, I have subjects that I struggle with and days when I don’t feel like studying. On one such day, I glimpsed at a TV show, and immediately got hooked. As anyone knows, if you watch TV, your brain feels like it is getting a break. In fact, according to a New York Times article titled “How Viewers Grow Addicted to Television” by Daniel Goleman, researchers have found TV lowers activity in the part of the brain that processes complex information. As a result of this effect, people who are stressed or depressed may turn to TV for comfort. For the next couple of weeks, the highlight of my days was watching several hours of TV. The quality of my school work plummeted. I began to feel exhausted and unmotivated, but I also didn’t want to stop watching. Just one more episode, I would tell myself a hundred times. When I was eventually forced to do something else, I would feel extremely irritated and upset with myself for having wasted so much time. Although I felt alright while watching, I felt a lot worse afterward, and it turns out most people feel the same way.
According to a Scientific American article titled “Television Addiction is no mere metaphor” by Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, most viewers experience a spike in mood while watching but report feeling worse afterwards. “Survey participants commonly reflect that TV has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted.” Although people turn to TV for solace, it ultimately makes them feel more tired. If you have ever done a binge-watching marathon, you may personally know the negative emotions that come hand-in-hand with watching too much TV.
In case you watch a show to recharge for a study session, I’d also like to warn you that the same article also states that people have “more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before.” In contrast, people report greater concentration after doing things like reading, sports, or spending time on other hobbies. As many people know, it takes a lot of time to become good at something. The 10,000-hour rule, which is the measure for how long it takes for someone to become an expert, proves just how much time we need to devote to improve a skill. In the hours you spend watching TV, you could develop a nascent interest or cultivate an existing one. For me, once I cut down my TV viewing, I focused more on my physical health and I exercised more. I found that I felt great after going out and running. Following several running sessions, I felt as though I could take on anything, and I now use exercise as a cure for bad moods instead of drowning my sorrows in TV.
After a few weeks of my aforementioned slump (in which I was dependent on TV), I decided I needed to stop. After I put a conscious effort to pull myself out, I discovered the benefits of spending time on other hobbies. However, the majority of people haven’t been able to realize what they’re missing out on. According to the Scientific American article, watching TV is the third most time-consuming activity (after the obvious activities of work and sleep).
Just as TV can take away time you could devote to increasing your skills, it can take away the time with loved ones. My parents are busy with work. When they don’t work, they sleep. Then, when they don’t work or sleep, they watch TV. Some of the best memories I have are of us wandering out into our neighborhood and looking for a place to eat. In these precious hours, we talk, we laugh, and we eat, without a screen in sight. The best of memories are made, but when we return home, the TV invariably turns on, and our cherished talking time is over.
All these reasons are why we should control how much TV we watch, but not necessarily avoid it altogether. Watching TV can be beneficial. It can be a way to relax if controlled. If something is bugging you, a little TV time can sometimes help you forget about it. Also, according to the Scientific American article, in the studies they ran, light viewers tended to enjoy TV more than heavy viewers did. If you watch TV occasionally it can be relaxing without the downsides of losing satisfaction and wasting too much time. For me, one of my favorite things to do is to go see the latest movie at the movie theater with my family.
We should try to limit the time we spend watching TV. However, TV can provide a fun way to relax if viewed with restraint. To demonstrate this point, I’ll bring you to the quaint little ice cream shop once more. What’s more appealing? Taking two large spoons and shoveling down bacon, mint-chocolate, and cherry ice cream at the same time with no thought for the nuances of flavor and texture or enjoying your favorite flavor and savoring the experience? Save the TV for rare occasions. The next time you feel like doing a TV marathon, head on out and train for a real marathon.