Some moments are worth savoring. As I write this, I am outdoors with the sun gently warming my skin. A gentle breeze is caressing my face. The air is fragrant with the blossoms on my peach and plum trees. My sons are giving Thomas the Tank Engine a ride down the slide. My daughter and her friend are playing “Ice Cream Shoppe". It is simply one of those perfect moments.
A couple of years ago we might have missed a moment like this. Like many others, we would probably have been watching TV, even though it was a gorgeous day outside.
WHERE HAVE THE “GOOD OLD DAYS" GONE?
It's funny how the critics lament the passing of the “good old days". They wonder what happened to communities, neighborhoods, civic virtue, or family values. Pundits rant at the right and the left, blaming each or the other.
Yet, the biggest change over the last two generations has been the advent of television. In two generations TV has grown to suck up over four hours of peoples’ time per day. No other social change comes close to this shift. It eats up about half of individuals’ free time.
What did people do with those four hours a day before the television came along? They spent time with the neighbors, with their families, and with their communities. The “good old days" were simply sucked into the television set. The fastest way to get them back is to get rid of your TV.
TV ISOLATES US
TV does not unite us. It does not bring us together in any meaningful way, although it is sometimes portrayed that way. The physical act of watching TV isolates us from one another. We don't chat over dinner. We are plugged into the TV set. We don't visit the neighbors. We watch “Friends". We don't play ball with our children. We watch the “Playoffs".
We can not enjoy the warmth of the sun, if we are indoors watching TV. We cannot savor the beauty of nature if we are parked on a safa watching TV. “Nature" and “National Geographic" can not compare with the real thing. Most importantly, we can not enjoy one another's company if our attention is locked on the TV screen. TV always demands our full attention.
COMMUNITES OF TV's
There can be a room full of people, but if a TV is playing, everyone will be plugged into the set, mesmerized by the flickering lights. Watch it. Watch a party be ground to a halt by a TV.
That is what is happening on a larger scale with our communities. There are communities full of people, all ignoring each other as they are plugged into their TV. Drive around almost any community at night. Are people gathered in groups gossiping and having fun with one another? More likely, you will pass by a plethora of isolated houses with eerie lights flickering through the windows. From a distance those lights are downright creepy.
PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED AND RELATIONSHIPS BUILT
Get a taste of the “good old days" by turning off the TV. It is not that problems vanish when you turn OFF the TV. Problems do not vanish any more than they do when the TV is ON. My idyllic scene was disrupted shortly after I descibed it by the kids’ bickering. However, they resolved their differences and started playing in the sandbox.
That is the key. They were still interacting and could resolve their problems. Turning off the TV frees them to solve their problems and to grow in their relationships.
I have studied history extensively. I know full well that the past is full of pain and suffering as well as joy. People have also made great strides in many social issues over the past several decades. Yet, we lost something critical to our existance when we plugged in the TV and left it on for over four hours a day. We lost the time that used to go to building relationships, to loving, to living, and to connecting with each other.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Go back to the “good old days" by turning off your TV. Turn it off and play outdoors with your family. Go for a walk. Invite the neighbors over for a barbeque. Host a family game night. Read with your children. All these activities are relaxing and build essential relationships. They are also things people used to do in the “good old days". Going back is as simple as pushing a button-the OFF button.
Katherine Westphal is the founder of a daring new website Trash Your TV! (http://www.trashyourtv.com ) that makes it fun and easy for people to get control of their TV set. Are you addicted to TV? Take our TV Addiction Quiz (http://www.trashyourtv.com/survey ) and find out!