College Students- Turn Off Your TV

We have all been there before: what starts as harmless channel grazing turns into a five hour couch potato session. You did not plan on watching T.V. that long, but now that you have. What is the big deal? It is Saturday and you still have another four hours to kill before you start drinking again anyway.

This cycle was all too familiar to me; T.V. filled the gaps as the perfect complement to a busy lifestyle. Watching T.V. is not actually doing anything at all. We sit back as the continuous stream of audio and visual input is passively absorbed, permeating and interrupting our thoughts. This is where it becomes a problem. How can you expect to collect and organize your thoughts, let alone have an original one, when all your free time is spent staring at a screen?

We are giving T.V., and any number of screens we choose to fill our time, a free pass simply because we enjoy them. But like most things, moderation is key.  T.V. certainly has its place in society. It is an effective way to spread information and to deny its entertainment value would be senseless. That being said, here are a couple of reasons why you should consider eliminating, or at least reducing, your television exposure.

1. It is not good for you.

There are no shortage of studies showing that children’s television viewing habits while growing up are influential on their adult health. Poor fitness, higher cholesterol, and an increased likelihood of smoking were just a few of the adverse effects that accompanied excessive childhood television exposure later in life. Though it may not be known exactly how watching too much television causes this change, that does not mean it is not happening. Children’s brains are certainly in a more crucial stage of development, and consequently more susceptible to these types of effects; but growing up does not give you special immunity to them.  It is not a stretch to speculate that sitting motionless on a couch for 4 hours might not be healthy for you. In fact, a study was conducted that showed you actually burn more calories while sleeping than you do watching T.V.

2. You will have more free time.

Pure, unadulterated, priceless free time. You could read a book, you could ride a bike, you could build a snowman, you can do whatever you want. When you step away from the T.V., the range of possible things you can do increases exponentially. Variation used to mean switching from Comedy Central to the Discovery Channel. Now it means you can camp out in the woods one day and pick up a new instrument the next. When you compare T.V. with the real world, choosing a channel was not much of a choice at all. This new-found range of things to do is bizarre at first, and you will feel a bit like an eccentric as you try them, but that should not stop you.  Every expert was a beginner at some point.

3. Your grades will get better.

All that free time has to accomplish something, right? I would argue that if you truly enjoy what you are studying in college, then part of that free time will certainly turn into study time. Study is a dirty word these days– I like to think of it as learning. You can over-study for an exam, but you cannot over-learn a topic. School is supposed to be fun and learning and sharing ideas are at the center of a true education. Once you make this distinction, you realize that what is more important than the GPA or the test scores you leave with are the people you have met and how they have changed you.

4. You will talk to people.

The scariest but possibly most valuable side effect of cutting T.V. from your life would have to be talking to people more.  Television and consumer technology are putting up barriers to real communication when they should be doing the opposite. I am as guilty as anyone else because it is so easy and comfortable to pull out your phone to avoid an awkward situation or to turn to the T.V. when you cannot think of what to say. It is comforting no doubt, but incredibly unnatural. Throughout human evolution, communication has been the main driving force of intellectual and personal growth. To witness and participate in a culture where we want nothing to do with one another is both disheartening and frightening, but making an effort to watch less T.V. and become less technology dependent can help change that.

Albert Einstein said it best: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Einstein had a lot of impactful proclamations, but he should not be reduced to a handful of words between quotation marks.

We are at our best when we are creating, sharing, and exchanging our ideas. Without discussion, viewpoints never change and nothing is accomplished. In this sense, our dependence on technology is a deterrent to social change. What Einstein foresaw in his quotation was the ‘barriers’ to communication that have slowed this change. He envisioned a progressive, adaptable society that encouraged curiosity and embraced compassion for all living creatures. As we welcome the distraction of endless media, we will be on our way of building a better world. Nobody really knows what life is about, but trading in the T.V. to get out and experience the real world is a step in the right direction.

Harley Fredriksen

hfred935@uwsp.edu

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