Ask most people and television is a relatively basic “need.” I had always assumed that TVs were discovered by primitive man sometime between fire and the wheel. In writing this post, I looked into its history and it ends up I was way off. In fact, the word television has only been used since 1900.
A Century of TV
The inventive timeline of the television is actually a fascinating (to a nerd like myself) testament to collective human ingenuity. After the 1900 Paris World’s Fair naming, it took 25 years for a practical model to be built and actual live transmission of moving images to occur. By 1936, only 200 people owned television sets. Radio stations such as the BBC and CBS began experimenting then broadcasting television. By the late 1940s, there were 1 million homes with TVs. Eisenhower gave the first coast-to-coast live broadcast in 1951. Then color TV, videotapes, remote controls, Dobly Surround, and HD were invented.
Sometime between “Seinfeld” and the rollout of LCD screens, everyone in the US accepted that TV watching is essential to daily life. We hit 1 billion sets worldwide by 1996 with the numbers still growing.
Too Much of A Good Thing
But moderation has been lost. The average American watches 5 hours of television a day. Over 96% of people in poverty have a TV. It has crept into life and culture in small steps along the timeline above. It has evolved from radio broadcasts into a household’s lone black & white TV set and now into multiple LCD flatscreens…from free (excluding value of time) broadcasts into simple pay cable into high dollar HDTV & recording devices.
With on-demand shows like Breaking Bad, Entourage, Lost, Friday Night Lights, and House of Cards, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t binge-watch a show here or there. At some point, you have to step back, and ask yourself: do we have too much of a good thing? And is it even a good thing?
I would say yes, a fantastic invention has become detrimental to the pursuit of a happy (if not even salty) life. This is similar to cars, air conditioning, phones, internet, and other “good” inventions. They have the potential to add comfort and to leverage our time. But our lives were not meant to be bent around these inventions. My goal is to keep these modern conveniences just that: conveniences.
For my particular situation, it wasn’t until we were way past moderation that we looked up and realized the distortion the TV was causing. We live standard busy lives and were watching 2-3 hours of TV per day. It was marginally relaxing, maybe. But honestly, it was just easy and a habit. So we cut the cord. I’ll outline the “whys” below. And the “how” is covered in part 2.
Pros – Why Cut the Cord?
- Paying $140/month is too much
- There are ways to get most of the benefits for free
- It is not a good use of time
- We could slow down a little and create some time margin
- We could learn new skills & hobbies
- It doesn’t seem good for our mental abilities & creativity
- We don’t want hurt our kids’ development with lots of TV
Cons – Why Keep Cable?
- It’s easy
- It’s culturally weird not to have and watch lots of TV
- Sports (for me) are fun to watch
- TV shows have some incredible content these days
Pull the Cord
To us, the pros substantially outweigh the cons. Also, we decided that the cable/phone companies would be all to happy to have us back if we ever regretted our decision. Therefore we “cut the cord.” But we thought a more limited use of TV held some promise, so we did not give up TV cold turkey. Our current setup is internet TV and digital antenna. We can catch most big sports for me, and shows from the internet for my wife. Each of these has an upfront cost, then free/limited cost. And that fits our motto of reducing recurring expenses.
Aside from some dings and scratches on the way up the learning curve of internet TV, our little experiment has been a resoundingly salty success. We still watch TVs and movies, but substantially less. My wife still cuts on a morning talk show to break the still of some mornings. I still keep up with sports. But we have distanced ourselves a bit from the constant drone of sports gossip shows, sensationalized 24 hour “breaking” news, and mindless sitcoms pulled from our DVR.
We’re saving $144/month *12 = $1,728/year. But I’m not sure I’d reconnect if it was free. We’re about 10 months in and are very happy with our decision. If football season doesn’t pull us back this fall, then I would say we’re officially lost as customers. And our lives are incrementally better for the time and mental freedom.