Monday, October 31, 2011

The TV Fast Explained

I've talked a lot about my TV fast, and no one seems to really understand why I'm doing it. I will now explain it.

Why the Fast?

I want to expand my life. I want to do more things. I want to learn. There are summers from my childhood that I look back on and realize that all I really did was watch TV. What a waste those summers were! Now that I'm finished with school, and have a job, it would be so easy to just come home at night, have dinner, and watch TV. What a waste that would be!

What I Hope to Accomplish

I have goals. I have things I want to finish. I have things I want to accomplish.
  1. I need to learn French.
  2. I want to do some coding. I have been talking about the next Mr. Falcon game since High School.
  3. I want to meet new people. I want to have a life. I want to be more social.
  4. I want to take up new hobbies, and work on current ones.
  5. I want to get out more.

The Problem with TV

There's nothing wrong with TV as a form of entertainment, per se. But I get addicted to TV too easily. First I only watch one show. The next thing you know, one show becomes two, Then three. And on and on. The next thing you know, I'm watching 20 hours a week of TV. That's a part time job. If you put 20 hours a week into learning a second language, you'd be billingual in no time.
I've blogged about my Adventures in Housesitting. One time I took care of someone's apartment. They had a finiky TV set, and it sounded like it would be a lot of work just to watch TV. I was too lazy to watch TV. Instead I read a lot. And I talked to one random stranger a day. Yet, when I would housesit for the McQueens', I would watch hours of TV. I would waste a night away with Seinfeld and Simpsons reruns. The difference between the two places was habit. At the McQueens' I would just get used to watching TV as I ate.  There was always "just one more show" on. At the other place, I never even turned the TV on. Breaking the habit would have to be done cold-turkey. That's why I started when I moved out of the McQueen's.
It's one step above useless
Really, what do you get out of TV? Entertainment, and a bit of education. Okay, if you watch educational TV, then you very well may be getting great use out of TV. But for most of us, we watch TV primarily for entertainment. Do you really need that much entertainment? Once upon a time, entertainment was not a daily thing. Weekly, monthly, or less. Otherwise, you sit around (not good for you) staring at the TV being subjected to hours of brainwashing advirtisements. I'm not saying entertainment is bad. I'm suggesting that maybe it should be more of a treat than the status-quo.  Or find other types of entertainment, or ways to keep your mind occupied.
It's effect on the mind
I am fascinated with hypnosis. A lot of people I talk to are afraid of hypnosis (usually from a misunderstanding of it). Hypnosis is the process of putting your mind into a state of hyper-suggestability. In order to be hypnotised, you first need to go into a trance. In a trance you are highly suggestible. You're not asleep. You are focused on one thing: the voice of the hypnotist. Your brain waves are a little slower than your usual state. And it turns out that within a couple of minutes of watching TV, your brain goes into a similar state. You block out things around out (including your family). Then you're exposed to commercials in this state. That can't be good.
Besides becoming addicted to television, I find it give it too high a priority in my life when I am addicted. I avoid talking to people to watch TV. I avoid being with people in order to watch TV. Do you find yourself ignoring someing trying to talk to you when you're watching TV? Do you get mad at someone making you miss your favorite show? Sadly, I think I do this. I want TV to have a low priority in my life.

The Rule (and caveats)

For one year, I will not allow myself ot watch TV, with the possible following caveats and exceptions:
  1. I'm out at someone else's house (including my parent's house at Christmas time). I'll allow this because being out accomplishes goal 5 (above). If I'm at someone's house, then I'm out. Mission accomplished. However, I don't want to go out to someone's house just to watch TV.
  2. I'm sick. Sometimes you can only sleep so much, and you just need to occupy your mind with something that requires less effort than holding up a book.
  3. I have people over for other purposes (games day, dinner, general socializing, etc.), and we don't feel like doing anything else. This requires me to move my whole system from my bedroom to my living room. Again, I'm too lazy to do this regularely.
  4. Going out to movies in the theatre does not count as watching TV for the following reasons:
    1. It's not habit forming. It's too expensive to be habit forming!
    2. Going out to the threatre requires me to leave the apartment. See Goal 5 (above).
  5. YouTube videos do not constitute TV for me. I do not find them addictive. I can only watch 3 or 4 in a row before getting bored with them. So, if someone sends me a 3 minute YouTube clip. I'll watch it....eventually. You may find them addictive. I don't.

    However, some entire shows are on YouTube. To me, that's the same as watching TV. I'm not talking about the device, or the medium, but the habit, the time, etc. Watching shows on my computer, iPhone, YouTube, Crackle, streaming, torrented is all the same as watching on a traditional television set. Watching 5 minute clips is different to me.
  6. DVD purchases and digital downloads are technically allowed - just as long as I don't watch them until the fast is over.  If I see a set of DVDs on sale for an awesome price, I'll buy them now, and watch them when the fast is over.  If I buy a movie from the iTunes Music Store, for example, that's okay.  I'll wait until the fast is over before watching it.  (This is the most misunderstood aspect of the fast.)

My Progress

Not so good. I started this when I moved out last July. Before I moved out, I recorded a few shows on my computer for me to watch after moving out in order to ease into my fast. But, with no dining table, I would eat in front of the computer. After watching my recorded shows, I took advantage of my 200GB/month Internet plan, and the next thing you know, I'm spending all night watching TV on my computer.

At Christmas time I realized what was happening. So I successfully gave up TV for January, and again for March. So I was contemplating just giving up TV for 12 months - one month at a time. And/or giving up each month. I had already done a January and a March, so I just had to do the rest of the months. I felt like both of those options was kind of cheating and wouldn't really help me accomplish my goals. So I decided, starting in August to go for 12 consecutive months. It is now the end of October, and so far so good.

The Future

What happens next August if/when I finsih the TV fast? Sadly, I'll probably start watching TV again. But hopefully I'll have built up enough of a life outside of television that I won't have much time for it, and it will take low priority in my life.

Monday, October 24, 2011

First Year Update

It has now been over a year since I moved into my own apartment. I've blogged about my blinds, my couches, and some decisions I had to make about moving out (TV options, moving options, etc.)

How has my first year been?

First, the bad.
  1. The walls are a lot thinner than I have ever had before. I pretty much know everything that goes on in my bedroom-neighbour's bedroom.
  2. The elevators are constantly breaking down.
  3. This is the first time I've lived alone since I was in school and working at the same time. So there has been some loneliness.
  4. I'd like to buy a condo or house to get some better sound-proofing so I'd actually like to be home. But, given the uncertainty in the government for IT staff, maybe dropping most of my cash into one non-liquid investment isn't so wise. (More on that here.)

But, there's been more good than bad. Given my TV Fast (more on that here) that I mentioned in a previous blog, I've had time to do things.
  1. I have a games night with some friends on a weekly basis.  It's nice to have my own guests over without having to worry about the schedules of other people living in my home.  It's also nice to not have to worry that someone else in your home is going to have a gathering when it's inconvenient for you.
  2. I have spent a lot of time at Chapters - which I can see from my living room window. In fact, to date, I have read four complete books there, just a few pages at a time.
  3. The theatre next to me occasionally shows older movies for $5. I can go from my apartment to being in a seat in the theatre within 15 minutes. Yet, I have not seen as many movies as I thought I would have.
  4. I have gotten some coding done as well. I have made improvements to the Nordburg Music Database, as well as some other little programs I have written, or am in the process of writing.
  5. I have done some cooking too. I picked a cookbook my mom gave me years ago to work my way through. Unfortunately, it's a very basic cookbook, and therefore not great. It'll prevent starvation, but there's only been one recipe that I've memorized. I look forward to continuing in this.
  6. I have taken up Tai Chi. I try to go to class twice a week, and right now I'm helping out with a beginner's class one night a week. I also try to go to various workshops, instructor training, and other events put on by the Society.
  7. I've been investigating different housing/condo options just in case the government lets me keep my job.
  8. And I've been been working on my French, but not as much as I ought.