Unshackling from the Opiate of the Masses


No, the title isn’t in reference to the criticism of religion but rather that glowing opiate of the masses, television.

I was once a TV junkie. A junkie with good taste, not one of those monosyllabic couch potatoes that considers Jerry Springer ‘Must See TV’. But I was an addict, nonetheless. I had favorite shows for every night, my DVR was packed with more programs than I could watch. My knowledge of the TV schedule was encyclopedic in scope.

Then last year we decided that spending $140 plus a month for internet and cable was too much. We canceled the cable, opting instead for the very minimum offered – local channels for about $15 a month.

And though I never would have suspected it, I hardly miss cable TV. I’ve learned to make do with local broadcast TV, coming to appreciate our local PBS offerings. Though daytime TV is still a barren wasteland all across the dial – especially on the weekends.

Then two weeks ago, something odd happened.

My sister-in-law and her four daughters visited. She is a bit strict in what she allows her kids to watch (in other words, none of the good shows). Since most of the networks are in repeats anyway, I didn’t mind. I simply turned the TV off. And it has hardly come on since.

Yes, I’ve gone nearly two weeks without any TV.

There are times I tuned in to catch Conan or Ferguson on the late night talk shows and I did watch the NBA finals (I am still a man!), but for the most part, my TV screen has been a blank gray square. DVDs I borrowed from the library have even gone unwatched. I’ve simply been busy doing other stuff. I’ve found more time to read and more importantly, more time to create.

You see, I’m usually most creative when I’m bored. For example, I must’ve written 2,000 stories during high school Algebra. Turning off the TV prompts me to fill the silence and void with my own creative energies.

Turning off the TV has:

  • given me more time to do constructive things
  • inspired my creative brain
  • lightened my mood – a constant stream of negative news starts to wear on you after a while

Turning off the TV has been a very liberating experience creatively speaking. I’ll be interested in seeing if this air of newfound freedom continues to blow when the fall season and all my favorite shows return. I suspect that it will because I am enjoying the taste of freedom from the oppressive stream of media.

Community Question: What shackles are restricting your creative freedom? How will you break free?

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16 responses to Unshackling from the Opiate of the Masses

  1. Davina

    Hi David. The shackles of time are restricting my creative freedom. The nerve! And what is strange is that I have less time to do what I want to do than ever before… AND I watch less tv than I used to. Go figure!

    Davina’s last blog post..365 Days & Still Blogging

  2. Mike Goad

    When we went on our May trip, we decided to leave the satellite dish and receiver at home. Then we ended up in a places where there was no TV reception or were too busy to even check to see if there was reception.

    The end result was that, by the end of the trip, we only checked for reception because the weather looked threatening — and, sure enough, we were in the path of a severe thunderstorm.

    Since we’ve been home, I watch the local and national evening news, and that’s it.

    I am currently posting on Exit78 at least once a day. Some of these posts are part of my Eyes of the Great Depression project; 0thers are images from my travel photo galleries; and the rest are written posts on a variety of different topics. Each post is numbered on the lower right for the number of days in a row that I’ve posted.

    The purpose of this is to make my posting a part of my regular routine, whether it be a written post or an image post. The more it is part of a routine, part of what I do, the less likely I am to procrastinate about it — and I do find it very easy to procrastinate about things.

    Mike Goad’s last blog post..New Photo Gallery – Crowley’s Ridge State Park

  3. Sean

    I’m so with you on this. We canceled our cable going on three years ago because we simply couldn’t justify the expense. I assumed I would miss it something fierce, but I never really did. I still catch my favorite shows either on download or DVD, but not having them automatically fill the DVR makes us a lot more discerning. Truth be told, if I still had TV I probably never would have started writing.

    Sean’s last blog post..6 Rules For Remarkable Marital Communication

  4. Cricket-Tammy

    Hey Sean,

    We turned off the cable in this house a couple of years ago. It was the best move ever. At first, the children were lost. The TV had become their friend, and I wasn’t happy with that. I have learned to catch up on the happening news via the computer. So, in the end… we have missed nothing.

    Raising children in this high tech world is a bit of a challenge. Everything seems to have a plug.

    Cricket-Tammy’s last blog post..In Hiding…that’s all

  5. Tracy

    You know, I find the less tv I watch, the less tv I want to watch. The same with internet time wasters, like my forum. I’ll take a break and then come back and scratch my head and wonder how on earth I spent a couple of hours a day there.

    I think one of the biggest hurdles to my creativity right now is lack of quiet time when my mind is alert to work. At night, my brain is tired and it’s much harder to write. It’s such a hard balance when you have small children at home demanding your time, yet a fever to work on your passion. I’m hoping soon to be in a position to afford some sort of part time care for the babies a couple of days a week while the big ones are in school.

    Tracy’s last blog post..Letters to my life coach

      • Tracy

        I might try again to wake up earlier than everyone and get some writing in, but so far I’ve not succeeded in waking up earlier ever than the 21 month old. Or rather, he pops up the minute he hears me wake up (somehow he’s almost always in bed with us by 4 am!)

        This time will fly by, I know it and I know I’ll miss them being so small, but yeah, it’s frustrating. Makes me wish I were a night owl!

        Tracy’s last blog post..Why do people eat too much

  6. Michael

    Congratulations on breaking that habit! TV has a lot to offer, but it can steal your life.

    What shackles are restricting your creative freedom? How will you break free?
    My shackles have always been based in fear:

    1. Fear of failure to write without sounding goofy, trite, or downright boring.
    2. Fear of unleashing that which lurks within. This is the biggie. I know there are many thoughts stuffed into my mind that could make for good writing. But drawing them out brings me an uncomfortable sense of feeling vulnerable.

    How to break free: write with no intent to share. Then remember what we all learned in kindergarten: share!

    Michael’s last blog post..Picture This: Day 28. The Shortest Sermon Ever.

  7. Andrew Blanda

    I find that a lot of ‘TV time’ is simply used as background noise in my house, and am often turning it off. We never bothered with cable because of the expense and in reality, there’s not much on there you can’t get off the net. I do have 2-3 shows I like to watch with my wife as something of mutual interest.

    One thing to look into though is the concept of ‘screen’ time, which includes computer, games consoles and mobile phone ‘screens’. I spend a lot of time in front of the computer (for work and ‘research’) and would like to cut this back to make more time for reading….That’s my goal at present!

    Andrew Blanda’s last blog post..My 2009 Goals

  8. janice

    I enjoyed this, Dave. I like getting to know folk gradually, seeing where the life changes and turning points are. It scares me to admit this, but if I don’t keep it on a leash or get it under control, blogging, the many headed beast, could seriously eat up my creative freedom.

    janice’s last blog post..Transcendental Trolleys

  9. Judy Dunn

    We pulled the plug on TV 9 months ago and haven’t looked back since. Initially it was a money-saving strategy (we were paying $60 a month to watch our morning news and an occasional sit-com rerun.) Didn’t make sense.

    We always read a lot before but now we do even more— 2-3 hours a night— and use our huge flat screen TV to watch movies we buy or rent. Our news comes from the Web and/or radio. And we buy seasons of TV episodes we miss, like Monk. So much of the rest is garbage.

    As a parent and former teacher, I just think how much better thinkers and how much more creative our kids could be without the “electronic babysitter.”

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. And perhaps others will be motivated to do the same.

    Judy Dunn’s last blog post..‘Imaginary Friends’: Why Fakey E-mail Messages Turn Off Your Prospects

  10. Barbara Swafford

    Hi David,

    I have never been a big TV watcher, although at times when I’m working or blogging I’ll have it on to listen to. I do like the decorating shows as they give me so many ideas.

    I’m with Davina on what restricts me. I am always trying to do so much, time escapes me. If I could get by with less sleep, I’d steal some from there, but if I don’t get 7 hours, I can be a real grump and not creative at all.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..It Started With A Tweet

  11. Randi

    Congratulations, David. I am so glad that unplugging has inspired your creativity because we are going to need something to keep us hooked once Available Darkness is over. We are a cable-free family too and now that summer is here the only thing we watch is So You Think You Can Dance.

    Randi’s last blog post..Las Vegas—-The Return

  12. B J Keltz

    I gave up TV for four years, got it back for three, and gave it up again six years ago. I don’t miss it, don’t even think about it anymore. I gave up all forms of online gaming (including a well geared lvl 70 priest on WoW for those of you who know what that is, and back when 70 was tops).

    My biggest time sink now (besides my job) is the internet and the blog, lol. My next step is to disable internet on my laptop and move to another room.

    B J Keltz’s last blog post..Tribute Week – Authors Who Share

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