conflicted thoughts on boredom & television.

Americans spend an average of 35 hours per week watching television. 35. That’s almost a 40 hour work week, completed after work. On an average work day that is 8 hours working, 5 hours watching tv, 8 hours for sleeping, and then a measly 3 hours to do everything else (talk to people, cook food, commute, take a shower…).

Let me just reiterate: 35 hours PER WEEK. On average. For all of America. NOTE: That doesn’t include the time we spend trolling the internet. And yet, we claim to be “so busy,” so stressed.

Now I could be one of those people trying to convince you not to watch tv, or at least watch less, or live entirely without one because you’re wasting your life and brainwashing yourself – but other people have done that, and I can’t preach what I don’t practice.

David and I don’t own a tv. First of all, tv’s are large. Second, they’re expensive. But third, they’re unnecessary… because we have a computer with Internet. So we really aren’t off the hook, at all. But for a month we were.

In the month of January, for various unimportant reasons, we were without internet. At first we embraced the concept – we had to go to coffee shops to check email, we didn’t have Facebook, we would have more time to do other things.

We’ve read many, many simple living blogs and articles that attempt to convince you that living without a tv will give you so much time to do other things (101 other things, oh my! – notice that #1-#4 still involve a screen…).

And we did, and do, a lot of other things. We’ve checked of most of that 101 list. We exercise (a lot), read, write, cook everything we eat, do lots of crafts, do yoga, visit with friends, etc. We call family members frequently and have cleaned, sorted, and flushed out pretty much everything from our possession we possibly can – there’s simply nothing left to simplify.

And guess what… we’re still really freaking bored.

When we got internet back (mostly because I telework and paying for cafe food got expensive really fast) we found ourselves, subconsciously, reverting to our old Netflix, Hulu, CBS.com habits (still under 10 hours per week – and we’ve gotten into documentaries lately, that helps, right?). I think that most of America feels the same way – we get bored, so we watch tv.

This fact has bothered me, pretty much every day, since December. I hate being bored. And I don’t want to succumb to the habit of turning to screens in boredom. But after two hats, a dog sweater, a huge scarf, two hand-sewed tank tops, and 8 pairs of earrings – I just don’t have the craftiness in me right now.

I’ve spent some time trying to figure out why we, people who truly embrace hands-on living, are falling into this “tv trap.” The reality is, we live in a tiny town, in a tiny apartment, with very few things. We have friends around and we see them often but we don’t like to spend money on going out, eating out, or other entertainment that costs money, and our friends aren’t available every single night. So, in order to make excuses for myself, and to try and get somewhere with this post… here are some of my theories as to why I’m feeling this way:

1. Living is too easy. We have outsourced much of our usefulness to technology. We have electric heating so we don’t need to cut firewood, haul water, heat water, or light lamps. Our clothes are ready made. We can type, we don’t have to write. We text so we don’t need letters. All of this might seem a little radical but it’s true. Technology has made our lives better, in a lot of ways, but things like washing machines, dishwashers, processed foods, iTunes, electricity, and oil heating have given American’s a ton of free time. So much so that even though David and I do a lot that the average American doesn’t: like cook all our meals from scratch, preserve most of our food, and create our own music (sometimes) we still end up bored.

2. Winter sucks. It just does; and with easy heating, snowblowers, and electricity we don’t have a lot of extra life stuff to do. You can’t grow food in the winter, exercise sucks unless you have the money to buy the equipment, and every two days it’s a snowstorm so you can’t make it out to see your friends (or maybe that’s just how it feels right now…). There’s a lot more free stuff to do for fun when you can get outside.

3. I don’t have responsibilities. I don’t have a pet, or a child. Those things take up time. So while I’m complaining now, I probably will look back and hate myself for it when dependents take over my life.

4. We’re moving. When you know you’re moving and you can’t take “stuff” with you it’s hard to start projects. We don’t have tools or crafting materials or other stuff that might make being creative easier. I like to make stuff, to build stuff, I’m not a big draw/paint kind of person. I sort of wish I was because that would be more transportable.

What I really want to know is: Are other people feeling this way? Am I alone on this one? Please – I would love some input on this, because it’s driving me insane.
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7 thoughts on “conflicted thoughts on boredom & television.

  1. I have Netflix but not cable because it is so expensive. However, I watch a lot of it and feel I need to cut back. I want to get outdoors more (although this has been a brutal winter here in New England) and be more active. I have a desk job, so sitting on my butt all day then watching a few hours of tv when I get home isn’t good for my health.
    However, I can relate to the boredom thing. I haven’t lost power in a while but I can remember times when the electricity has gone out due to a storm and being like what the heck do I do? It is at those times I realize how reliant I am on internet/technology and that makes me feel pitiful.
    Balance is key. This spring/summer I want to do a lot of container gardening and outdoor diy projects. So I hope that can break up my Netflix watching.

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  2. Winter is surely a factor. Here in New Hampshire we call it “cabin fever” and its incidence peaks in March. But it isn’t incurable. T.H. White in The Once and Future King said: “The best thing for being sad,” (substitute the word “bored” ) “replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” And if you just change the word “sad” to “bored” you have some excellent advice.

    For more advice and another take on the same subject check out the March 25th 2014 entry on Cereflections.com titled “Leaf Litter and Rubber Duckies”. It may not be as eloquent as T.S. White’s words but it’s pretty good. So go outside and look at the leaf bud structure of the tree in the parking strip outside your urban apartment or take a walk in your nearest park and check out the snow fleas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_flea) or learn about cloud structure and then go outside and see what you can see.

    And thanks so much for following and leaving a comment on Cereflections.com.

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  3. Very interesting article, thank you! Well, I believe there’s a difference between watching TV with all commercials and just zapping in between series and other programs, and following specific series. So we also use things like Netflix. Then I our we will watch something we are interested in and not just something random.
    I don’t think that watching TV shows is a bad thing since it is a way to relax and be more passive for a while. Sometimes we find ourselves just relaxing on the couch, talking, reading something online instead of turning on some show on Netflix. I think we need some time to do something more passive and be entertained to reload or energy.
    So happy to have found your blog, btw, feel free to check mine. Look for Sadness Theory on Spotify or Soundcloud and listen to my music as an alternative to TV. 😀

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  4. This is a tough one. Remember TV Black out Week in school? Life was so different -we played games, read more, spent more time together, cooked more, did more homework, etc. I know for me, I don’t ever watch TV without my knitting. It’s almost like the TV is secondary to being creative, yet my mind likes to listen. It makes me think of the Radio Show days. There was nothing to watch so people must have been DOING something. Or perhaps they were just sitting and listening and imagining what they heard. I think there is a place for TV. The key is balance and variety in life. Too often TV is an escape from things that should be done or dealt with, and in that case it’s unfortunate. When TV is for entertainment or learning at it’s purest, it’s fun and enjoyable. My fondest memories of childhood was the hustle of Sunday nights making the popcorn and scurrying to the living room with my mom, dad, and three sisters to all watch The Wonderful World of Disney. There were nine years difference in ages but it didn’t matter. We all loved Disney and spending that time together before the busyness of the week began was very special. We also knew that was our only chance to see it. There was no video taping for later or Netflicks. So it made it one of a kind so to speak. Perhaps that’s it, watching the TV that is really important, not just a “filler”.

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