On quitting TV (and blaming Matt Lauer)

I was perusing the blog The Vegan Chickpea recently and learned that the author, Caitlin M. recently quit watching television. As someone who really enjoys a lot of TV shows, I wanted to talk more with Caitlin M. about what motivated this change and what benefits she’s seen. Yes, we have the same name, and so I’ll be known in the following conversation (and in life, generally) as Caitlin and I’ll call my guest Caitlin M.

Caitlin: You stopped watching television this summer. So, my first question is, why? (laughs)

Caitlin M: (laughs) That’s funny!  Well, a bunch of reasons, actually.

The first reason is that I have become completely indifferent about everything that is on television. Within the last year or so, whenever I was “in the mood” to watch TV, there would be literally nothing on that I wanted to watch. I would spend an extremely long time looking for something and not find anything. Like, sometimes I’d spend an hour trying to find something to watch and give up.

Secondly, I started going to grad school last summer and wouldn’t be home at night.  When I was home and put the tv on for background noise, I’d turn it off because it was distracting.

The one thing I held onto for a long time was morning television, specifically the local news and The Today Show. I grew up watching The Today Show and didn’t want to give it up. But at the same time, I hated what it had become. I was irritated on a daily basis by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, and was completely disillusioned to the amount of fluff pieces that took up the majority of the show.

Caitlin: (laughs) You know I’m going to have to call this: How Matt Lauer made me quit TV

Caitlin M: (laughs) So true. After they fired Ann Curry, I could never forgive them.

Caitlin: I am right there with you.

Caitlin M: In May, I went up to Boston to visit my friend for a long weekend. She lives with her sister, brother in law, and two nephews. The entire time I was up there, they never turned the television on. I was so inspired and realized that television was a distraction from my life and I didn’t want it in there anymore. When I got home, I decided to not put on the television in the morning and that was that.

Caitlin: So, did you cancel cable, or simply stop turning the TV on?

Caitlin M: I stopped turning on the TV.  My husband stills watches it.

We actually had some ridiculous issues with Comcast in the beginning of the summer (surprising, right?) and I tried so hard to get him to cancel it, but he wouldn’t because of sports and NFL Redzone. Plus, he has some shows he likes to watch. But, it’s such a waste of money in my opinion.

Caitlin: That’s funny. Every time my husband and I start eyeing our budget, he always suggests getting rid of cable. And I always say, BUT SPORTS! And he usually drops it. I don’t personally care about sports, but I love watching TV for certain shows I really get into.

Caitlin M: My goal is to one day (soon) convince my husband to get rid of cable.

Caitlin: Do you think you’ll be able to?

Caitlin M: I think it will be difficult because of sports.  But, it seems like as time goes on, more and more sports are available to view online.  I definitely think a time is coming soon where he can watch whatever he wants over the internet. I might try to convince him to go without cable starting in February, after football is over. He really loves his NFL Redzone.

Caitlin: So, what’s been different about your life since you stopped watching television?

Caitlin M: I think watching television occupied my time in a non-productive way. Quitting helped me concentrate on things I really care about rather than zoning out for an entire evening.

Also, the news would always make me worry about something or make me sad. It’s all just fear mongering and blowing things out of proportion. I’m glad I don’t watch it anymore.

Caitlin: How do you get your news now?

Caitlin M: The internet or my mom. She’s so funny. She’ll ask, “What do you think about *insert current event*?” then pause and say, “Oh wait, you don’t know about it because you don’t watch television anymore.” She’s always up to date on what’s going on.

Caitlin: I have to say, beginning of summer is great time to quit TV. All the good shows are off for summer and the weather is nice, so you’d rather spend time outside. Do you think it will be tempting to start watching again come fall?

Caitlin M: What will be worth watching starting in the fall? For the last couple of years, all the new shows the networks put out have been crap.

Caitlin: (laughs) That’s cold! For me, Scandal, The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, Parenthood. I could go on! Were there no shows you were really watching?

Caitlin M: My husband and I watched Parks and Rec, but that ended.  We did watch The Mindy Project, but stopped. I forget why. I think I just stopped caring. I never watched Parenthood or Scandal, but I’ve heard they’re good!

Caitlin: Side note, Parks and Rec does come back for a final season, despite that confusing season finale. But, it definitely has lost it’s luster.

Caitlin M: REALLY?!  That is so bizarre!  I don’t plan on watching it, then. In my mind, it ended.

Caitlin: I know, I’m sure it will be a weird final season. Anyway, you mentioned there are still some shows you binge watch with your husband?

Caitlin M: Yeah, at the end of last year, we got Netflix. So whenever I watch episodes of a television series, it’s been through there. We’ve watched Fringe, Dexter, and more recently True Detective and Sopranos. We tried watching Mad Men, but my husband hated it too much.

Caitlin: Okay, I can get on board with that. I think the next time we move, I might consider skipping cable, and just watching shows on Netflix and Hulu. I guess it comes down to being more mindful about television, watching because there’s a show you really love, not just a mind numbing background presence.

Caitlin M: Exactly. I think when I stopped watching television, it was just an extension of my desire to reassess the things I do and habits I have, and question them.  Do these things add anything to my life or do they just take away from what’s really important?  Just because you grow up doing something or having a certain viewpoint doesn’t make it right.  I also enjoy the personal challenge of eliminating unnecessary things from my life.

Caitlin: What else have you done that with?

Caitlin M: I stopped eating all sugar, except fruit. I am a whole foods vegan, so I don’t eat anything processed. I stopped drinking coffee one day after drinking an entire pot in the morning for years.  I got rid of a lot of my possessions last year and plan on getting rid of more very soon.  I made those lifestyle changes for different reasons, but the sentiment is still there.

Caitlin: So, it’s safe to say, you have a healthy dose of discipline!

Caitlin M: (laughs) Yes, I have really good discipline. Once I’ve convinced myself I want to do something, I do it. And I don’t give in to temptation.

Caitlin: That’s really impressive, I believe you when you say you won’t start up again in the fall! Okay, final thoughts, what’s been the best benefit in your life since you stopped watching television?

Caitlin M: Eliminating unnecessary noise and distraction from my life.  I spend my time doing things that are important to me rather than spending hours convincing myself that I care about pretend characters and situations on television.  It gives me a sense of peace.

But, but, but…

Okay, I can’t really think of a good argument for watching a lot of TV. But, if it’s something you enjoy, what’s the harm? I do agree with Caitlin that watching television should be intentional instead of just a constant drone. However, I’m not ready to said good-bye to Olivia Pope or Mindy Lahiri.

How about you? Have you ever quit watching TV? I know some people give it up for Lent? Or is giving up TV the worst thing you can think of? Are you still mad at Matt Lauer, too? Talk to me!

PS. Do check out Caitlin’s blog, The Vegan Chickpea. It’s beautifully designed with some really great insight on the vegan lifestyle, and life, in general.