I am a member of the bulk-food retail store Sam’s Club and one of the pushes they constantly make the moment I walk through their doors is to consider quitting cable and switching over to Satellite television. There is always an awkward salesperson, who in the past I have ferociously tried to avoid eye-contact with, waiting to ask “What cable company do you use?” just so they can subsequently ask me how much I pay and then move into their “riveting” sales strategy for why I should make the switch.
For about a year now, I have been able to look these sales people straight in the eye and boldly and truthfully answer their question in a way that immediately shuts down the conversation: “I quit cable!” Since their entire sales goal is to get people to quit cable, my response always leaves them startled (although trends point to many others doing the same so maybe my response is not as big of a surprise to them as I think it is). My response does in fact have a 100% success rate of ending the conversation and for that reason alone I’m glad I quit cable.
Just Give Me A Reason (Or five)
All jokes aside, there are actually a few compelling reasons as to why our family quit cable last year and I’d like to share them with you, not for the purpose of telling you to do the same, but to give you a differing perspective that may at minimum cause you to evaluate your current reality, if your current reality involves a ton of television viewing.
- Television is the centerpiece of the American family living space. Walk into the living or family room in most homes and what do you see? A massive television adorning the wall with the entirety of the furniture perfectly positioned around it as though the only purpose for the furniture’s existence is to bring attention to the television.
- Television is watched excessively in American homes. On average, American adults watch over 35 hours of television per week (nearly as much as a full-time work week). Children aren’t far behind, spending 32 hours a week in front of the television. If we include the number of hours spent on the internet, phone, tablets, gaming, and other multimedia, the total number of hours of screen time per American adult sky rockets to over 70 hours a week.
- Television tends to deaden creativity and stifle imagination. Excessive screen time takes away opportunities for creativity and imagination to be sparked. Much of this is due to television stealing viewer creativity and sucking us into its imagination.
- Cable specifically offers very few viewing options, with too many distractions. The tendency with cable is to flip through channels without having any desirable options, and once something appealing is stumbled upon, because of the amount of advertisements, one may find him/herself back in the vicious cycle again of flipping through the channels.
- Cable is outrageously expensive (hence, why Sam’s Club is partnering with satellite companies). Last year the average cable bill cost American families $103 per month. There are less expensive options (netflix, hulu, amazon, sling, and apple tv just to name a few). One can even purchase a digital antenna for a few bucks to gain access to the major network channels. Believe me, there are other options.
Television And Family Liturgies
There is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. The real reason my family quit cable wasn’t because we needed to save money (although that certainly played a small part in the decision making process). We quit cable because the liturgies (rhythms, or in other words the way we operated and functioned) in our family revolved around television watching.
In my home alone (we thought we were “balanced” when it came to television watching) our kids watched at least a half hour or hour of cartoons in the morning 3-5 days a week. We would put on a show or movie during the day for our younger children when they wouldn’t nap and we needed to get work done. We found that it was on during some of our dinner times together. We were having more and more “movie nights” in the house (as if this was the only option for entertainment). As soon as the kids were in bed, the television came on and stayed on the entire night (sometimes upwards of four to five hours). We were getting to bed later and later. At one point, we even decided to put a television in our bedroom meaning we were essentially falling asleep to the tv. It was beyond out of hand. Our lives were revolving around the television.
We Made The Change.
And our liturgies look much different now. Here is what has changed:
- We didn’t miss it after we quit it. The kids initially balked when we told them we were cancelling cable but we haven’t heard one complaint since the proverbial cord was actually cut.
- The television is rarely on in the mornings (maybe once a week as a special treat) which means we are actually together in the mornings, undistracted by the noise of the television. We spend our time in the kitchen area most mornings, preparing for the day, making the kids lunches together, cooking breakfast together, doing the dishes together, praying together, working through a catechism together, talking about the day and dreaming together. Get the idea!? We are together!!!
- We have set boundaries around our television watching. We have a netflix and amazon membership (which saves us a ton of money monthly, btw), giving us the option to watch tv, but not be consumed by it, or distracted by all of the commercials and the flipping through of channels. Most nights our television does come on, but only much later in the evening after the children are down, and we only watch one show or two at the most. (I sometimes stay up a little later to watch an NBA game - don’t judge;).
- The furniture in our living area doesn’t look like it is worshiping the television. My wonderful wife made the decision to configure our living area in such a way that the tv is not the centerpiece. Instead of facing the television, our largest couch faces two other chairs. (I love my wife’s courage by the way because I was a tough sell on all of this).
- My kids actually play outside like it’s the 1950’s again. Because the television is on less, there are so many more opportunities for creativity and imagination to be sparked. My kids read more, they draw more, and we have a lot more conversations about life, God, friends, and school than ever before.
In the end, you don’t have to do as I do. You’re free to watch as much television as you desire. In fact, if you watch a lot of it, you’re like most Americans. But please prayerfully consider these questions:
Is your television watching a gift or a god to your family? It it ultimate or is it a rare and unnecessary (non ultimate) addendum to your established rhythms and liturgies as a family?