The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Ditch your TV!

Smash your tvI've been chatting over email with a reader who shares many of my same dreams and tribulations about the journey toward simplicity.  She asked me if I could give her any advice, and the first thing I said was to throw out the television.

I know that advocating ditching the TV sounds a bit Amish.  The Amish have been on my mind lately, partly because I'm fascinated with them and partly because Joey recently pointed me to two fascinating articles, one about Amish technology and one about Amish cell phone use.  The articles note that Amish don't reject new tchnology out of hand.  They give it a spin, let a few folks try it out to see how it impacts their family and community life, then ditch new technology which adversely impacts them.

Mark and I weren't really able to take that approach with television since we'd both had the tube since childhood.  Instead, we tried the reverse --- ditching the TV when we moved to the farm and monitoring the results.  Mark was more ingrained in TV watching than I was, so he had a few difficult months of withdrawal, but after that we both agreed that we have more time for the things that really matter.  We also don't have to deal with the constant bombardment of "Consume!  Consume!  Consume!" which blares from the screen.

Resist mind controlI've found that the hardest part of ditching the TV --- and of voluntary simplicity in general --- is dealing with the people around you in the mainstream culture who are unable to comprehend your choices.  The Amish definitely have us beat in that regard since they reject technology as a group and socialize mainly among themselves.  We have a hard time visiting with friends and family who leave the TV blaring while we hang out --- a problem since Mark is a lot like a recovering alcoholic who is easy to tempt back off the wagon.

Like some Amish orders, Mark and I do compromise on the TV issue.  We subscribe to netflix, and I figure we probably watch about four to seven hours of movies or DVD television per week.  Like the Amish bishops who are currently considering whether cell phones should be allowed among their flock, I'm still on the fence about netflix.  It prevents the TV trap of sitting down in front of the tube and just staying there all night, and the entertainment is definitely higher quality.  No commercials either.  On the other hand, I feel myself impacted sometimes by Hollywood messages about body image, and by the trap of vegetating in front of an on-demand movie when I'm tired.

That said, I highly recommend that all advocates of the simple life try to ditch the TV.  If you need an incentive to get your husband on board, just remind him that there are more entertaining things to do in the evening than tying yourself to the tube....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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