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Cable TV arrived late at my household and left early. Back in the 80s and early 90s we only had local channels available over the airwaves. As the year 2000 approached I broke down and allowed cable TV to enter my home. It was a disaster. I could not believe I was paying for something that was mostly ads to get me to waste even more money. A few years later the fix was in; cable was on the way out.
My greatest concern was my family. Mrs. Accountant and the girls liked a few shows on the glass teat (reference The Glass Teat by: Harlan Ellison). I had to devise a way to cut the cord without making it look like I was cutting the cord. My idea was to convince my family we were only temporarily suspending the DirecTV account for six months as an experiment. To my surprise nobody was bothered by my idea.
The girls were the biggest concern for me. Once again dad got a massive surprise when my oldest daughter volunteered we just dump the DirecTV permanently with the youngest agreeing. I questioned the girls about their ambivalence toward cable. They informed me most of the programs they enjoyed were either available on local, over the air, channels or available online. Even though it was harder to find programming online five and ten years ago, my girls found what they wanted online and at no cost.
Before we talk about the costs of viewing television I want to share my evolving television viewing habits. Television, radio, and other forms of mass media were always a small part of my life. Still, even modest amounts of commercial media can affect your income and net worth. It is a rare day when I sit down and actually watch a program. When the TV is on it is usually for background noise. Back in the old days when I still watched football (I am writing for an American audience so I am referring to American style football, not the football commonly known as soccer in the U.S.) I would mute the TV and read a book. I was not sure how I would handle quitting football cold turkey. Around these parts missing a Packers game can get you killed. But it all went smooth. I never missed the game. People sometimes notice I have a dazed look when they talk about Packers players. I tell them I don’t watch TV and they are supportive. I think more people want to be like me and dump TV, but can’t find the willpower.
Once DirecTV went, so did all the commercial TV. Local channels available free over the airwaves are avoided by me, but Mrs. Accountant like to catch the local news and weather. In the barn public radio plays without commercials. The chickens and steers are very educated on current events and have no idea what anyone means by “talk to your doctor”.
The library provided movies and documentaries. My viewing habits made it hard for me to sit for a movie. We still get a movie now and again from the library, but Netflix provides most of my viewing pleasure. I still use the TV as background noise. Except for educational documentaries I could not tell you a lick of what I watched on TV for the last five years. I know what was playing as background noise, but I do not know the content of the program.
There is one area where I do pay close attention. Educational videos mesmerize me. Netflix has a few; YouTube has an unlimited supply. Learning is my addiction. I can’t get enough. There are few subjects I am not interested in at some level. Learning how to do things is one of the most important parts of my day. My viewing habits should come as no surprise as you will see shortly.
The Cost of Commercial Media
The most obvious cost of commercial media is the fee for cable. My guess is cable runs about eighty bucks now, so you unload your wallet about a thousand dollars a year. (Feel free to update my numbers in the comments. I will not research cable rates, etc. as they are unimportant to the underlying premise of this post.) The crazy accountant in me also knows the TV uses electricity when it is on.
There are also hidden costs far exceeding the cost of cable itself. Advertisers know what works. The most disciplined of us cannot withstand the assault of massive amounts of programming. Commercials continually tell us we need more. That is how the companies make money, by getting you to want more.
Stress builds when you waste a day planted in front of the box with pretty lights coming out of it. The stress of mental manipulation coupled with no exercise, and frequently, poor diet, are part and parcel for the course of television watching. Relationships do not grow when the family is tuned out. Television time is not family time together! Forty percent of marriages die and of the remaining 60% only half are happy. I doubt the happy marriages where built on television watching. Less communication with friends and family coupled with the mindless messages spewed from TV programs rob you of the juice that makes life worth living. Research has shown again and again sitting for endless hours is harmful to your health. The human body was not meant to spend the majority of its time idle. Outside 6-8 hours of sleep your body needs a full day of moderate activity with an hour or so of more extensive exercise.
There is a direct correlation between income and the amount of television viewing. Forty eight percent of people earning $150,000 per year or more watch one hour or less of TV a day, whereas, 67% of people earning $50,000 per year watch an hour or less per day. The interesting fact not shown in the chart is that of the one hour a day many high earners are watching is used to watch educational videos! The evidence is clear; the more you make per year the less TV you are likely to watch and what you do watch is probably educational in nature. It does make sense. If you sit in front of the idiot box all day, you will have less time to educate yourself to grow your income and build your net worth.
The depressing chart from marketingcharts.com shows how many people say they watch the bulk of their TV programming from “Live on TV”. “Live on TV” means commercial local TV and cable. The lowest group at 71% is business owners. This does not surprise me. Business owners need to focus on the important stuff if they are to survive in the business world. What does surprise me is how high the number is for business owners: 71%. Every other group is higher! It is possible the charts are showing us why we have so much income inequality and personal finance difficulties in the Western world. We watch too damn much commercial TV.
Ever since the glass teat entered our living rooms we have been sacrificing more and more of our mind to commercial programming. We are told endlessly how unhappy we are with what we have and need more. No wonder we are such a miserable society while basking in the palm of wealth and luxury. The poorest of us are better off than most humans throughout history. Warren Buffett recently wrote how middle class people today (those earning roughly $50,000 – $70,000 per year) have more than the wealthiest man alive in 1930. It is true. Most of the stuff we take for granted today did not exist in 1930. Health care is massively better. For $9,000 or so you can cover all your basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter). All the rest is gravy. We have it so good we fail to recognize our blessing. As Zig Ziglar once said, “When foreigners immigrate to this country they say, ‘What a deal!’ while Americans here for generations say, ‘Big deal’”.
Every day when we wake we should jump out of bed excited to be alive in such an awesome time in history. Every one of us have it so good and have so many opportunities, we should constantly sing praise to our great fortune. We live longer, have more and better food, enjoy more free time if we choose, have endless entertainment choices, live in mansions compared to our parents and grandparents, and can travel almost anywhere on the planet in a day or less for a modest amount of change. It is laughable how easy our lives have become. And yet we whine, cry, and complain over our hardships. We are mentally drained and require medication to modify our brain chemistry because we are convinced we are so deprived. I argue our society has turned into spoiled brats.
There is another world out there. When is the last time you watched the heavens? The night sky is an awesome place. Spend time with your significant other and children reading the stars. Dream together. Ask the big questions. Explore!
Wean yourself from commercial media. It is impossible to avoid all advertisements. You can control the volume, however. When you read quality blogs (I hope this blog falls into that category) the ads are relevant, or at least more relevant. I am not against companies promoting their products. I am against a non-stop diet of mental junk. TV, radio, Facebook, and other social media have found a way to maximize the amount of shit they can cram into your brain before you leave. Send a return message; spend less time (or wean yourself completely) from most or all commercial media. My business has a Facebook page; so does this blog. I don’t have a personal Facebook page. The account supporting my business and blog pages have almost no activity. Only several requests from people around the planet who saw me speak recently caused me to accept any friends on my list. I still have not posted anything. I make a conscious choice to avoid commercial media. My office staff manages my social media sites for me. Mrs. Accountant handles the personal side of our lives. I focus on the business end.
There is one last gift when you wean yourself from commercial media: freedom. You cannot imagine the extra free time you will have to explore all the things that interest you. You will never miss the TV time! You now have time to spend with the people who are important to you. Who cares who is playing for the Packers? (I am now in the witness protection program.) I’d rather talk with my wife and kids, parents (while they are still alive), brother, neighbors, employees, clients, and people of the community. What an awesome age we live in! It makes me tingly inside just thinking about it.