I have an embarrassing confession: I almost never watch television. It’s nothing I decided or planned – it just happened — but it’s probably the most socially awkward thing about me.
Part of my embarrassment is that I am always missing half of what people are talking about. If everyone is watching a popular show, or a notorious commercial is making the rounds, I wouldn’t know. I can only gather indirect hints, because I am unlikely to actually witness what everyone is talking about.
Another part of my embarrassment is that nobody can process the fact that I don’t watch television. Just as people can’t believe that I really don’t drink coffee (which is another faux pas of mine), so they can’t believe that I don’t watch TV. I must have seen something, I’m always being told – everybody’s seen it. Or surely, I must at least watch the news. And what do I mean, we disconnected the cable because we never used it?
Nobody can accept that the average person watches more scheduled television in an evening than I do in half a year. I can tell that most people are humoring me, thinking that I am being perverse or joking, or trying to make some obscure point.
That brings up the greatest reason for my embarrassment: When I do get through to people, they usually assume that I’m being an intellectual snob – one of those people who establish their mental superiority by claiming to disdain TV fare, or a latter day disciple of Neil Postman, who refers to television as “the boob tube” and believes that it makes people stupid.
I wince at being lumped in with these snobs because I find them pretentious, lacking in anything but received taste, and not knowing if a show is bad or good unless someone else tells them.
Besides, I’m hardly one to suggest that only high culture is worth having. I’m no stranger to high culture, and I enjoy parts of it, but I also think that some of it is over-rated and trite. And I mean, I did do my thesis on a science fiction writer. I also believe that the graphic novel is a serious art form. With such opinions, I am far from likely to look down on TV.
Admittedly, I don’t care for commercials. I consider them the enemy of drama, breaking up the mood and twisting the story into unnatural shapes. But that’s hardly a judgment on the quality of the shows. When a season of show comes out on DVD, I frequently buy it.
The truth is, I simply got out of the habit of watching scheduled shows. When I first moved out of my parents’ house, I didn’t have a television, so I filled my evenings in other ways. Later, as a student and an instructor and a freelance consultant, I have kept irregular hours through much of my adult life, often working into the evening rather than relaxing.
As a result, even when I hear of a show that might be worth watching, I almost always forget about it until after its aired. I’m just not used to thinking about television, which is why so often I suddenly find – as now – it’s been eighteen months since I watched a regularly scheduled show.
But don’t imagine that I’m proud of the record, or putting you down if you watch four hours a night.
I’ve just been busy, that’s all.