Need More Free Time? Quit TV.

I used to spend hours in front of a screen: on my laptop, I did homework and taught myself Russian. At work, I processed electronic invoices and perused the Internet during downtime. When I got home, I spent two to three hours a night watching prime time TV with my mom. My total hours in front of a screen nearly equaled the number of hours I was awake.

It’s no coincidence that I was unhappy.

Do Your Research

Screen time overuse and depression are fast friends — but don’t take my word for it. Try Google searches like “Internet use linked to depression.” Better yet, head to the library and consult a peer-reviewed journal (they’re much more reliable than the Internet). Either way, sources say TV binges and endless Internet scrolling harm our mental health. So why do we return to these screens? What’s there to like?

Screens distract us. They helped me forget how much I hated my first university. I didn’t put any effort into choosing my college; as a result, I ended up at one that someone else chose for me. Spoiler alert: if someone else makes your decisions, you won’t be happy. I sure wasn’t. And instead of trying to fix the problem, I deflated; I hid behind a screen.

Here’s another spoiler: you can’t run away from your problems. My life became a downward spiral: I hated my circumstances, so I spent more time in front of a screen. The more time I vegged out in front of a screen, the worse I felt.

Dead TV

Photo Credit: Flickr user rickremington (Creative Commons)

The Solution

If you see yourself in what I’m saying, or maybe someone you know, here’s my suggestion: Cut your screen time. Watch two hours of TV instead of four; log into social media every other day versus every day. With that extra time, go outside. Create or build something. Visit a friend. Exercise. Pursue your passion. There’s time in the day if you’re willing to make it.

Better yet, quit TV (or Netflix) entirely; at least the Internet has the potential to teach you something. Staring at the boob tube is passive entertainment. You put nothing in and get nothing out. I spent my freshman year feeling numb, distracting myself from my problems instead of fixing them. I was a zombie.

At my second university, I dropped from 12 hours of screen time a day to about three– and two of those hours were with friends. We watched movies together, joking and creating our own endings and picking favorite and least favorite characters; we made movie-watching a social event. Was it the healthiest way to spend our time? Probably not, but it was worlds better than where I came from.

Now, in 2016, I only watch TV with other people. Quitting TV opened up hours of free time to pursue things that are important to me, like writing, ballroom dancing, and reading. I don’t miss the shows I used to watch — or the endless consumerism in commercials. I’m much more productive now, and much happier, too.

Have you or someone you know quit TV or reduced your screen time? What were your experiences?

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33 thoughts on “Need More Free Time? Quit TV.

  1. I stopped watching all my shows but two. Instead of feeling sad, I felt relief that I didn’t need to keep up. I still spend too much time using electronics, but I’m still a work in progress. 😀 The unplugged weekend my family did was the most relaxing weekend I’ve had as an adult. It’s something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still abuse my Internet privileges (especially at my job, where there’s very little to do between customers). I think everyone is a work in progress 🙂 I’m glad cutting back on TV made a difference for you — I was amazed by how much free time I gained by cutting back and eventually quitting.

      The unplugged weekend sounds fantastic – I do the same when I go camping (though for safety reasons, someone brings a phone but leaves it off). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is exactly how I feel right now!! It’s quite a coincidence really. I’ve recently cut down my screen time to spend more time in the ‘real world’, heck my family doesn’t even own a tv anymore! well done! 👍🏼

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great Post! I definitely think that screens are a waste of time. Our family keeps a rule in our house: Half an hour of video games a day, and one movie per week. We watch some shows during the week too. This and other “rules” help because, of course, you (by this I mean everybody in this screen-infested age) will feel obliged to follow a rule, and those rules help to get people outside and/or doing something useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Enjoying the wide variety of topics on your blog! I decreased by TV time a good amount as well. Now I usually stick to soccer games every now and then and an episode of my favorite show about every other day. Definitely have more time now so I started a blog! Looking forward to your future post, keep it up!!

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  5. What a lovely and inspiring post.
    I also cut back on my screen time and was immediately more relaxed and had more time to pursue what I really loved, just like you said. I also enjoy ballroom dancing and writing;-)
    I really like your style of writing it´s so honest and still a little reserved.
    The only thing I´d do is add just a few more interesting subheadings. And just like you put important parts in bold writing, you could put those quotes in a blockquote as a little interruption to the text to shake things up a bit.
    But those are just little things. I really liked your post. Great job!

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  6. I did this when I first made an effort to write more. It worked too. I mainly watch live sporting events anyway, and this time of year is pretty dead so I have involuntary took another hiatus.

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  7. I don’t have cable., where I live there are no local channels so without cable = no television.
    There are days I miss it. I also know that if I were to have it again my productivity would be even less than the ridiculous low it already is!

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  8. I like your text. I cut my screen time and I spend much more time in spending different other things like creativity, writing or dancing. It is very helpful to have more time for other important things than hanging around in front of the tv.

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  9. Hey Natalie! Really interesting post and something I agree with (however, maybe not as strongly as you do considering I do still watch some tv shows and films by myself). However, this was something I have considered a fair bit since I left the UK to travel at the beginning of the year. I hadn’t realised just how much tv I used to mindlessly watch until I lived my first month in Australia without any access to tv! It dawned on my that tv had been a massive part of my life in the evenings without me even realising and there were often times I caught myself watching some mind-numbing show and think ‘why the hell am I watching this, this is awful!?’
    Since I’ve been over in Australia I do still watch tv shows and there are still some days that I have spent more time than is ideal watching a tv show that I’ve became hooked on! However, I also go days without watching anything at all. And when I am watching something these are mostly shows I have chosen to watch as opposed to something that just happens to be on tv!
    In my job back home I worked with vulnerable kids and families and my biggest concern was the level of screen time that children had. It was often the ‘babysitter’ alongside the bribe for good behaviour. With the increase in screens and advancement in portable technology for on the go, this is definitely a great concern for the future of our health!

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    • So true! I have friends who had endless screen time as kids, and now that I’m older, it just makes me feel sad 😦 There’s such a huge world out there that we miss when we focus too much on a screen (whether we willingly choose to watch or are being “babysat” by it).

      I do watch a little TV myself, but recently I’ve tried to use it as a social thing — I’ve been watching “Futurama” with my brother. Instead of mindlessly sitting by myself and staring (like I used to), my brother and I talk and laugh and make jokes while watching — and to me, that feels much healthier. 🙂

      Good for you for thinking about your TV time — what works best for you may be different than what works best for me, but the self-awareness bit that comes along with thinking about what works is the real reward, and something that many people need to do more often. So rock on! 🙂

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  10. I often suggest clients reduce or even eliminate all electronic stimulation for a period of time and when they do want to watch or listen to something to be sure it is something that they have a particular interest in rather than having it going on in the background all the time. I once heard that television in some language was the same word as poison. I believe that is true. I have had times in my life that I have watched a lot of t.v. and times when I haven’t watched any. This past year I have had back problems so am watching a lot more than I would normally. And in this particular election cycle I’m reading and listening to more news reports than in my entire life combined. I will be glad when it is over.

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