Signal in the Noise

Around New Years of 2009 we canceled our cable TV and in the last six months I have probably watched less than three hours of television. It’s not like I went to Walden Pond, as I’m still watching movies and spend plenty of time surfing the Internet. What I did accomplish was a fairly clean severing of broadcast television.

Why? Several reasons:

  • I wasn’t learning much from television. The news seemed to be mostly sensationalist accounts and fear based marketing efforts. I couldn’t find the helpfulness in news spots like ‘Killer on the Loose’ when the likelihood of me crossing paths with this particular killer was less that dying in a car accident. As for situational comedies and dramas, it seemed like the vast majority of programming was repeating the same basic worn out plots. I didn’t see a need to watch a reality show when I could just step out my door.
  • Research shows that the average state of mind when watching television is depression. Watching TV is a way to zone out and depress out minds. Some find the act of depressing to be relaxing (e.g., drinking alcohol). This is my only life and I don’t want to spend significant portions of my day zoning out – I want to zone in.
  • There are better forms of recreation and many other delivery channels for news. I now read at night to relax. In fact, I’ve read about 40 books over the last six months, which is more than I have read over the six prior years. News is readily available online, and I can pick and choose what I read rather than having to sit through that ‘Killer on the Loose’ spot to learn about what is happening with immigration reform.

As for the topic of this blog post, today I found a signal in the television noise. The new gym I joined has nine big flat screen TV mounted at the front of the cardio area, which I find to be entirely distracting from my workout routine. My plan is to wear a baseball cap with the brim tilted down to block my view in the future. However, today I was sucked into a story and found something useful. It certainly wasn’t ground breaking, as I have already forgotten what it was that I learned. My point is that there are often signals in the noise of our daily lives, and our challenge is to turn down the noise enough so that we pick up these signals. Cutting out TV was one of my ways to turn down the noise in my life.


  1. Aunt says:

    I agree with everything you say (except that I have to watch Hockey and Baseball) but sometimes enough is enough and I don't want to think or bemuse or contemplate or be informed . I just want to zone out in a way that requires nothing of me at all. If I am exhausted or looking to escape that constant noise in my head the television goes on. I love the planet earth series that animal planet is showing right now.
    I loved the super dogs that were on ESPN a while back . Sometimes I am even glued to the weather channel (seriously the weather on Cape Cod can be very interesting. 🙂
    I read while watching TV too, I Just finished THE GATE KEEPERS or knit (do you want a hat).
    But then my old eyes get tired(reading glasses are at a 2.75 now) so then I just watch.
    of course the Red Sox are on now but I watch Hockey all winter.
    When my kids were little , there was little or no TV but then I found that it became such a fascination for them because it was so limited that when they went to play at friends that is all they wanted to do. So I loosened up a bit and let them watch appropriate shows. We had a lot of movie nights when they were little . (National Geographic movies were Ryan's favorite!)
    Now none of my kids watch TV except for sports .

    • Bill Gray says:

      It always seems to come back to moderation, which has never been one of my strengths.

      • Aunt says:

        "Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation."
        Saint Augustine

        "Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit."
        W. Somerset Maugham

        I say…. go with what ever makes you happy 🙂