The average American wastes 43 days every year.
Dear obsessive TV watchers,
I'm appalled at the widespread obsession with television shows. Not because they aren't entertaining - they are. But because, in excess, they contribute to the gross mediocrity of our society. Let's just get some facts straight first...
According to the Wall Street Journal, "Americans watched TV for two hours and 50 minutes a day." eMarketer.com quoted the number higher saying, "The average adult will spend [...] 4 hours and 31 minutes watching television." Daily News breaks down the statistics saying that, "Children 2-11 watch an average of 24 hours of TV a week, or 3 1/2 hours a day. That number dips to 22 hours for teens, ages 12-17, then goes back up to 25 for 18-24s. After that it rises steadily until people over 65 average 48 hours a week, or nearly seven hours a day." TIME finds we watch, "a full 35 hours of television a week. In other words, that average kid is spending just as much time watching TV as a French person can legally work in a week." Let's take the most conservative number from those statistics by quite a decent margin (2:50 hours per day) so that we're addressing a majority of people. At 2:50 hours per day, that's nearly 20 hours per week - the equivalent of a part time job.
The most popular ten TV shows of 2013 when a majority of these statistics were taken are: Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Mad Men, The Good Wife, House of Cards, Big Bang Theory, The Americans and Parks and Recreation. Every single show in this list, though some may dispute me on this, has little to no educational value. You could claim that Breaking Bad educated you on the mechanics of running a drug cartel which, if true, we've got another issue to deal with. But as a whole, the shows that are being consumed by a large number of Americans have the mental nutritional value of sugar.
To quickly address the scientific research, studies are continually showing large quantities of TV viewing leading to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders and a wide range of other effects on general well-being. Though a cause for concern to be sure, I don't want to spend this post talking about obesity and disease - I want to address the impact of television on our cultural mediocrity. Often racking up over 20 hours of screen time on television alone (not to mention social media and video games) Americans are trading in valuable hours of their lives for mindless, meaningless pleasures. I'm not a TV-bashing scrooge; I have a television in my room and I certainly enjoy a well-written TV drama. I firmly believe that entertainment plays a crucial part in our mental and physical health. So workaholics are a whole other issue I'll deal with later. I'm pointing fingers at the lazy addicts who sit in front of a flickering screen for hours on end every day!
Here's why I bother...
History is being made right now. What are you doing to make your mark? We read stories of great men and women throughout the last 100 years braving the frigid cold of the Arctic or modern day adventurers climbing snow summits in Iceland. These are compelling, engaging stories and guess what! You could be those people. After reading about the exotic adventures and meaningful discoveries that people are making, I have to wonder, "what am I doing?" We live in such an incredible world with adventure waiting on every side of us. I caught the bug over this past summer as I backpacked for two months across eleven countries. After returning home from that trip I couldn't help but see TV for what it is - a waste of a beautiful life. My friend, Micah, and I climbed to the peak of the tallest mountain in Ireland, jumped into the fairy pools in Scotland, saw Phantom of the Opera in London, hammocked in a coastal village in Italy, drank tea from a pier overlooking a crystal lake in Switzerland, got pick-pocketed in Rome, slept in a tent during a thunderstorm in Venice, soaked in the mineral pools of Budapest and drank wine under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Television... lol
Think about this...
You only have one life... are you going to waste 43 days out of the year (that's if you only watch 2:50 hours a day) watching TV? Or are you going to do something that the world is going to miss when you're gone? I'm currently reading a book called "Make Your Mark" by 99U in which 21 entrepreneurs/artists share their insights on making something that matters. Tim O'Reilly, the man credited with the movements of "Web 2.0" and "Open-Sourced", shares a line that he and his employees have at O'Reilly Media,
What are you creating today? Invest your time and your mind in activities that matter. This doesn't have to be revolutionary - it could mean visiting with your grandmother, writing a blog post, reading a book or painting a picture. Engage with the world around you, it has so much to offer that doesn't have to be consumed through a 2D screen. New Years is right around the corner - it's a perfect time to start fresh.