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Keep television at arm's length

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“I find TV very educational. Every time somebody switches it on, I go to another room and read a good book!” — Groucho Marx

I've reached my three-month mark without cable television. And it's showing on me. I am healthier, my creative juices are flowing and my relationships are richer. I am now a self-appointed messiah to take the message to people — eliminate TV from your lives and see the difference!

Television eats into your time. It is a stimulation that takes charge of your life. Statistics in the U.S. say that the average person watches more than four hours of television a day. This must be true for most Indians too. This is about one-fourth of one's waking hours! Imagine if you had that time, you could exercise, cook gourmet meals, pursue a hobby, write a novel or do volunteer work!

The evils of television are legendary. Eating in front of the TV set is common. It could end up adding more calories and obesity. People rarely have meaningful conversations while watching the idiot box. There is little time for parents and children, and watching TV together does not grow a relationship! Before the advent of television, families played together, went on picnics, took long walks together and pursued hobbies. Why don't families reap the real benefits of quality family time rather than watch dysfunctional families waging war on the screen? Having dinner together is a timeless ritual which has been taken over by watching weepy soap operas.

Television is known to interfere with sleep patterns, the body's circadian rhythms. Many people prefer watching TV to lulling their body to sleep with a book or music. Going to sleep with TV on your mind is to wake up exhausted. The greatest evil of TV according to me is a sedentary lifestyle. This mindless watching of re-runs and reality shows, sitting on the couch with a drink in one hand and a snack in the other can, lead to heart ailments, diabetes and other health problems. More time outdoors? You have to turn it off. Play an active game of football or badminton or just take a brisk walk on the beach. See what you have been missing with only the remote for company!

The American Academy of Paediatricians recommends that children less than two years should not watch TV at all — TV is linked with attention problems in kids. Children need to listen to intelligent adult conversation to build the capacity for linear thought. Let's face it. Progress comes from being in the real world — talking and interacting with people, reading inspiring literature, picking up valuable skills and not from isolation which is what TV perpetuates. The worst fact is that TV is addictive! No matter how noble your intentions are, once you are in front of the box, you will be ensnared by its sheer banality. Like any other addiction, we use TV to calm down, we are on edge when we don't watch it and we just don't seem to be able to control our hours of viewing! We often put off tasks like paying our bills, stocking up the larder or putting our homes in order for the pleasure of watching a clichéd saas bahu soap opera! The result is an overwhelming stress and guilt about the undone tasks and all those things we could have done in that precious time.

TV kills imagination. Everything is portrayed for you at the flick of a button, you just have to sit back and enjoy the product of someone else's imagination. Programmes are also loaded with commercials and a constant barrage is spawning desires. Fantasy becomes more satisfying than real life! Insidiously, television puts the viewer in a mental frame where he always wants something. A bigger TV set, a flashier car, more luxury products and the list goes on.

I do agree that television is a medium that can inform, inspire and educate. The clincher, however, is that why should we sacrifice our health, money and relationships for something that humanity has done well without for thousands of years?

(The author is a Japanese language specialist and travel writer based in Chennai. kalpana_63@hotmail.com)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 7:43:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/keep-television-at-arms-length/article3315440.ece

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