Over the last ten years (2002 – 2012) I have not been watching TV, if anything, it'd be less than two hours per month and that's usually reserved for my deeply-ingrained Japan Hour every Sundays. Looking back at the last 10 years of no TV, I'm actually quite happy with the results of no TV, and I thought I'd share my observations on life without TV.
The rest of my family didn't join me in this experiment, and my wife Louise took a couple of years before she started weaning off TV, so there was still much TV watching in my parents' home and some TV watching in my own home. When I stopped watching TV, I became much more aware of the TV's presence whenever others were watching it. Slowly, I begin noting that the TV was actually quite noisy and distracting, and I started encouraging Louise to keep the TV turned off over meals and the noise down whenever it was turned on.
I realized that wherever I went, I started to notice all the TV consoles, video monitors and screens – it was in the gyms, the hospitals, the clinics, the bus stops, at work. They were everywhere! In fact, with the advent of the smart phones, tablets, PCs and laptops, I also begin to see people tuned in to TV/video/moving entertainment in buses, trains, cars and even whilst they are walking (it's not new to me where a person is so tuned into his/her iPhone that they get startled when they walk into another person or into a dead-end/wall). I realized that no matter where they are, people often watch TV as though they were zoned out, hypnotized even. I don't really watch TV when I exercised (can't do that with MovNat as I'll be on trees/outdoors; in gyms I'm often doing circuits). This started to make me wonder if I was exercising with a group of brain-dead zombies aka Zombieland and other zombie apocalypse movies =p.
In the past, I used to eat my meals while watching TV, so each meal would last about an hour for series and two hours for movies. Without TV, I'd eat and finish much faster, maybe around 10 – 20 minutes, instead of 60-120 minutes. This gave me extra time to do things that are more important, such as praying, spending time with loved ones, reading, calling my parents and creating content for NigelChua.com.
I started spending more time with real people, having real face-to-face meetings and conversations, though I'm not exactly sure why this happened. Perhaps we're all wired to connect with other people, so if I'm not passively "connecting" via the TV, I went to connect with more people outside. I spent more time on the phone, meeting up people for coffee and meals. I spent more time talking to my wife and our families. I had more time for social outings too. I am enjoying social events more and more – sometimes Louise and myself have extended lunch periods (one of the plus points of being our own boss, as well as being in love with each other). Next few days and weeks I'll be out meeting old friends and making new ones. Tonight we'll be having a fellowship gathering with our cell group members. Likewise for tomorrow. Sunday we'll go climb some trees, and spend more time with each other. My social calendar is filling up more, though I do quite enjoy my own peace and quiet time with just Louise. I think too much internet socializations has the same negative impact as TV, but it is much, much more addictive because of its "click-to-be-rewarded" system. It may fill a void in our hearts, but there is no way to substitute facebook stalking to interacting, talking and touching people face-to-face. Nothing on TV can simulate an engaging conversation.
TV helps us to fulfil our desire to be entertained. Now with the TV switched off almost permanently, I am beginning to open out not only my social networks and interactions, but I realize that being here in Singapore, there's lots to see and do really. From MovNatting in Dairy Farm Quarry, to Singapore Art scenes in the Singapore Art Musuem, plays and drama, to meeting and listening to live bands in Clarke Quay, to eating gelato ice-cream with Louise by the sea. Now TV can't do that, obviously.
Over the last few years, I've been more ambitious than ever before about growing in my own pursuit of personal development, our physiotherapy and hand therapy business, writing much more articles, meeting more doctors, treating more patients, doing public forums and talks…and we're open to more. We've opened two clinics, and with more to come. Over the past three months I've been thinking about creating some personal development digital products to help more people.
Spending less time on TV didn't give me more time for the PC. In fact, it too, made me question the amount of time that I spent on the PC. I've been cutting back and off some of my online activities that I logged and found to be not so important, and spending more time on things that actually matters much more. I no longer spend a stretch of time of more than an hour at my PC, often getting up to walk around, give my wife a kiss, send her a loving text, stretch, pray and sending out positive vibes to people that matter. And to give praise to God too. =)
Breaking this habit didn't even cause me to break out in a sweat. In fact, I think I naturally moved in that direction of not watching TV anymore due to practical reasons then, only now when I look back and thought about it, there are so many benefits of not watching TV. Today you may think that "giving up" TV is a huge sacrifice, but in my opinion and experience over the last ten years, it's probably just the opposite. Watching TV means sacrificing time with loved ones, reading books to grow, starting your own business, better forms of entertainment, and overall better life.