10 Reasons to Watch Less Television


“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.” – Author Unknown, from New York Times, 1939

Life is meant to be lived, not watched. To get started living your own life rather than watching others live theirs, consider its impact on your life.

Ten Reasons to Watch Less Television

It is influencing your worldview. Anybody who has ever been a policeman, a lawyer, a psychiatrist, an ER doctor, or an FBI agent will attest to the truth that television does not accurately portray their life. In almost all aspects, television rarely depicts the world and life accurately. Too much television results in disillusionment about what to expect from the world around us. This can most commonly be seen in people’s expectations of love, romance, and sexuality.

It is influencing your spending habits. If you think you are immune (or too smart) to be influenced by the power of advertisements, you are wrong. Corporations do not spend trillions of dollars in advertising hoping to influence you. They spend trillions of dollars because they know they will influence you.

It is taking you away from the real people all around you. The characters on television are not real. They are thought up in an office building and given life on a piece of paper. In contrast, you are surrounded everyday by real people living real lives. These real people are facing real problems. They need you. And you need them.

It is robbing you of precious mental energy. When your television is on, your concentration is held hostage. Your mental energy is drawn into the screen and your ability to control it is given up.

It is costing you money. Americans spend over $6 billion per year just paying for the electricity to power their television sets. Add in the cost of cable/satellite bills, dvd’s, movie subscriptions, peripherals … and we’re starting to talk about real money.

It impairs your capacity for rational thought.  TV oversimplifies reality. It presents subjects in a matter of minutes and everything is nicely wrapped up at the end. This harms clear thinking by conditioning you to expect that most problems have a simple, clear solution that can be implemented in 60 minutes or less.

It is bad for your health. Numerous studies draw direct parallels between excessive television watching and obesity.

It results in less satisfaction with life. According to the Journal of Economic Psychology, TV viewers report lower life satisfaction, higher material aspirations, and more anxiety.

It results in less sex. Couples who keep a TV in the bedroom have sex half as often as those who don’t. And if you ask me, that should be reason enough.

Its opportunity cost is too great. The average American watched an average of 5.1 hours of television per day in 2009. That’s time you could have spent exercising, eating a meal together, entertaining, enjoying nature, meditating, enjoying a hobby, reading a book, or fulfilling a dream.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Anna says

    5 hours a day?? How on earth do people have time for that?? I haven’t owned a TV for the past 4 years, and never miss it – even when I did have a TV I didn’t have cable/satellite. And now I don’t even have Netflix.

    But I do have time to exercise, read books, and make all my food from scratch. Coincidence? :)

    • Anna says

      Me, too! We got rid of our TV a few months ago after not having cable for a year. We do still have Netflix but barely watch it. I find that I feel SO much better when I’m not under the influence of television. I don’t want material things that I don’t need and I have time to exercise, read good books and spend time with family. I don’t think I’ll ever own a TV again.

    • Ant says

      its because people get addicted to tv that is the problem its not because tv is bad it just when you are doing all these have you ever missed fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!! look up 6 reasons why tv is good for you and you will know why

    • Ant says

      Anna you were proboblly addiccted to tv as a kid until the day your parents kicked you out and you couldnt afford a tv

      • Adam says

        Anna’s points are valid and true for her, they don’t have to be true for you. Ant, go and voice your thinly veiled financial and personal insecurities somewhere else.

        • Alice says

          I think this is rather hash thing to say ant should be allowed to speak her mind and receive only gentle comments back but what you put was rude and cruel.

  2. Robert Newbery says

    Great food for thought, I think it comes down to limiting the amount of TV one watches and being selective in what one watches…as for myself I Love PBS for everything it has to offer, even its news is not sensationalized like regular TV…just the facts from a global perspective. I refuse to watch most of the “junk” that is out there. Would rather read. I also limit myself to only a little news daily. Enough to be informed then off it goes. News is presented in a way that it is mostly distressing and so less is better, especially in the morning as it prefaces the day. Love this website!!!! Changes lives…

  3. Vincent says

    I am 33 years old, when I was 16 I left home and I have never owned a TV. I don’t watch it, or miss it. But I don’t think this article will get anyone to stop watching TV, they love their TV. And I guess that’s OK. Sometimes we live however we want.

  4. says

    I truely understand what T.V. can do to a person, couple and family. How about “Candy Crush” or what ever its called. It has to be as bad or worse the any drug out there.

    • lin says

      I think anything can be used as an addiction to an abusive level. its like letting your kids watch tv in the car. seriously> every time they sit down we shove a device in their face. at least it cant kill your body……….., just your relationships! LOL.

      • Jen says

        I figure there are appropriate uses for tv, even in a car. My sister has a tv in the van, but my nieces only get to use it for road trips. Last I went on a trip with them it was a 10 hour drive with a 10, 7 and 5 year old. While many parts of the drive were spent looking out the windows, lets face it, there’s large sections of highway with nothing of notable interest. So for a trip to NYC, the movie playlist included The Smurfs, Home Alone 2, etc.

        • alysha says

          No! At 7 my family took a long trip and we talked, sang, played games. I read the map. Not jokingly. I read the map and could tell you where we were at all times. You’d be shocked how many young teens can’t do that and soon those kids will be driving. If their eyes are glued to the screen, how will they know anything about their surroundings?

  5. Ellen Scott Grable says

    Excellent points! I haven’t owned a television since 2004 and I still watch too many movies (even if they are documentaires) on my computer! Real life is to be lived. Polo keeps me far too busy to watch someone else playing sports and making new friends…I am making friends, playing and bonding with the horses and people all around me. it is hard to snack when you are out living and moving about. I gave up a “networking” group I belonged to because when they made small talk it was about television shows and characters. I chose to spend more time doing what I love and I have met amazing people who share my passion!
    Keep up the good fight! Simple living is truly living.

  6. says

    Amen! This post goes perfectly with my post over at growing4life.net –10 things to do (instead of watch TV). I posted your post to my Growing4Life Facebook page, since it goes with it so perfectly. Thank for a great post! :)

  7. Sheena says

    I LOVE this article. It’s exactly everything my husband and I have been saying for years! We have two little kids, and have taken some criticism about how they won’t know what “everyone else” is talking about. Our hope is that they will be able to deal with this in productive ways because they know how to think and solve problems, not just tune them out in front of a screen. I feel like I could go on and on about this, but (probably fortunately for anyone reading this) bed calls – I’ve been living all day and I am appropriately wiped! =) Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article, the great quote at the top, and this whole website.

    • mike says

      Sheena dont doubt yourself. Five years ago we cancelled all our TV subscriptions due to circumstance, the result – my two girls are voracious readers, we eat dinner as a family at the table every night, my wife and I have proper conversations. No one misses the tv. We have movie nights as treats its awesome

  8. says

    the reasons are so true… be like the people in the pacific there is so much of socializing and getting together….. well can’t say much its a free world anyone gets to do their own thing…eh!!

  9. Oh please...... says

    This is a flawed article that simplifies the issue. The real problem isn’t how much you watch but what you watch. There are many great tv shows, movies and documentaries that can help entertain, inform and broaden the mind.

    • The Big Pill says

      It’s not “flawed.” You do offer a different perspective that presents a middle ground of some sort — limiting viewing to the kind of programming a person values. While I am not “ready,” to drop all TV viewing, this article reminds me that I can be more mindful of how I use my time.

  10. will says

    When you have burned out all the opportunities and you’re starving and have no gas. And stuff sucks, and no one looks at your job apps or resume attempts and everyone talks trash about you in a 30 mile radius.

    You don’t have to worry about tv causing anxiety or obiesity or those things, you have plenty of places that can cause many of those things aside from obiesity.

    When no one is on your side or in your corner and your wondering when your gonna eat, but have tv and videogames. I think your not mentioning the real issues.

    I’m worried more about, how to avoid gangs or ways to get a job or win a fight and when your alone sometimes tv is there.

    David Carradine saved my life off his lessons, dozens of times. Kungfu, even if it is from a tv is better then avoiding problems.

    • Ellen Scott Grable says

      Will, they are called books. Perhaps the Art of War or the Tao te Ching are good ones to start…or you could study Confucius and the lessons direct…just a thought to deepen your understanding of those lessons. Learning martial arts at a community center is even better. : )

    • Lisa says

      What are you talking about? He didn’t cuss. Plus, does he sound like a deep reader? Plus, maybe you could talk to someone about books vs. tv if you were LITERALLY (the correct usage) one, or a few, days away from actual homelessness. I understand what he is saying. No social life. No friends. If you are an adult (in this case 40+) it is nearly impossible to make actual friends. People are all wrapped up in their kids, or grandkids, or work or other situations. I made a concerted effort for many years trying to make friends as an adult in a relatively new town and it really just doesn’t happen. It is extremely difficult to leave the house and not spend money. I was an avid reader forever, but don’t really like to read now that I have presbyopia (yes! I do have readers I can wear). So, you either do everything by yourself, or kill yourself. Acquaintances would be angry if you killed yourself, so you watch tv. I know this is rambling, but I don’t think many here really get the abject terror of true homelessness or friendlessness. Oh, btw, I am very well socialized. Everyone likes me at the ivy league university where I work or when I strike up conversations with them at my local arboretum or anywhere else. But, their lives are full and they only have room for acquaintances (people with whom you don’t spend any actual time). I feel better now. I did not like the way you attacked him about not getting his Chinese philosophy from the i-ching or whatever. Shame on you.

      • Tish says

        I’m so appreciative of Lisa’s comment. I was feeling a bit odd and alone in my circumstances, and having trouble explaining to people what she just explained.

        While reading her comments, I couldn’t help but think, too, though, that many of those people who are “too busy” with their families and such, are actually online.

        They post photos of themselves and their families about how wonderful their relationships are, but, many are actually online all the time. How can it be both?

        I don’t have a t.v., but seems that I’ve replaced it with being online. That can be a good or bad thing or somewhere in the middle.

  11. distanceman says

    my significant other spends an average of 4 hours a night watching tv as she needs her “down time” and i am the one with the responsibility of everything else arround the house. Then when we go to bed, it is my turn to get 30 min to watch the news and fall asleep. Yes i am totally ok with the tv in the bedroom, that way i do not have to be intimate with her. she gets far more of that then she deserves.

  12. FrugalMom says

    I havent had a TV in my living room for many years. I dont have cable and I dont watch movies. When I have company we sit in my living room and CONVERSE. In other words…….. we use words, and talk. No distraction of the squawk box blaring. I dont own a stereo either, my home is a quiet and comfortable place to unwind after a long day at work without the distractions and noise interferrance.

    It has been quite a few years since I have watched TV and now that I dont get absorbed into the “reality” tv I hear the utterly ridiculous conversatons of my colleagues in the mornings at work and truely realize how much better off I am spending my time reading, studying, sewing, walking, cooking or any thing else I choose to do.

  13. copeland says

    TV is not that bad. It can be very educational. In fact I’m 16 and because of my low ability to learn as fast as my peers (no, not because I watched too much television as a kid) I watch a show called Signing Time which is a family organization to teach kids how to sign using American Sign Language. And on another note sometimes as a teenager it’s okay to turn your brain off for a little while just too stop thinking about all the unrelated drama in your life.

  14. Colonel Bogey says

    I am 68, have lived alone since I was 30, and have never owned a TV. My parents had one from 1950 on, but I quit watching much at about 13. If somebody gave me one, I might or might not hook it up (probably not), but whenever I have had the money to buy a set, I have always preferred to use it for something else. The only TV I ever see is when I am sitting in a bar, and it really bores me. I’ve never had a cell phone, either, and think that is the worst invention of all time.

  15. Kpinvt says

    As someone who loves books I must confess I find it funny that people always offer reading a book as an alternative to TV watching. Let’s see…people on paper not real, takes hours of time, keeps us engaged in stories with happy endings/ conflict resolution in 300 pages or less, etc… It really isn’t any different. As an adult who works hard, exercises, eats healthy and is pretty minimalist I like mindless TV at the end of the day to unwind. The people on the screen have problems I don’t have to solve and that’s a relief. I do usually do some brain game/puzzle type activity at the same time (because my brain can relegate TV to the background). Just thought I’d throw it out there…TV is not really our problem…we are.

    • Jimmy Combs says

      I agree completely. It’s more about attitude than anything. Someone can easily become anti-social with other means such as reading, blogging, video games, etc. What about someone who never watches TV but talks on the phone all day long. Keeping things in balance is best.

  16. Daisy Barajas says

    Hello . I just began to give up TV for only 10 days and I actually enjoying it. I can relate to almost every thing you gave advice to. These are the most great reasons to give up TV.

  17. don james says

    I stopped watching tv years ago I got sick and tired of all the garbage movies promoting violance, immorality filth I certainly dont want my kids watching it either and I dont miss it

  18. Tina says

    I watch about 2 hours per day of TV. I like the British mysteries on PBS, old Star Trek reruns, an occasional movie and the news. And once in a while, I watch “Project Runway”. My friends range from people who never turn the TV off to people who watch a little TV like me. We play word games, read, talk on the phone or do volunteer work and sometimes go out for lunch or dinner with friends or family.

  19. Senta says

    I am pleased this post was linked to FB as it further inspires my Lenten plans to give up TV for the 46 days before Easter. I wanted to agree with someone’s comments about PBS News. I agree that news is sensationalized elsewhere. I’m planning to use Lent to experiment with no TV. I was going to allow a little but I think I’ll unplug completely for this specific time. I like to read. I have started a novel and I complain that I don’t have time to exercise. I use TV to keep company as I’m alone at home. I’m inspired by other coments here too. Thank you sincerely.

  20. says

    Books offer EXACTLY what television does but you get to be CREATIVE and make the show appear in your head as you read words and everybody’s ‘shows’ are unique. Watching television you are merely a blob being influenced by the CRAP flashing in front of you that your lifeless blobs of eyes consume hungrily, more hungrily than your slobbering hole in your face cramming chips in it that should have stopped at the first bag.
    Let us start a ‘No Television Day.’

  21. Tish says

    I just think that it’s weird that people sing praises of not having and/or watching t.v., yet they are online a lot.

    I also don’t agree with people acting like either is evil. Think about the days before radio, t.v. the internet, etc.

    There were so many people suffering from not being understood and there was so much we didn’t understand about people and the world.

    However, I’ve gotten so many benefits out of no longer watching t.v.
    I think that’s partly because t.v. has gotten so bad in the last few years.

    I used to benefit so much from it. I’ve benefitted from not watching it so much because it leaves my mind so clear for thinking and planning.

    But, the thinking and planning has been inspired by my having replaced t.v. with the internet. The internet goes a step further than the t.v.

    Many people act as if the internet and social media is so bad. If that’s true, I think it’s more of a reflection on what they choose on it and why they are on it. Also, how long they are on it. I found this out with myself anyway.

    We can choose healthier content, it promotes positive thinking, and informs on positive actions we can take. However, I’m realizing that one has to be careful because it is commercially based.

    A lot of those positive thinking posts are put up by people who want you to spend your money on what they have to sell or organizations that do so to ensure that they keep their jobs.

    Others are well-meaning and unbiased.

    Nonetheless, I have to be careful, because due to all these things on the internet, I’ve truly blown so much money. It has done great things for me and my life, because I made a lot of positive choices.

    However, I’ve had to sell meaningful items and don’t want to go homeless trying to “fully live my life”, especially if it’s a life that is promoted online that isn’t nearly as marvelous as they present it, well-meaning or not.

  22. Ralf says

    Oh well, even if you have a TV, you can still switch it off. When I come home and I’m alone, the TV stays off until hubby comes home.
    We usually have the TV on so that we don’t hear the screaming neighbours. Although I noticed when I put on classical music (via a USB stick in the TV), they also scream less.

    TV is a time for cuddling and exercise. And no, we don’t subscribe to any channel. No channel has what we would like to see. So it’s news and freeview.

    And some movies I can watch again and again. Die Hard is a christmas movie. Probably the first movie I taped on a VHS. With subtitles. And played and paused and rewound again and again until I understood every single word. English isn’t my first language, and when I moved to an English speaking country, the landlord put a TV in the flat: you’ll probably need that. And yes, not just for learning language, but also for learning about typhoon.

    That was the time long before Internet.

  23. Msr says

    I haven’t had television for over 10 years, I am so boggled when people turn the TV on for “background” noise (um, how about some music?) The most shockingly bad part of television these days is network news – cnn, nbc, fox, whatever, they are all terrible, not even one step up from reality TV. There is no real reporting of truths and facts. I can’t believe they even call it news anymore.

    Because I don’t have TV, I haven’t a clue about what’s trendy or not with regards to clothes or cars or whatever, because I don’t have advertisers telling me what I “need,” and so I find I am satisfied with figuring out my own true needs and wants, and meeting them accordingly. It’s funny how you don’t feel the need to shop the day after Thanksgiving if you haven’t been sitting in front of the tv the day before watching commercials about all the big sales. And, as for Christmas, what a joy when you’re not all focused on the shopping (a frenzy that is fueled by advertisers).

  24. Jimmy Combs says

    I make an effort to watch TV only when I’m exercising, socially viewing it with friends and family, or doing research. I really enjoy watching TV and don’t think it’s absolutely bad for you. I do agree with many of the points made above.

  25. Sue says

    Did it gradually, first I stopped Comcast, then I cancelled Netflix, then I don’t drop by anymore Redbox..I watched only the (free) series that were really really great with awards nomination.. And, I took the TV out of my bedroom, never ever missed not watching TV on busy days.. Restful sleep is what matters.

  26. Lizzie says

    Agree, agree, agree. My husband, Bob, and I began our married life as minimalists (1975) without a TV even before reading Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television in The Mother Earth News. Eventually, one crept into our home;it nearly caused a divorce and we no longer have one.
    Alas, the internet is still here…obviously…I’m responding to a blog article I discovered on Facebook! The bright side is, I remember our minimalist roots and am heading back there asap. You may not hear from me again.

    • says

      It’s also an unhealthy thing to be watching during the day, evening and also during when you should be on a exercise bike or going on walks maybe at the beach with your boyfriend that’s one of the healthiest things you should be doing when you’re out in the fresh air
      It’s also not good for you
      To always be an couch potato and watch way
      Too much television
      shows or it’s reality
      Boring shows such
      As hgtv house and
      Home style channel
      Same with such kid
      Related kid sitcoms
      On either Disney Jr.,
      Nick Jr. and Cartoon
      Network those shows
      Aren’t good for your
      Children’s education
      Same with the adult
      Reality shows such
      As keeping up with
      the kardasians, the
      Bachorlarette and
      The barchorler too.

  27. says

    All television reality shows and it’s children’s sitcoms
    Aren’t really good to watch even once you’re on your summer vacation because the people that you’re with or visiting you can actually get the feeling that you’re not really paying attention
    To those you’re surrounded by even if they’re your aunts and uncles, cousins and it’s not fair to them once you don’t even talk to them so
    all of you girls stop making yourself to watch television because you should be doing something that is worth while on vacation
    Such activities are being educated by the books
    You are reading that’s
    Something that you’re interested in doing for
    the day maybe you can
    Go for an small amount
    swim or could go for a
    Healthy walk to get
    Some ice cream but
    Make sure you do
    That after dinner
    That’s something’s
    You could do during
    The day those things
    Plus go to the beach
    And fly a kite along
    With your niece ok

  28. says

    , on the other hand, raised its cigarette prices by 41-44 cents per pack and
    reduced the discount it offers to retailers to keesp its bottom line.
    Along with your appearance, your social life will improve.
    But quitting smoking is ffar from easy and the more information you have, the higher your chances off success.

  29. Ellen says

    Maybe what I would like to add falls under worldviews, but I think that if someone watches even the news too much, they can be so polarized by what the media says. We should watch the news to catch highlights and know what’s happening on a daily basis, we don’t need to watch it for five hours straight. A lot of times, these news channels will show the same thing every hour until they get new news material. Also, keep in mind that the news doesn’t always give the whole story.

  30. Michelle says

    People look at me like I’m insane when I tell them that no, I don’t have a TV or a netflix or any of that. Of course I also don’t play video games and don’t have a smartphone (I loathe those. They KILL social interaction. Not sadder than seeing people go out to eat together and everyone is just on their smartphone rather than spending time together). Yes, I have a computer but I mostly use that just for my writing. Then the same people wonder how I find the time to take a nature walk every day and write and post four 3k chapters every week. I do watch DVDs or stuff on the computer occasionally. I really find other peoples TVs annoying now, especially commercials. I cannot take it. I loathe going over to someones house and then they just sit in front of the TV and “talk”. It’s distracting! Either we talk or you can watch TV and I can go and do my thing at home.

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