Thursday, June 11, 2009

We're hippies

I found this little gem I had written last fall for a website that never got around to publishing it. I thought instead of letting it languish in my documents folder, I'd share it with you.

I had an unexpected knock on the door this morning. It was the local phone/internet/cable company canvassing the neighborhood looking for more business. The man noticed that while we had their phone and internet service, we were not taking advantage of their television service.

“We don’t have TV,” I said to him.

I got a very strange look. Not even an incredulous, “You don’t?!” Just a stare.

Clearly he needed more explanation. I said the first thing that popped into my mind.

“We’re hippies.”

“Oh,” he replied and smiled. I said something else about not wanting our children to become little consumers so we banned commercial TV from our house, but I can’t be sure of what I said exactly. I was too surprised that the “We’re hippies” comment was so easily accepted and understood because we’ve been trying to explain for months to friends and family why we unhooked our TV from all cable, even basic cable, rendering it useless for watching broadcast shows (we can still watch DVD's on the TV).

While I won’t pretend saving money wasn’t a part of our decision, a bigger part of the decision for me was getting my children away from television commercials. According to the book Affluenza by DeGraaf, Wann and Naylor,

The average American will spend nearly two years of his or her lifetime watching TV commercials. A child may see a million of them before he or she reaches the age of twenty. There is more time devoted to them now – the average half-hour of commercial TV now has eight minutes of commercials, up from six two decades ago. (p.149-150)

Those statistics are simply unacceptable to me. There are many reasons why, but lets just look at this from the environmental perspective. Over consumerism is a huge environmental problem. All of the things that we think we must have take resources to produce. And, when we realize they weren’t all that important to begin with, disposing of them becomes an environmental problem.

I know I can’t keep my children away from the knowledge of all of the advertising that is aimed towards kids these days. They will still see it when they are at their friends’ houses. They will still get it at school. They will still see it on every inch of space that the marketing gurus can find to slap it on. But, they will not see one million of them while sitting in my living room. I will not allow it.

I know that unplugging the TV is a bit extreme. It won’t work for everyone, especially those who are huge sports fans or news junkies. But it works for us.

I think it’s important for families to find a way that works for them to expose their children to less advertising and commercials. To do what they can to limit the exposure to consumerism and the “gotta have it” attitude that is prevalent today.

It may mean setting limits on TV time. It may mean using a DVR to record programs and watching them with your kids – fast forwarding through the commercials as you go along. It may mean getting rid of TV altogether like it did for my family.

And don’t worry – limiting TV time or getting rid of it altogether won’t turn you into a hippie. But if you find people questioning your choice, you can always fall on saying you are one. Apparently, it works.

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Cate said...

I love this post. We still have the TV (but no cable/payTV for us) and we have a daily limit to how much we will watch.

We are very fussy viewers indeed - even the 14yo! Advertising is "muted" if we really, really, really want to watch something on those channels. Usually we watch Advert free TV, much nicer. This one made me smile - thanks for sharing.

Robin Shreeves said...

Thanks Cate. I'm amazed by how quickly advertising can stick in my kids' minds. We spent a night in a hotel last month and they got to watch shows on Nickelodeon. For days they talked about some indoor thing you stick on the bottom of your shoes that lets you slide across your carpet like magic. Best things ever. Really wanted to have them. I think they saw the commercial for them twice. Fortunately, they've stopped talking about them, but boy were they sucked in.

balmeras said...

LOVE this post, Robin. It's amazing how your life changes for the better when you turn the TV off. I have one, but it rarely gets turned on. Good for you guys!

Cheers- Bethe

Robin Shreeves said...

Bethe - the TV is definitely on a lot less now and when we watch something either on DVD or thru a rigged up system my husband has between Hulu, his PS3 and the tv - it's purposeful and without the "aimed at kids" commercials.

FACS Lady said...

Thanks for this post! I think it is interesting how the label "hippie" is so accepted in this context. I have been trying to convince my husband to have a month of no TV this summer and maybe if I say that we should become "hippies" for a month it might sound more "cool" and he would go for it!