Conor Cawley: TV and Me – A Complicated Love Story

I think I watch too much TV. I used to be able to rationalize watching TV into not being that bad for me. I mean, reading is always considered a beneficial practice, and watching TV is just like fast reading, right? It’s not like I’m watching reality TV or Access Hollywood. I’m watching shows that, much like books, have writers. Even better than books, TV shows have multiple writers. And you know what they say: more is always better!


I think the problem arises when you realize that TV shows are made exclusively to make money. And while the goal of books is also to make money, the sheer volume of literature in the world means that the focus on money is less pressing. Plus, there aren’t channels and networks for books that are vying for the attention of the masses like it was a click on a Buzzfeed list.


So, do I feel like I shouldn’t be watching as much TV as I do? Probably. Mostly because it very explicitly gets in the way of actually getting anything done. Between getting home from work and actually sitting down to write this, I watched two hours of TV. Shows and episodes that I’ve watched a thousand times. Well not a thousand but at least three or four. Which, for an episode of Friends or Seinfeld, is plenty. They don’t really have the unlimited watch-ablity of a Family Guy, a 30 Rock or even a Parks and Rec.


I can’t help but think about what one of my communication studies professors talked about when I was in college. How TV is not a medium for engagement like video games or social media. You don’t sit in front of the TV with the intent of stimulating yourself. You sit in front of the TV to relax. Veg out. Empty your brain and let the laugh tracks and bright colors wash over you like a patient going under for surgery.


And that makes sense. I mean I can’t tell you how many times I have picked up my phone in the middle of an episode I was very much enjoying to peruse Facebook statuses and Instagram pictures. Why? Because I’m not immediately engaged. In all likelihood, I’ve either seen the episode or, worst comes to worst, I can rewind. After all, my relaxation time isn’t going to get in the way of my Facebookery!


What about reading? I’d like to think that reading to a certain degree has a positive effect on the brain which is why I have started to make an effort to do it more often. I mean, I haven’t done it persistently in years, but that doesn’t mean I’m not capable. It’s not that I DON’T read. I just don’t read now. If I’m being honest, I was unable to finish my now-favorite book because they kept releasing new series on Netflix… but I can totally quit whenever I want!


But if not for TV, what would I be? Would I be smarter? Or dumber? I feel like a lot of my social awareness comes from TV. Not because they get it right or even close to realistic. But the sheer volume of episodes, seasons and series I have consumed alone is staggering. And much like how constant texting has a positive effect on writing skills, being exposed to various social situations (even those as stupid as having two dates to the same dance) can eventually yield positive results in the form of social awareness.


That might explain why I’m good at giving advice and terrible at taking it. Maybe because talking to friends and girlfriends about important issues seems so simple in TV shows and so terrifyingly awkward in real life. Especially when your real life is filled with people that would make terrible TV characters. It’s like “you never talk about anything! Unless you are unimaginably drunk!” Or “You’re so talkative about stuff that no one cares about! You’re almost thirty! Let’s stop talking about your sexcapades!”


I can’t stay on topic to save my life today. And maybe that’s from the TV too (see I’m wrapping it all together). I mean, being raised on something that allows you to literally flip your attention from topic to topic is not only terribly indicative of my hobbies and interests, but also pretty specifically implies a lot in terms of ADHD.


While I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like without TV, I always come to the same conclusion: TV is a necessary vice that keeps me happy. Granted, there is no harm in managing my self control and making time for a few other things in my life, like reading, writing and honestly just being productive in general. However, there is no point in vilifying something that has played such a huge role in my life. So, if TV Tune Out wants to try to rip the remote control out of my hands, they better bring a crowbar.


  1. I love TV, which is why I can’t watch much. Can’t watch distractedly, while doing something else–I get fully, utterly absorbed. With good shows, of course. Bad stuff makes me indignant and angry for days. Either way, my writing suffers. Is your writing at all affected by TV habits?

    1. TV always affects my writing. Rarely in a positive way. I’ve caught myself on more than one occasion transcribing the dialogue of a show I’m watching into a piece I’m writing. But I feel like I said, TV has shaped who I am so it could go either way.

  2. Excellent post! I watch way too much TV and I procrastinate more because of how much of my “downtime” it consumes. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same episode again and again. TV has pretty much become a necessary background to everything I am doing at home. I need to stop. And pick up more books again.
    “It’s not that I DON’T read. I just don’t read now.”

  3. I used to read ALOT. That was all i would do. But the amount of tv shows and the addiction to watching episodes in a row has had my books lying in dust i don’t know where.

  4. I read and write a fair bit – and have found modern technology wonderful for limiting my TV viewing. I go to the Planner, scroll down to the programme I’ve recorded and watch it. If there is a regular scheduled favourite, I’ll watch those, too. After that, the set goes off. And only when I’m really tired or unwell, will I just sit in front of the box and just freewatch…

  5. Jesus, I can relate to this so hard. My excuse is that because I still analyze TV writing like a communications minor it must mean I’m self-educating.. Sure. At least we’re aware of our habits! I really enjoyed this post :]

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