The Value of TV: A companion of sorts.

In a previous post, I talked about how college had pulled me away from the programming that was broadcast on TV, an ever-present source of entertainment prior to that time. I want you to know that I'm not trying to downplay the value that a TV can provide. It's too easy to let the TV use you, instead of the other way around. This series of articles is aimed giving you a sense for how you can use your TV.

I find that parking in front of the TV for hours on end is often the least productive use of your limited hours in a day. As I discovered during the span of years when I had no TV at all, my productivity skyrocketed. But without some sort of background chatter, I hated the silence that I was engulfed in. This is just one useful and productive feature that your TV can serve.

TV can function as a generator of background noise.

Like many people, silence freaks me out.

Luckily for me, living in a large city has the benefit of being constantly surrounded by a ceaseless, nondescript, industrial hum. Cars and trucks of every imaginable size, high-powered industrial fans, and mobs of people create a cacophony of noise, pierced only occasionally by a shrill ambulance siren or an unpredictable sports-related shout of excitement. Even at work, the buzzing of the various pieces of equipment around me provide some respite from a death-like stillness that would otherwise drive me insane.

Whenever someone tries to sell me on the benefits of a sensory deprivation tank for relaxation, I quickly and awkwardly change the subject.

Even temporary phases of quiet get to me. The whole reason I enjoy camping is the novelty of the experience, the company I get to spend time with, and the joys of mimicking my primitive ancestors struggling to light a bonfire with which I can cook things. But the second the sun rolls over and the rowdy neighbor-kids pile into their tent for the evening, the usual sounds of the city that helps me get to sleep is absent. Instead, it is replaced by a creepy silence interspersed only by the cries of a lonely cricket trying to hook up.

I and many others find solace in noise. A part of it is the natural human desire to be surrounded by activity. As social beings, even the most introverted among us subconsciously craves the attention of others. Our ancient ancestors found safety in numbers, and our reptilian brains do also. 

One study in particular arrived at the conclusion that craving background noise is a learned behavior, acquired through years of constant exposure to TV / radio / music. Regardless of the rationale behind our fixation on ambient noise, the fact remains:

The TV can become that noise that we want. 

I enjoy cooking, cleaning, or getting ready in the morning with some random background noise / conversation. I set my alarm clock to the radio, despite my disdain for radio music and my distrust of mainstream news reporting. There's something soothing about having people you kind-of know talking at you, regardless of whether you are paying attention or not. Whereas I prefer to let my radio run or turn on YouTube Let's Play channels to act as an ambient noise maker, others fire up an episode of Friends or Seinfeld.

If you find that this kind of background noise helps you get through your day; embrace it.

Some people enjoy doing menial tasks while being entertained by the attention-grabbing voices and live studio audience laughter of late night talk shows. Others fall asleep to the ASMR-like quality of Bob Ross' soothing voice, as he calmly talks you through the act of painting landscapes. And for a handful of people out there, the dynamic ups and downs of sports games serve to keep you alert and focused on whatever else you are working on.

If this describes your level of attachment with the TV, then you have gone a way towards optimizing your use of TV. 

I know I personally find it difficult to write while watching / listening to voices, whether they are talking or singing. As I am typing this right now late at night, the usual excitement of the city life and street performers that I hear from my window has been replaced by big city-style ambient white noise, a humming sound that I find both comforting and soothing. Paying attention to the voices on TV steals away a fraction of your mental attention, so you should try and find the tasks that require little mental attention if you would like to watch TV while multitasking.

Pulling away from the TV can cause you to free up more time than you even knew you lost. There's a specific time and place for when the TV can add a positive benefit into your daily routine. Have you found any other ways by which the TV hasn't sucked away all your time? Share with me in discussion box at the bottom of the page.

More about using the TV: