Along with thousands (if not more) of Americans today, I made a decision, after long deliberation to cut the cord. What does that mean? It means that I decided that it was time to lose the addiction to television, specifically of the cable variety. I suspect that if we hooked up an antenna, we could still possibly access local analog broadcasts.
Several things played a part in making this decision, but the most influential was purely mercenary. It was the cost. In the past 20 years or so, I have seen the cost of my “entertainment” treble. Literally, it went from around $90 per month to somewhere around $230, not counting electricity to power the devices through which we enjoy the entertainment provided. This did not even include any of the premium channels. Granted, the services provided have increased somewhat over that same period of time. There are more channels from which to choose. The internet is a vastly different beast through broadband and the on demand programming available. The lines and wires, recording devices and higher definition have all changed from the original boxes that took up large amounts of real estate on top of the console televisions of years ago. The truth was that I could not justify the amount of money that we were spending on what was, for us anyhow, all of five channels out of a gazillion. I actually tried speaking with the folks about a la carte options, but that was a no-go. We could drop down to just the basic, lowest cost package, but then we would have to give up what I refer to as our staple nerdom package. Most of what we watched fell on science fiction channels, travel, history, or science. We had programs we enjoyed on some of the major networks, but the other 1000+ channels were of complete indifference to us. I really could not even tell you what the programming was on many of them, and I’m sorry to all my friend who enjoy their greens fees and tee times; No one needs to watch a channel devoted to nothing but GOLF. However, in order to get BBC America or the Travel Channel, we had to go up to the larger package with the higher price and the additional channels that we couldn’t give a rip about otherwise. Seemed like a waste.
So, I started thinking that we could save a lot of money and just wait for our favorite shows to arrive on the various downloadable or streaming options (Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, etc.). I had a few friends who had already taken this plunge. I still had to have internet for work, but since it was less than a third of my monthly cost, it made sense. And thus after much discussion, the decision was made. I called the provider and cancelled our television. There was some intense conversation with the person on the other end of the phone and attempts to keep me in the fold, but I remained firm. After about 45 minutes to an hour, I had reduced my monthly cost by two thirds.
I’ll admit to a momentary panic once I disconnected the call. Oh my goodness what have I done?!? I imagined being at a loss for things to do in the evenings. I feared withdrawal from the constant background noise of random programming and marathons of programs to which I paid barely a notice while I occupied myself with social media or some app on my phone. But I reminded myself that I could always go back and sign up for another subscription at a later date (and likely with a lower cost since these companies seem to be more interested in new customers than retaining the old faithful ones).
As expected, we were able to catch most of the shows that we follow via one of the internet streaming organizations. On top of that, we could usually schedule our watching for one night a week or even every other week. Suddenly, the television was occupying a far less prominent place in our home and in our lives. Days would go by without switching on the tv. Around the same time period, I chose to move my personal laptop to the office, thereby removing another distracting electronic venue from the family room. The electronic devices remaining for my part were my electronic reader (Kindle in this case) and my phone. A part of me was expecting that social media and the computer/smartphone/tablet would start absorbing and assimilating me like a Borg colony, but that didn’t happen either, which was very surprising. It seemed that with the decision to disconnect myself from the addictive qualities of the television media, I also got some positive reinforcement from laying down the phone and breaking the hold of the social media as well (Yes, I know this is somewhat ironic given that any of you reading this probably linked through a form of social media and certainly the internet).
After a while, I didn’t even notice the missing sounds. Other things started occupying the time so recently vacated by the electronics: Reading, writing… not so much ‘rithmetic, but quiet activities and organization. Since I travel for work and sometimes travel for non-work, I wondered if I would revert and relapse into binge watching mindless marathons of show in which I had no true interest when I was in hotels with cable television or visiting family that was still firmly ensconced in the ways of the broadcast media. I found, to my surprise, that I did not even turn on the device in hotel or condo. I spent my time, again, reading or writing primarily. I found additional time to hit fitness center, gym, or just go for a run. I spent time with mindfulness exercises, meditation, or just pampering myself (something to which I rarely ever devoted time). Occasionally… just occasionally, I even spent time with friends or family in actual conversation without looking at a screen. What?!? Is this possible? Yea, verily my dear readers, the hold of the soul and time sucking devices and activities of this world can be broken. Like a magic spell, a well of time was released upon the dissolution of the imprisonment. Hours have been found in the day that previously seemed to have disappeared. Now, when we choose to stare at a screen, it is with an identified purpose and specific time limit (watching a movie or catching up on specific shows). Instead of mindless viewing and clicking and staring at screens while hours tick away, our decisions are conscious. We’ve taken back the controls by putting down the remotes and devices. It’s incredibly liberating. I recommend trying it, even for a protracted period.
A time may come at some point in the distant future when the media companies become more flexible with their options and their prices, and perhaps… just perhaps… I may reconsider my stance, but at this time, I cannot regret my choice to leave behind the realm of the boob-tube (and no, I do not mean the rather unfortunate 1970’s fashion faux pas). I never would have believed it upon the first inkling of the idea, but cutting the cord has freed up more than funds. It has freed me.