The days are getting really short in The Netherlands. Today, the sun rose at 08:36 and it will go down at 16:28. It gives us Dutch people a maximum of 8 hours of daylight. For 16 hours of the day, it is dark. And somehow that has been affecting the amount of time I watch television. The past few weeks I have watched a lot more television at night than I do in autumn, spring and especially summer. I have a love-hate relationship with this behavior and wanted to write about it to see if people could relate. The question arose: should I minimize my television time?
Love-hate relationship with television
Let me first explain why I have a love-hate relationship with television. Well, like many people, I love laying in bed or on the couch watching television. It feels relaxing and on some of these dark days I can even look forward to it. And gosh, do I love television. I am a sucker for especially reality tv. Yes, I love MTV and TLC. I enjoy watching shows like Love is Blind (my current favorite), Temptation Island, Teen Mom and many more.
But at the same time I hate watching television. Because often, it makes me feel like I watching my life away. I am very aware of the fact that my time on this planet is limited. And so, I usually have this conversation with myself about whether watching television is worth that time. Does it make me a happier or better person watching all this television? Will I remember these nights where I watched television for hours at the end of my life?
Because those hours add up. If you watch one hour of television a day, that is 7 hours a week and 28 hours a month. And one hour of television a day is relatively low. The most recent numbers show that the average Dutch person watches a little over 2,5 hours a day. Because well, it’s hard to stick to that one episode. That’s 17,5 hours a week and 70 hours a month. I think that’s a lot, maybe too much even.
I often think that I could use those hours in a better way. With 28 hours a month I could start that knitting project I’ve been postponing, or that painting I wanted to start. I could instead read a few books (but maybe that’s the same as watching television?) or join that board-game club I say I have no time for. Or I could invest the time into friendships or family relationships. But then I again. I have an extreme urge to be productive. And maybe these thoughts are just a cover up, for me not letting myself relax. I don’t know.
So, I guess I can’t figure this out right away by myself. I then thought: I need research to answer my question: should I minimize my television time? In order to do that: I have to answer the question of what I want the activity of watching television to give me. I think that’s relaxation and happiness. Well, I spend about one hour to dive into that real quick, but I can’t really find a clear answer. That’s normal, you need to dive deep into the matter to find out all of that. Meta-analysis, with a good look at the methodologies used. I’m not going to invest that time.
However, I have always had a strong opinion about this. I have read a lot about experiments where people threw out their tv and became happier persons. And I also think the general opinion about having too much screen time is clear too: it is not good for you. Especially right before bed. Your brain needs to proces all the information given to it and that makes you sleep lighter, as is the case for scrolling on social media before bed-time.
Rules I need
I have to admit here that I don’t think there is a clear answer to this question. Watching no television at all feels like no option for me. There are some informative tv-shows that I learn a lot from. And I want to keep on learning from that. And then there are tv-shows which have really made my life happier. The Handmaid’s Tale for example. Or Grey’s Anatomy. I just don’t want to give those up. They bring me joy.
So no tv at all is no option for me. But at the same time, I still feel watching too much television is also not good for me, as that makes me feel guilt. And so, for now, I have set a few rules for myself to have some rest in this matter. It may seems very self-restricting, but I thrive on such rules. Here’s what I figured for now:
- No live television
- A maximum of one episode per day
- No television in the last hour before bed
I think with those three rules, I have found a right balance. I don’t want to skip tv all together, as it does make me happy sometimes. But live television sucks. It’s not intentional. You just watch whatever is on. And you’re forced to watch ads. So that’s off limits. And then, the golden rule for me will be: a maximum of one episode per day. I think this will eventually bring the most balance. I then don’t have to give up anything I love, I just dose it so that I have a great amount of time for other things too.
And the last rule, about no television in the last hour before bed, will be a hard one. I usually watch television the last hour before I go to bed, as I think that makes me relax. I think the alternative for now will be reading. Journaling, drawing or painting are also good options.
I like the idea of these rules. And I hope 2024 will be the year where I finally found a good balance to this matter. I can then end the endless thoughts in my head about whether I am doing the right thing. I’ll just have to see. Maybe it’s not do-able. Maybe it’s just me wanting to be productive and not allowing myself to relax. We’ll see.
Do you recognize this love-hate relationship with watching television?