D and I have moved a lot in the past 10 years. We lived in several places in Vancouver, then Toronto and now in our Ottawa apartment. In the packing and unpacking that has been our life, we lost one item along the way: our TV. I can’t recall when or why exactly we decided we would live without a television. But the fact is that we have never looked back. Let me stop for a second and say this: I love television. I think The Wire is the best show of our generation. I am a fan of Mad Men, Girls, and House of Cards (both the original British version and the American adaptation –go Zoe!). But not having a television, that big, black thing that takes the prime real estate in our family rooms, has been completely liberating. (More wall space for art, for one thing).
Not having a television has freed most of our nights to do other things. Sit on the balcony. Play a game. Learn to draw. Read a book. Listen to the radio. I’m still amazed at how that minor adjustment transformed the way we spend our evenings. It made us much more aware of the time we have together and think more about how we spend it. And then some nights we still watch the shows we want to on Netflix or rent them from a local video store (I know. They still exist. Some of them).
Now that we have a toddler, taking a critical approach to our society’s passive obsession with TV has become ever more important to us. A few months ago, while visiting my cousin in Montreal, we talked about his family’s decision to forgo a TV. He and his wife have three beautiful daughters. He said this to me: “We’ve never had a TV. The best part is that our 13-year-old has never watched a TV commercial [at least at home…].” I found this really striking. It made me think that most other 13-year-olds have spent most of their lives being the target of insidious advertising campaigns. It made me think that, maybe, not having a TV will be one of those small gestures that will have a major, positive effect in our daughter’s life: that it will buy her time to find out who she is without being told who she should be by a big, black box in our living room.