When I first met my boyfriend one of the things that delighted me most was that he didn't have a television. For him, it had never been a conscious choice. He had never gotten around to buying a t.v. and had then just become used to not having one. And so, in our first few weeks together, there was plenty of time for us to get to know each other. We chatted, we listened to music, he played his guitar, we stared into each others eyes and .... all that kind of thing.
Before I met Chris I had always been a big TV watcher even though a lot of what I watched didn't particularly interest me. I watched it simply because it was there and that had always irritated me just a little bit. I found that when there was a TV in the house it was just too easy to switch it on. I never managed to leave it off for even one day.
So when it came to moving in with Chris it was an easy decision to try out the idea of living without the TV I could always give up and reinstate it if I actually missed it. And so the experiment began. The first thing that I noticed was that we could arrange our living room into a much cosier set up. Instead of arranging couches and seats so that they all faced one corner, we arranged them so that they faced each other. When people visit now, it is a lot easier for the whole group to talk to one another.
The next thing that I noticed was that I only missed two programmes on TV. The first was the news, but this I only missed on rare occasions when truly earth shattering events like New Orleans being flooded, the Pope dying or Munster winning the Heineken Cup for the first time occurred. So about every 6 or 9 months I wished I could watch the news. In general, however, I had no problem missing all the negative day to day stuff that normally got aired.
The only programme that I really missed watching on a regular basis was Nationwide, an Irish programme that highlights the many community projects, festivals, artists, historical locations and more that are constantly going on around the country. What I like about this programme is that it reminds us that there are many many positive things happening in Ireland, where as the news will just keep reminding us about the negative stuff.
But then it turned out that I could watch both the news and Nationwide on line if I wanted to. So every few weeks I tune into the R.T.E. news and flick through the headlines to see what I'm missing. But I have found that the BBC world news site gives a wider range of news and so I stick to that mainly. Then I look through the Nationwide archives and pick out the programmes that seem most interesting and watch 2 or 3 at a time.
In my on line travels I have discovered that there are hundreds of archive programmes on the R.T.E. radio web site. Documentaries on Jazz in 1930's Ireland, the Natural History Museum, musicians, artists and more were at my finger tips. One of my favourite programmes is "The Documentary on One". These are normally stories from the lives of ordinary individuals in Ireland who may be living through ordinary or extraordinary experiences - an insight that you won't find very often on T.V.
Apart from on line programmes we obviously have a DVD player on the computer and we use this on a sporadic basis to watch comedy series, movies from Mongolia, China, Japan, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Iceland, Russia, South America as well as the more main stream new and old releases.
Reading has popped up more frequently as a way to spend a winter evening and Chris and I even went through a phase of reading Terry Pratchett books to each other and I found that it's a great way to fall asleep. That's obviously why adults read to kids at bed time. It's brilliant!
Overall I have realised that our media encounters have become much more varied and far more interesting and yet I still watch much less stuff than I used to in my TV owning days. I don't think that TV is inherently bad for us but it is just too easy to overdose on it. The big difference with us now is that we actively choose what we want to watch as opposed to watching any old thing that happens to be on at a particular moment. It requires just a little bit of effort but it results in much more satisfying viewing while still leaving time for other stuff. Everything in moderation as they say.
It's two years and two months since the experiment began and as yet I have found no reason to reinstate the TV. For now, I will enjoy the fact that there is plenty of spare time for looking at the green fly farm in our garden and just chatting to friends a bit more often.
Click here to watch Nationwide on line
Click here to listen to the the Documentary on One