A Lesbian Avoids Boob(tube)s and Carpal Tunnel

Reasons To Toss The TV and Slow The High Speed Internet

It's not often that I make new friends. Clearly chick flicks lied to me and moving to a big city doesn't automatically convert you into a wealthy socialite. I have no ritzy magazine job writing scathing reviews of designer clothes (although I'm sure my convenience store uniform deserves one). I don't have huge parties with blaring music and hors d'oeuvres. I certainly don't go out pub-hopping on a regular basis, because neither my wallet nor liver can handle it. It's a mystery to me how a young woman is supposed to meet people outside work or school. If there's a Lifehack for that, I'd like to know.

We made a lot of cookies that night.
I remember a night in December a few years back where a friend from Montréal and I were baking shortbread cookies (she was baking; I was staying far away from the stove as possible for fear of somehow goofing up the food). We were just getting into the dark and dry cold of the 2010 Labrador winter, and the house was dead quiet save for the wind outside. The rest of our Katimafamily were out taking walks together; we'd all decided to get to know one another, and had partnered up and dedicated an hour to our pair, learning all about their lives outside our six month program. This may be just my brain pulling a hipster move and filtering the crap out of the picture in my mind, but the memory of that holiday season is one of the most rich and sweetest in my life. The house was lit with blinding, mismatched lamps. A plastic tree with paper decorations glimmered next to the couch with no legs. The walls were plastered with homemade posters talking about feelings and needs, held with green tape. Our kitchen always smelled like fresh bread, but tonight it was white with flour and the air was sweet with sugar. Kate was screaming.

My compliments for having the best reaction to my fourteen-year hobby ever. It definitely made me feel like I had something to be proud of. At the prompt of, "Tell me something about yourself," I had informed my now dear friend that I was a black belt in karate, casually, as was my personality at the time. She had complimented my nonchalance with an over the top, "OH MY GOD. NO WAY. YOU ARE? I TOTALLY DIDN'T EXPECT THAT," and told the seven other members of our group immediately after they returned from their walks, their faces flushed pink with cold and boots half off their feet.

Those rare few times I do meet new people, they often have a reaction similar to Kate's when GF or I inform them that we don't have a television - by which we actually mean we don't have a cable subscription. Our secondhand television, which is much newer at ten years old than our original thirdhand television, is used for movies and video games alone. We have no Netflix subscription. No satellite or cable connections. No gaming consoles newer than a Playstation 2. Most times it sits dark in our living room.

I once listened in on a conversation about trashy reality shows my aunts were having. That was one of the last times I was in "Grandma's house", a now-sold three-level treasure perched on a hill in the prickly grass of a quiet Cape Breton village. The building was buzzing with after-dinner conversation, and the TV blared from the room adjacent to us. All around me teaspoons clinked against glasses and women relayed their daily rituals. Far from serene stories of bubble baths and wine, these were re-tellings of long days at stressful jobs, finished with a late supper and terrible television shows "just for something to watch". The episodes were awful, they assured each other - overdramatic, scripted, and a waste of airtime, but they all watched these shows religiously, my mother included.

There's nothing wrong with a couple of guilty pleasure television shows. Sometimes you need a dumb video or two to distract yourself from a stressful day. I've been personally re-watching Cardcaptor Sakura through Youtube. My mom likes soap operas. Famous health bloggers like Jess Ainscough waste brain cells on shows like Keeping Up With The Kardashians. But with the way people react to my lack of screen-watching, you'd think avoiding a daily service to the boob tube was sacrilege.

"How do you go without a TV? I couldn't do it!"
"It's not that expensive! They have student discounts!"
"No television at all?"
"You should check if someone left the cable intact in your apartment!"

Neither GF nor I find our lives lacking anything because we can't watch TV. In fact, we're both glad it's stayed out of our budget. Student discounts or no, $100+ a month is a lot of hard-earned cash to be shelling out "just for something to watch". If we could specifically choose the two channels we have any interest in (Discovery and History, and maybe TLC because GF likes dumb shows about dramatic girls picking out wedding dresses), I'm sure a couple dollars would be worth the education. But to use precious daylight staring at a box that takes thirty minutes out of every hour to try and sell me things and the other thirty insulting my intelligence, and to pay huge sums of money for the privilege of letting it do so...?

We once had a month of free cable from our internet provider. I don't think I've ever talked to GF less, even when we were four provinces and six months apart.

Everywhere we go in this high-tech world we're exposed to screens of some sort. Whether you're one of those folks who can't tear their eyes away from your cell phones (what on earth are you looking at that's so interesting?) or someone like me, whose job involves a touchscreen computer all day, almost everyone in the developed world is constantly straining their eyes to stare at pixels in one way or another. As you can imagine, this is terrible for our eyesight. Ever notice how many more people have glasses now then when you were a kid? We're an entire generation suffering from nearsightedness and problems focusing. (Also, if you're cell phone addicted, you probably have hypertension in your neck.)

According to BBM Canada, Canadians spend up to thirty hours a week watching television. That's thirty hours of sitting around doing nothing except maybe eating. Eyes get strained, brains get fried, and nobody has anything interesting to say in a conversation that begins with, "So what have you been up to?" If you used those thirty hours a week to, say, go running, you'd be booking it five hours a day and be both ridiculously physically healthy and ridiculously mentally unhealthy at the same time. So that's a bad example. But if you could take those thirty hours and divvy them up - use them to read a good book, go somewhere fun, cook a healthy meal, hang out with a friend, play pretend with your kids, et cetera, et cetera, just pick up a women's magazine and they'll give you ideas. I'm sure we all realize that thirty hours a week is a huge waste of lifespan, and although I'm sure not everyone dedicates that much time to their TV, it's no stretch to say we all watch much too much of it. If you died today, would you feel like you'd really lived, when a fifth of your life was spent watching teenagers in too much makeup scream at each other?

The Katimavik program was completely, thankfully, free of a television, and I've been without one since I moved away from my parents in 2011. When you don't have total anytime access to the world of the telly, the times you do watch become that much more memorable. GF and I recall dates and events based on what movies we saw in theatres in what month. Playing video games I haven't since last December fill me with holiday fuzzy feelings of nostalgia. When I was in Labrador, watching Miracle On 34th Street in a little private room with my nine closest friends at the time was an event we looked forward to all month, and a chance to spend time together laughing, instead of mindlessly eating out of the same chip bowl and calling it a date.

When I want to watch a specific show, I look it up on the internet or rent it from the library. With a computer, I've found no need for television. This said, I know I spend too much time mindlessly surfing the web - some days, and I know I'm not alone in this, I'll realize that I've been scrolling my way through endless pages of GIFs for hours and learning nothing of interest. My relay of the day to GF when she comes home from school is a repetitive cycle of, "So I saw this thing on somebody's Tumblr..."

I've decided it has to stop. This is the 21st century, and of course I can't avoid technology, but a woman in her twenties should not have blood clots in her legs from sitting too much (which I'm sure I'm heading towards, being as there are days I can hardly remember standing). I've decided to lessen my use of the Web-connected boob tube with exceptions for homework and blogging, which I do rough drafts of on paper. I tend to start getting sleepy as soon as it gets dark outside, so I'm restricting my internet surfing until after eight at night, so that I can spend my daylight soaking up Vitamin D and enjoying our short fall season (and working on my self-inflicted Autumn Squash Challenge - more on that later).

True, we can't all pull away from the technology of necessity, but consider giving yourself a break from those screens around you. Find something creative to do. Bake. This is the season for it. Write. Do your homework. Draw. Nap. Walk. Phone. Hang out. Find something to do that fills your day with memorable things beyond a funny cat video. Make your days last. Remember when you were a kid, and the days felt like forever? Aim for that.

In closing,

1) Baby steps. Take them. You don't have to toss out your television or bar the family from their video games, but maybe tell the kids they have to play outside for the day on the promise that you'll all watch a movie or play a game together at night.

2)  Mom had a set of rules when my sister and I were kids that I've stuck to my entire life: when you have guests, you leave the computer alone. No video game unless they're two-player. No TV until you've been outside for a while (and absolutely, positively no television in the dining room or your bedrooms). Stick to this and you'll find your days become a lot longer and your conversations a lot more personal. Avoid tech when you've got a friend over. They came here for you, not your entertainment systems.

3) But seriously, what's so interesting about your cell phones?

With whirs and buzzing and a couple clicks,
- Leah

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