I’ve decided to take up the challenge.
The last week of April or the first week of May usually marks the TV Turn-off week (now known as Screen-Free week)
The aim of TV Turn-off week is to reduce the amount of television Americans watch and to focus on activities that watching television displaces like reading, creativity, productivity and healthy physical activity.
Reason 1: A fast from the T.V. lifestyle is needed
Television isn’t just a technological object, or a medium. It’s a lifestyle.
According to TV-Free America (TVFA), since 1995, over 12 million people have experimented and thrived with a TV-free lifestyle.
Many of us can benefit from this kind of a “fast” from TV, even if it is only for a week. It will give us time to rethink the role television really plays in our lives and how much of an impact it has on a practical level.
The idea of not watching television, at one point, seemed very strange to me. Even now, while I am more aware of the amount of time often wasted by television, as well as its sexual and violent content, never watching television again seems strange, since it has been such a staple of my life for so long.
Growing up watching Sesame Street and Looney Tunes, then the A-Team and WWF (World Wrestling Federation) wrestling in elementary school, spending my teen years watching sitcoms like the Cosby Show and Family Ties and my 20s watching more “intelligent” programs like the X-Files, Oprah or documentary programs indicates just how much television has been part of my life.
TV was how I related to my friends at public school, and my Muslim friends.
It was how I often spent dull, Sunday afternoons, not putting much imagination into what else I could be doing with my time.
So a break away from the glowing box of charms which has been a fixture in my living room for years will be interesting.
Reason 2: T.V. content is no longer appropriate
There’s also another reason I want to turn off the TV between April 24 and 30.
There used to be a time, way back when, when I could comfortably sit and watch some television shows, at least the news, with my parents.
Today that is practically impossible.
Even when watching the news, I usually take the responsibility of the remote control, since the commercials and even some news items (i.e. Monica Lewinsky’s graphic descriptions of her White House escapades with Mr. Clinton) are no longer suitable.
My poor father, who likes to “take charge” of the remote control, often doesn’t know what’s coming and sometimes ends up pressing the wrong button on the remote.
As a more “experienced” television viewer, I have learned to pick up the nuances and signals that something’s coming up that I shouldn’t be watching. I prepare myself by precisely placing my thumb on the channel changer of the remote. It’s like getting ready to fire a missile and wanting to make sure it hits its target.
But many times, the inappropriate material (and that’s putting it lightly) flashes by in a matter of seconds, so that even if you do change the channel, you’ve still seen what advertisers or television show producers want you to see to get the message across. It’s a lose-lose situation.
While there are definitely programs that are informative and useful, frankly speaking, and especially if you don’t have cable, they are the minority.
Most of what’s on television today is not suitable for Muslims, young or old.
Reason 3: To take stock of how time is spent
I would also like to take up the TV turn off challenge to observe how I fill my TV-free time. Maybe I can finally read the collection of Islamic books I’ve borrowed to read and eventually return “one day”.
Maybe I can start memorizing the Surah I’ve been putting off doing for ages.
Maybe I can clean out the junk in my room.
And the list goes on.
These are some of the reasons I’ll be taking the TV turnoff challenge. I encourage you to do the same. What have you got to lose?