40 Days without TV

tv fast, minimal bright entertainment, lent

Our family recently powered down the TV, and kept it off (mostly) for 40 days. This was in part the "pruning" I talked about in this Lent post, and the fasting I mentioned in this New Year post. The idea was also brewing in this 100 things instead of TV post.

I am so happy we finally did it. We powered down the TV and got a glimpse of our lives without it. While it was in many ways difficult (unfortunately), any challenges led to a positive and better way to live.

For example, while the TV was off...

...there were more messes, while the kids played with their toys;
...there were some ripped pages in books, while the kids spent a lot more time reading;
...there was more quiet, and the kids filled it with their laughter and play;
...there were more fights, while the kids learned love and perseverance;
...there was room for my heart to feel lonely, and room to bring it before the Lord in prayer;
...there was more boredom and more creativity;
...there was more movement and interaction, more focus on God's Word without it getting washed out, more productivity and more rest, more imagination and more conversation.

And that was all just in the first five days!

Overall, I was simply left with this thought...
It is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord God,
That I may declare all Your works. | Ps. 73:28

Turning off TV (or other distractions, for that matter), gives me space to draw near to God. It leaves me room to actively put my trust in Him (instead of just saying it). And it opens space to see and declare His incredible works in my life.

Why do I ever bother turning it on?!

Turning off the TV: The Details

The above is all I really wanted to say about this experience. But I realize that leaves a lot of unanswered questions. So for those who might be wondering, here are some of those details about the what/why/when/how.

Why we turned off the TV...

I look at people that do incredible things with their lives, and I know they've done them in the pockets of time the rest of us are watching TV. I envy off-the-grid type families that are so happy and content with their early-20th century type lifestyles.

I meant it when I say we don't watch much--a few hours a week or less. And, yet, our television is still a distraction. We still watch it, and we still can't imagine completely getting rid of it. And that bothers me.

Our TV isn't inherently bad. Just like my frustrations with smart phones and computers and social media isn't the technology itself--it's our own human tendency to default. And not in a good way. We (I, especially) default to whatever is easy, mindlessly doing something until I've lost track of time or forget why I even started.

By reading and journaling through the Soul Detox reading plan on the YouVersion app (look it up! It's worth it!), I started to focus a little more clearly on how exactly I'm defaulting. Especially with television. Especially how I rely on it to keep me company when Daniel is gone. And it became clear I needed some time away from it to better focus on God and His direction in my life.

How we turned off the TV...

The fitted crib sheet in the above photo did not stay over our TV the entire time. In fact, it only stayed on long enough for me to snap a picture before Daniel got home and questioned it. We did, however, turn off the power strip that the TV, blu ray player, and Wii are all plugged into.

Did we keep it off?

The TV was turned on 5 times throughout the 40 days. I watched Bachelor twice (once with my sister), we watched the Oscars (of all things), we rented Argo for a date night, and we turned it on once to play Christian music through Pandora.

Did we watch anything else?

Yes, we did. We decided we mostly wanted to see what it'd be like to keep the TV off, and see what getting rid of our TV might mean to our computer use. The kids watched their shows (usually one or two a day) on Netflix, and Daniel and I caught up on a couple favorites on Hulu all on his computer in our bedroom.

What I loved about this was:
1 | Intentionality. We watched what we wanted to watch; we didn't scan channels just to see what was on.
2 | Intimacy. When we watched on the computer, we did so sitting together on our bed. I know, TVs shouldn't be in the bedroom, but this made me feel closer to the kids and to Daniel than when we scatter around the house in those lazy times.
3 | Not watching alone. I didn't like that I turned on the TV to "keep me company" when Daniel was gone. So I decided to not watch Hulu or Netflix on the computer when I was alone. Instead I spent that time reading, writing, listening to Podcasts, and blogging.
4 | No commercials. I've had nightmares from those dumb previews for other TV shows. Happy to  have spent a while without any of those!
Bonus | We spent a lot less time watching things in general.

What did we do instead of watch TV?

I had more regular devotional time, and returned to a better routine with the kids. Evenings when Daniel worked late were spent listening to Podcasts and getting things done (like redesigning Beginner Beans). After prayer and brainstorming, I decided to transfer my cloth diaper posts to a new site: PrefoldsLove.com. We read and enjoyed quiet more. Which all couldn't have happened if TV was our background noise.

Will we keep it off?

Not necessarily. We're back to watching Netflix on the TV, turning it on for Pandora, and Daniel and I are happy to watch The Voice (better live than on Hulu). Otherwise, we like watching our few fav shows after the fact on Hulu. I like not feeling attached to the "background noise," and feeling empowered to live my life instead of waste evenings away one show at a time. Incredible how quickly an evening can pass when the TV is on! Even if it's just one show.

I'm sure this isn't the end. I'll probably continue to feel tension with technology and my dependency on it, especially as God shines His light into those areas of my life. For now, I'm happy to have taken a break in this area of life and reset "normal."

Have you or your family gone on any sort of media fast?


More technology posts...

less technology, more life
rethinking tv, facebook, blogging
100 things instead of tv
taking a break from technology