Last week, after having watched 3 seasons of Breaking Bad in 3 weeks on Netflix, my partner and I decided that we needed a month-long TV fast. We did this 2 years ago around this time of year and it was incredibly effective. We noticed that we were happier, were more productive, and generally more peaceful. But a lot has happened over the last couple of years and TV has crept back in. I will admit, it is a big crutch for me, a drug of choice, when other areas of my life are big and scary. But, like my meth-head friends on Breaking Bad, it doesn’t actually make me feel very good.
Last night, as I was reading The Price of Civilization by Jeffrey Sachs, I came upon this quote:
“TV…shifted the center of gravity of society from the public park and the bowling alley to the privacy of our own homes, as couch potatoes in front of the giant screen. Over time, the single screen in the living room migrated into separate TV screens in each bedroom. Families retreated from other families, and then family members eventually retreated from one another…TV watching is bad for your social health (and your personal health as well). TV eats away at social capital.”
In Sachs’ book, he “offers a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills, and an urgent call for Americans to restore the core virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity.” I am in love with this book so far. But, wow, it is hard to take. In the first part of the book, Sachs, an economist, clearly explains the greedy alliances and misaligned policies that have led us to become the divided, cynical, debt-ridden country we are. In this, the final section of Part One, called “The Distracted Society,” after having laid out all of the evils of politicians and corporate CEO’s, he zeroes in on us, the average American citizens, and our role in this whole debacle. Sachs explains that our “overeating, overborrowing, overgambling, excessive TV viewing, or indulging in yet other addictions” is just as much to blame for the state of our nation as the corruption in Washington and on Wall Street. We have checked out. We are disconnected. We are sitting on our butts and letting it happen.
I can’t wait to get Part 2 of the book – the hopeful part – where he tells us what can done about it. One thing I know for sure is that I can turn off the TV. I know I can finish this book. I know I can pay more attention to what is going on around me.
Yesterday, I wrote a post about how we can re-frame our new year’s resolutions in way that allow us to move outside of our individual thinking to a more collective thinking. This post really struck a nerve with my folks on Facebook. Clearly, I am not wrong in my assertion that it is our disconnection from each other that is bumming us out even more than the “bad behaviors” that come from being so bummed out. I am excited to see what happens to my energy and my attention when I am not in front of my individual screen. How will it deepen my love for others in the world? What steps will I take to improve my social health? What will I do to build my social capital?
This may go without saying but please don’t tell me ANYTHING about Seasons 4 or 5 of Breaking Bad in this next month. That would REALLY bum me out.