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It just takes up so much time. That’s the real problem I have with watching TV. And it never seems to be as easy as just deciding not to. Once you expose yourself to it even for a moment, it seems to have an irresistible draw. I always feel as though I am being compelled to watch, the very act of doing so inducing inertia and draining my resolve. It feels like some kind of sucking leech, distracting me with sound and colour while it feasts upon my time, life, and energy. This description is histrionic beyond belief, of course; it’s just TV. But it is true to say that I am often left with a desolate feeling of loss after I have inadvertently watched one, then two, then three episodes of something.
I appreciate that it’s an often brilliantly creative and moving form of entertainment designed to take us out of ourselves and away from the stress of our daily lives. It is mindless escapism; the whole point is that it should make us feel relaxed, but most of the time, when I realise I’m getting sucked in, I start to feel uneasy and agitated. Even worse is the feeling when I ‘come to’ having been totally absorbed for an hour or two and realise that that’s it; I’ve wasted time I can never get back. It makes me irrationally irritable and upset.
Perhaps it is because I am not very efficient with my own time. I cannot act with speed nor even haste. I am a daydreamer and the most inefficient kind of multitasker; all is begun but never finished. I believe that it is my own misuse of time that makes me so sensitive to how precious it is. It may seem oxymoronic to say that I waste time and use it badly, and at the same time claim to treasure it and resent its frittery. Nevertheless, I feel that my often rocky relationship with time gives me a reverence for it. I have never in my life been at a loss as to what to do, I could never say that I have ever been bored—there is always so much to do and truly never enough time in which to do it. Amusing, perhaps, to those who think of me as often fairly passive, but everyday I am hoping that I will learn to make better use of my time tomorrow.
And so we come to that leech of time: television, or any kind of video entertainment, cinema, series, YouTube etc. There are some things I really love and that I am more than happy to dedicate my Sunday evening to however for the most part it’s a love hate relationship. I’m a little interested perhaps, I might engage with a programme, laugh, comment on it or find it interesting, but when it’s all over the bubble bursts and more often than not I wished I hadn’t paused to watch at all.
Having said that, as someone who is a self-confessed ill user of time, can I really claim that I would utilise those hours any better if it did not turn on the television at all?
The thing is that I know that I would. I have I often managed it, though not nearly often enough, and those evenings where I have refrained from engaging in most forms of visual entertainment, including social media, have been the most rewarding and most precious. I may not achieve everything on my normally overambitious mental to do list but I usually do one thing that is productive and that will benefit me later on. I usually feel much calmer too, more thoughtful, more positive, and much more able to wind down, which, in turn, means that I have a better night's sleep and wake feeling happier and relatively well rested.
Particularly after a long day at work and a tedious commute home, once you factor in cooking and eating dinner, there aren’t many hours left before midnight to get much done for yourself, or to have an early night for that matter. Taking out TV and other similar time sinks suddenly frees you up. There is so much more time to prioritise what is important, and you have so much more time for yourself.
I do know that for some people it is genuinely relaxing. I live with someone who is very efficient and good at compartmentalising his time, and so this opportunity to switch off for a couple of hours is seen as a welcome break. However, for me, I think it’s something in which I am going to need to have a lot of discipline. I know I am better off without it. I know that it makes me unhappy and far from relaxed and so walking away needs to be a habit that I keep practising until it sticks.
It’s not always easy being tired after a full day and feeling soporific following a big meal to rouse oneself into some kind of action and not to stay comfortably seated. My hope is, as with most good habits, the more I practice the more greatly I will feel the rewards, the more my mind will truly come to understand that there is more life to live than that which is handed to us on a plate and easily absorbed.