Some Prefer living life to watching it on TV

The Orlando Sentinel,
September 1991
Susan M. Barbieri

Carollynn Hammersmith knew things were getting out of control when, confronted with the choice of watching a TV movie and going out with friends, she chose the movie. So two years ago the 26-year-old special events promoter and fund-raiser quit watching television altogether.

You read it right. No TV. Millions of Americans will be tuning in this week
for the start of the fall television season, but Hammersmith won’t be one of

“There’s more to life than sitting around watching TV,” Hammersmith said. “Why waste your time living vicariously watching someone else’s life when you can go out and see new things for yourself and experience life”

Hammersmith says she cannot think of any TV programs worth watching – not even the news. “There are some things that just don’t need to be shown, such as violence and gratuitous sex. We all know it goes on, but do we really need to see it?”

These are complaints TV network officials have heard ad nauseum. But they’re
probably not too concerned. After all, more than 98 percent of American homes
have at least one television set, according to the A.C. Nielson Co. IN the
average American hole, the TV set is on for almost seven hours a day.

Still, Neilsen reports that overall TV viewership is shrinking. While the
vast majority of parents aren’t banishing the tube from their homes altogether,
most actively limit their children’s TV viewing or at least are seeking ways
to do so.

It is not known how many people – like those interviewed for this story – own
television but don’t use them. Neilsen reports that 1.7 million American homes
are without TV sets.

People who don’t watch television say they have better things to do than sit
in front of the tube – like work, read, listen to music or socialize. “I don’t
have time. Not only that, my at home time is so precious that I don’t want
television in. I want quiet and I want music,” said Barbara Komlyn, a writer
for the Tupperware Company who leads a literary discussion group at the Winter
park library.

Komlyn’s children are grown, but she recalls a time her family game up TV for
Lent – 40 tube-less days in all. Her daughter, in turn, now restricts the viewing
time of her 5-year-old and 3-year-old.

“I had some real clear ideas about what television was good for when my kids
were growing up,” Komlyn, a former English teacher. “IT was not good for babysitting.
IT was good for expanding experience, and those things are accomplished by watching
TV selectively.”

“I see what happens to my own mind. My own mind goes to mush,” she said.
“I love movies, but the experience is different. There’s continuity. There’s
time to builds scenes. There’s time to get an aesthetic going.” Komlyn does
own a TV set, and occasionally rents movies. “I really like something that
has a beginning, a middle and an end, and that doesn’t have commercials. I
never watch network television and I never watch the news.” She used to subscribe
to cable so she would have something to entertain houseguests, but she cancelled
the service earlier this year.

While Hammersmith and Komlyn have quietly left their TV sets dark, there is
a small group of activists who adamantly oppose the medium. An obscure group
based in Oakland, Calif., called the Society for the Eradication of Television
has members nationwide. Its newsletter features a drawing of a man angrily
kicking in the screen of his TV. “It’s a drug, an opiate like anything else,”
said SET member Alena Smith, 41 of Santa Cruz, Calif. She admits to having
occasionally watched major news events at friend’s homes, such as the dismantling
of the Berlin Wall or political debates. But she said it has been more than
20 years since she watched TV regularly.

TV makes zombies out of people, Smith said. “They subconsciously become the
commercials they see. They consume. They feel rotten or disappointed if they
can’t afford things that are projected at them over television.”

Television has also been blamed for health problems, such s obesity. One recent
study noted that commercials encourage people to consume high calorie foods.
In addition, TV makes viewers moody and leaves them unable to concentrate, according
to a study released earlier this year by psychologists from Rutgers University
and the University of Chicago.

Jim Faherty has enough trouble concentrating without TV to complicate matters.
Faherty, 29, is an Orlando entrepreneur who organizes concerts and charity events.
“The whole thing is geared for a mentality I feel I’m above,” said Faherty,
apologizing for sounding pretentious and admitting he does not take advantage
of any of the high quality programming he acknowledges is available. “Commercial
TV is geared to one level – the mass audience – and to nobody else,” says Faherty,
who does occasionally rent offbeat movies. He is also a big David Lynch fan,
he says, and a friend tapes Twin Peaks for him.

But watching TV makes him feel guilty because he’s not doing something productive
with his time. “My friends are the same way. They feel they have better things
to do,” than watch TV. “It’s like I’m wasting time. Even when I was little
I couldn’t get into it. To me it wasn’t like real life,” he said. “It was
like a fairy tale. I couldn’t relate to it.”

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