T.V. Turnoff

How many times has this happened to you? You get home from work and turn on the television to relax for a few minutes before getting to your evening chores – dinner and a load of laundry that’s been piling up since October. You watch the last 20 minutes of Oprah, and afterwards, since you’re already sitting comfortably, you channel surf a little to see what else is on. After 30 minutes of mindless flicking, occasionally going back to MuchMusic to see whether the new Britney Spears video is on, you happen upon an episode of Crocodile Hunter and for the next 40 minutes it’s Steve Irwin wrestling crocs and getting bitten by snakes. Then it’s onto The Simpsons, Third Rock From the Sun, Simpsons, Third Rock marathon, followed by Friends and more Friends. You watch police chases until 9 o’clock, a network drama like ER until 10, then back-to-back episodes of Seinfeld. You alternate between the news and The Daly Show until 11:30, then divide your time between Letterman and the late movie on TBS.

Suddenly it’s 2 a.m. You come out your reverie like a coma, confused, weak at the knees, and severely dehydrated. Your eyes can’t seem to focus as you kick off the crumbs of your peanut butter and jelly dinner, stumble to your bedroom and collapse in a heap. You want to sleep, but when you close your eyes, all you see is a big blue rectangle. The last nine hours passed by in a blur, like you were kidnapped by aliens or under anaesthetic. In a sense you were.

Don’t feel too badly, however, because TV is supposed to be addictive. Flashing lights, sound, action and carefully orchestrated cliffhangers keep you hanging on – even if there’s nothing on, there will be in another half hour! While you may be the one holding the remote, you’re definitely not the power in control.

To help you clean up your "mental environment" AdBusters is sponsoring TV Turnoff Week from April 22 to 28 – "Watching TV is a passive, brain-emptying experience – not even network executives deny it… The point is to think for a moment about what it means to spend hours every day somewhere in between living and dead."

While TV viewership is actually down among Canadians, the time saved is generally being squandered on video games and the Internet.

According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian watches 22.7 hours of television a week (25 hours in the winter and 20 in the summer) – that’s more than three hours every single day! Although men tend to watch television longer – a baseball game runs more than four hours – women actually watch about five more hours more of television each week than men.

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