I Stopped Watching TV For 3 Weeks And This Is What Happened

Unsplash/Ian Dooley

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a serious love-hate relationship with television. I love how my favorite series fill me with a sense of nostalgia and serve as my visual comfort food when I’m feeling out of sorts. I hate how streaming makes one episode lead to binging on eight more, absolutely destroying my productivity. I love how much I can bond and relax with loved ones in front of sitcoms like “Parks and Recreation.” I hate how television time ultimately replaces reading time, which is what helps me stay educated and, you know, give my brain a challenge.

So instead of continuing to fight this same battle with myself day after day, I posed the question, “How much would my life change if I just ditched TV altogether?” And once I get going with a thought like that, I have to see it through to find my answer. Right then and there, I decided to turn the television off — and leave it that way — for three weeks. Here’s what I learned from my time without it.

I loved how peaceful my apartment can be.

I live in a loud, crowded, overstimulating city, so to be able to come home and experience radio silence at the end of the day brought a sense of pure relief to my entire body. It felt like I suddenly had all the room to breathe — even in my 400-square-foot studio. Nothing demanded my attention (other than my cat impatiently requesting his dinner) and nothing robbed me of my remaining mental capacity for the day. I was in full control of how and when I chose to allocate my energy, and I loved it.

Reading a good book was a million more times satisfying than any TV show or movie.

Naturally, once all of the daily the to-do’s on my list were taken care of — you know, cook dinner, tidy up, check my emails one final time — I settled in with a good book. And it’s amazing how lost you can get in the trajectory of a paperback when there aren’t any noisy screens projecting distractions into your space. I indulged in the work of some of my favorite authors, experienced a couple of new ones and felt entirely entertained and delighted by my quiet reading time.


I slept like a baby.

I’m already pretty neurotic about abandoning my smartphone and computer pretty early in the evening, charging both of them far away from the comfort of my bed. But removing this final screen from my life hours before going to sleep meant I naturally grew sleepy earlier, I fell asleep more easily and I slept like a rock. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed so much sleep in my life while also being productive all day long. My routine became even more solidified — a morning workout, a day at the office, a nice dinner followed by personal reading time and then bed — and I had zero complaints.

I desired a lot of quality time.

It’s interesting to see what happens to your perceptions of those around you when you choose to abandon screens for a long period of time and they don’t. All of a sudden, you become hyperaware of how often you’re actually competing for a friend’s or loved one’s undivided attention, and I found that to be incredibly frustrating. Since I couldn’t veg out to “Parks and Rec” with my partner, we had to carry on a conversation. And when we ran out of talking points, he turned to the television while I turned to my book. He drifted into his world as I drifted into mine, and we were oddly together yet alone. I think that kind of time is incredibly valuable for couples, but it certainly isn’t sustainable.

I felt totally out of touch.

The time I spent away from the television and immersed in news and literature made me feel more educated and cultured, but wow did it make me useless when it came to knowing about this commercial or that new movie trailer or which new season was added to Netflix this week. When you change how you interact with a substantial part of the world, you change your ability to participate in a lot more conversations than you realize. I didn’t mind missing the second season of “Stranger Things” the weekend it debuted, but I did mind feeling disconnected and irrelevant anytime my friends referenced it the weeks thereafter.

At the end of the day…

My little experiment helped me feel far more in control of my television exposure than I thought I was. I still pick several nights of the week to leave all screens black and go the novel route instead. But I also indulge in a movie night with my partner and some comfort food television on my solitary nights. And that’s okay. It’s all about striking a balance and knowing that ultimately, it is always a choice when it comes to how you end up spending your coveted personal time.