I Tried To Kick My TV Addiction—Here’s What Happened

In 2017, it feels that some of our addictions are insidious. They aren’t overtly ruining our lives the way drug use would, and no one really takes them seriously. But for me, as a single woman of a certain age, I do wonder if my rather serious dependence on television may prevent me from ever becoming not single. As an introvert, I prefer socializing with my TV friends (saddest statement ever written) to going out with new people, which is problematic for obvious reasons. After a recent entire weekend spent cuddled up with Master of None, The Handmaid’s Tale, Veep and other lovers (during which I made very limited contact with IRL humans), I decided enough was maybe enough and it was time to cut the cord. Here’s what happened when I attempted to turn off the TV.


I'm Addicted To TV ... Help!

Right off the bat, I'm worried: I don't have plans for the night, and I love to babysit my tired post-work brain with a little TV. After work and working out, I head home, literally twitching with desire to turn on the television. I fight the urge and instead cook a proper meal and open a book. This doesn't stop the little voices in my head. But, I think to myself, I’m tired and have had a long day. All I want to do is watch a little TV. Half an hour at most. Maybe I can start this experiment tomorrow. Thirty seconds later, I'm happily zoned out to Masters of Sex. Thirty minutes turns into two hours, I miss my bedtime and end up with a night of insomnia as punishment for my weakness. Not a great start.

I'm so tired from my sleepless Monday night that I cancel plans after work. It's too early to go to bed when I get home, as I'm trying to adjust my body to a regular sleep schedule. I try to read, but my brain is too foggy and slow. Click. The TV goes on.

Good news! I slept like a baby the night before, so this night I'm keeping my plans to get drinks with a friend. This should make it easy to keep the TV turned off, right? "There's a new Handmaid's Tale tonight," my drinking buddy says, unaware of my pledge to remain unplugged. A fellow TV buff, he then goes on to run me through everything he's watching right now as he simultaneously orders round after round of innocuous-looking beer flights. A few hours later, I've Uber-ed home and though I should be tired (read: drunk) enough to pass out, I can't resist the siren song of The Handmaid's Tale. When I can't find the new episode, I watch Masters of Sex until I fall asleep instead. Score so far: 0 for 3.

Tonight, I have a date! If it goes poorly, I know I'll go home to my TV, so I go into it with a positive attitude, willing this setup-through-a-friend to have a personality. Luckily, he does! We hit it off, and after a couple hours of conversation, I head home and go straight to bed. No TV, at last!

It's Friday, and tonight I have plans to go to Joshua Tree, the only place in the world besides Bali in which I feel totally capable of unplugging. This is a happy coincidence, since I know I won't be tempted by my TV companion while I'm there. Or so I think.

I arrive sometime around 10pm, and the friend with whom I'm staying pours a couple glasses of wine. "Wanna watch a movie?" he asks. I think you know how I answer that question.

It's Saturday, and a beautiful one at that, so I have no intention of staring at any screens. Until, that is, day drinking leads to a nighttime hangover for this lightweight, at which point "Wanna watch a movie?" is thrown at me once more. We watch two.

Midday Sunday, I rush back to LA from the desert for a second date with Wednesday's boy. We go see some amazing art, talk for hours at a neighborhood bar and then he asks if I want to watch the Twin Peaks reboot with him. "No thank you," I say proudly. "I should head home." Once there, I grab a book—I'm currently reading I Love Dick—and curl up on the couch. Then, I remember that new Handmaid's Tale episode from Wednesday, the one I haven't yet watched. I tell myself I can screen it tomorrow, when the TV experiment is over, and I return to my book.

Approximately five minutes later, I succumb to the taunting in my head. The TV goes on, and I happily consume The Handmaid's Tale, the newest episode of Veep and a Chelsea Handler episode (or two).

My experiment has ended, and I am ashamed. Out of all seven days, I was only able to avoid zoning out in front of the TV once. Once. If you replaced TV with a hard drug, I'd be dead by now. And they do say watching TV shaves years off your life (due to its sedentary nature), so essentially I'm a smoker without a nicotine patch to see me through quitting. I think about removing my TV—I spent 10 years without one, so I know it's possible—but I know it's a futile gesture, as everything I want to watch is available via my laptop. Maybe, I think, it's time to move back to Bali, where my internet was slow and my favorite streaming services weren't available. I decide to seriously consider this option... once this season of The Handmaid's Tale concludes.

Or maybe it's time for an intervention.