I have a confession to make. I love television. Not all television, to be sure. And lately it seems there’s to be less and less to love. But I have always had a pretty (un)healthy viewing habit, going all the way back to when I was a little kid.
Despite my long-term love for situation comedies and juicy dramas and pretty much any kind of must-see-TV, my husband and I decided five years ago to cut the cord and ditch cable. Actually, my husband decided long before that, and it took me a few years to agree with him. To be honest, it’s been an overall positive experience for our family. And while I do watch (a little) less television, I am the first to admit that I don’t miss cable at all. In fact, I’ve become a huge advocate for “cutting the cord.” So much so, that I came up with a list of reasons why you should consider doing it, too.
Cable is expensive! And for some reason it seems to be getting more expensive over time, not less. The average price of a standard cable TV package, bundled with a phone landline and high-speed internet, is about $130 per month, depending on where you live. Before we unsubscribed, our bundle was closer to $200 per month, which is insane. Especially when you consider that we hardly ever used our landline, and the internet was not that reliable or particularly fast. And it did not include any “premium” movie packages like HBO or Showtime.
We opted to drop the landline at the same time we dropped the cable TV, and we were able to negotiate a promotional rate for our internet service, which brought our monthly bill down to about $75. (We also purchased a cable modem at the same time, and stopped paying $12/month to rent one from the cable provider – something that paid for itself within 6 months.) About a year ago, Google Fiber came to our town, and we were able to roughly quadruple our effective internet speed for about $50 per month. Even with a few subscription services added like Hulu+ and Netflix (which we were already paying for before we dropped cable), we are saving about about $130 per month, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Eschew pop culture
Let’s be real. If you are a Christian trying to live a faithful life, much of mainstream pop culture is not your friend. There are elements here and there that are tolerable, even compatible with Christian values and give us examples of the true, the good and the beautiful. But there is a lot of content on network and cable TV that clash with, or even mock, faithful Christian values. And some of it is downright filthy.
Now I am no prissy church lady (my most frequent confession topic *might* have something to do with my language) but even I have come to think of cable as a sewer line with a direct connection to your house, dumping toxic pop-culture crap into your living room by way of your TV. The easiest way to stem that stinky tide it to cut it off at the source.
Be more intentional with media choices
When we had cable, we had the TV on for a large part of the day, just droning on in the background. Even if it was only cable news (only!) or something as innocuous and a weather channel, we still had the incessant background noise of the television going on and on. Not to mention frequent ad interruptions exhorting us to buy things we did not need.
Now that we don’t have cable, we have to specifically choose to watch something. We have become more intentional about what we watch. We may turn on the TV at lunch time to watch an educational DVD, or stream a short news program together after dinner, but we consciously decide to do so. There is really no option to watch something non-stop. When we want to watch something, the TV is on. Otherwise it is off. I suppose we could have forced ourselves to do this while we still had cable, but now it just happens automatically.
Protect your kids
One of the things that finally tipped the scales for me when considering giving up cable TV is that I began to be surprised by what my kids were watching. I would help them pick out a program that seemed appropriate, and I would leave them to it. Then after that program was over, I would find them watching something – usually on the same channel – that I considered completely out of bounds and IN-appropriate. Getting them to turn off the TV at that point usually lead to an argument, followed by a somewhat awkward conversation about why what they were watching was unacceptable. That was followed by me saying, “Because I said so, that’s why.”
When a DVD is over, it’s over. What we stream something on Netflix, the next episode – or something related but not-quite-appropriate, doesn’t play automatically (because I have set the account options accordingly). I find myself worrying a LOT less about what my kids may accidentally or unintentionally see on TV, because I have a lot more control over what they watch and how they watch it. I’m not saying that our cable substitutes like Netflix and Hulu+ don’t carry inappropriate content – they absolutely do. But it seems to me that I have a LOT more control over the content we see. (And if you ever got a “V chip” to work with a cable subscription, I would love to hear from you. I never figured it out, and I have a degree in engineering.)
Watch less, read more
Now that we don’t have cable, we read more. We just do. We have always had lots of books and magazines lying around, but now that we have broken our mindless TV habit, we pick them up first, not last. Books are a good thing. Now we actually read them.
Consume less bad (and fake) news
Regardless of where you come down on the “fake news” debate, I think people on both sides of that issue can agree that mindlessly piping bad news, and people arguing about it, into your living room can be incredibly stressful.
Without cable, I still have timely access to the news, but on my own terms. I usually find out about breaking news via Facebook or Twitter, but then switch to a reliable news site to look for articles or short videos about what I want to see. When I want a run down of the news of the day, I either watch a news summary from a streaming service via AppleTV, or I check out the front page of a news site online. I spend a LOT less time reading the news per se, and I am able to shield myself from the gratuitous violence and misery that cable news seems so dependent on to support their ratings (and revenue)
Life without cable is much more peaceful for our family. With the TV on less, our house is more quiet, in a good way. If we crave sounds to fill the silence, we play music in the background (often streamed from one of our cable box substitutes, like AppleTV.) The quality of the media we consume is generally higher overall, and my personal stress and anxiety from watching bad news and raunchy TV is significantly lower.
Again, I’ll grant you this peace, as well as most of the other benefits I listed above, could all be accomplished by just TURNING OFF THE TV, but with cable, the temptation to leave it on and let it drone is real. Life is better without it.
So how do you cut the cord?
Next week, I’m going to do 7 Quick Takes on HOW to cut the cord, and explain it in a way that mere mortals can comprehend.
So, what do you worry about missing when you think about ditching cable?
Have you already cut the cord and lived to tell about it? Let me know!
Once again, I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum. I love reading all the other bloggers that link up with her … you should check them out.