Ten weeks ago, we got the flooring in our living and dining room replaced.
To prepare, we had to move all our furniture out of the room, and at the time I joked that this was the look I’d been going for all along.
We managed to squeeze the sofa into the conservatory, dragged a dismantled Ikea dining table into the kitchen and carried a blanket box into the hallway.
We unhooked our television from its connections and precariously balanced it on a kitchen counter top, hoping we wouldn’t accidentally knock it and send it crashing down.
The flooring was laid and we pulled all the furniture back again. But when we reconnected the television, something wasn’t right. The colours seemed all off. I meddled with the wires, and promptly broke the connection for good.
It has stayed that way ever since. Laziness and apathy mean we have accidentally disconnected ourselves from live television.
To be clear: we can still access streaming services. But it’s been interesting to see how our habits have changed without that ready access to all those channels.
In the mornings, I no longer stick on breakfast television and lose 45 minutes to the comforting patter of the presenters. Instead, I tune into Radio 4 on my phone and get my daily briefing while I’m getting ready around the house.
I’ve noticed that I’ve been reading more, a habit I’d been meaning to get back into but had somehow not been able to make stick.
There has been one TV series we’ve actually wanted to watch on terrestrial television: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. So every week, at a time to suit us, we would watch it back on catch-up.
And there has also been one thing I really had to tune into live through my laptop: Saturday’s Eurovision. When I was a teenager I would meet up with my two closest friends for a Eurovision party each year. Now we’re dotted all over the country, we watch it while WhatsApping each other with our thoughts on the craziest songs and whether Latvia will ever top Brainstorm’s My Star from the year 2000 (answer: they won’t).
So, why cut down on television?
Often when people discuss this point, the inference is clear. TV is BAD FOR YOU AND ROTS YOUR BRAIN. Quite frankly, I fundamentally disagree with this, and not just because it’s what my mum used to say to me when I was a kid.
It’s the same argument people made about novels in the 18th century, when there was a moral panic about how many people – especially gasp, ladies – were glued to them.
In his book Everything Bad is Good For You, Steven Johnson gives a staunch defence of ‘junk’ TV and ‘mindless’ computer games. He argues that both are far more complex than they have ever been and often require pretty high levels of concentration.
Box-set watching, he says, has led to TV shows with multiple sub-plots, confusing cold-opens, highly technical jargon and vast networks of characters which represent a huge departure from the simplicity of 1970s shows like Starsky and Hutch.
While I think this is true, for me the argument is in danger of remaining a little elitist.
In all honesty, who cares if television is simplistic and trashy?
After years of pretty mediocre shows, I think this year’s Eurovision really was a fantastic television event. But I can’t pretend it was good for me. It was just pure entertainment, mixed in with some vague idea of ‘togetherness’.
I was really stressed out from work recently, and do you know what helped me calm down? Binge-watching the whole series of Queer Eye on Netflix. I feel not one iota of shame.
And I completely understand why haggard parents sit their young children down in front of Paw Patrol while they get to enjoy a quiet cup of tea in the other room for five minutes.
But it’s all about what is appropriate for you. The fact that TV had been so easy for me to access meant I had been more likely to switch it on than go and find a book to read. Making it just that one step harder meant I really had to decide whether it was something I wanted to do.
It’s why people wanting to cut down on social media often find it helpful to delete the apps from their phones and make themselves log on through their browsers. It’s still there, you just have to really want it to go and get it.
I’m not advocating that you all go and break your TV connectors. But if there’s something you feel you’re getting a little too distracted by, try to place a few hurdles in your way.