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I'm addicted to TV. Help!

April 5, 2013, at 9:00 AM
 

Dear Starshine,

I'm a college student, and a TV addict. I watch entire series in less than two weeks. I plan events around television schedules. I set shows to record weeks in advance. I crave new episodes of my usual shows, and fill the time in between with other shows. I follow TV websites, subscribe to entertainment magazines, and follow the stars, writers, and directors of the shows on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr. I mean, I do other things besides watch TV: I work, and go to school, and have a social life. But my TV habit is greatly impacting my grades, and I need to make education my priority. I know the logical thing to do: STOP WATCHING TV. But whenever I quit "cold turkey," I find a loophole and start back up. What do I do?! How do I suppress this obsession?!

Throw away your television. No, seriously. Any version of "cold turkey" that allows a screen fiend to keep a boob tube at home is totally tepid turkey, my fanatic friend. When you're trying to resist dessert cravings, you don't keep Oreos in the pantry, do you? That's dietary seppuku. 

It's impressive that you recognize this as an addiction. Nielsen claims that the average American watches more than 35 hours of television per week, which means many people would call your mind-melting viewing patterns simply "what I do when I'm not sleeping or reporting my humiliating habits to Nielsen." 

They say TV addiction is a real thing — not like "Ermagerd, I'm totally addicted to Game of Thrones," but a genuine behavioral compulsion like gambling that actually alters the mental state of its habitués.

If you're not as strung out as all that — if the sight of roadkill doesn't send you jonesing for a hit of high-def Honey Boo Boo — then at least throw away your remote control to make it harder to sit, stare, and surf. Then establish some ground rules:

1. Plan your viewing. Decide on a few shows (five? six?) you want to watch each week. Then show up and watch those, and only those, without guilt.

2. Create a daily checklist of things you must accomplish before you can press the power button. Hint: Studying tops the list. And unless you've been holding a plank pose through those endless episodes of Pawn Stars, it sounds like some exercise would be wise.

3. Don't multi-task while you watch TV — no eating, checking email, or folding laundry. Watch deliberately, and then shut the thing off, and get on with your life. 

If all else fails, consider a career in television. I hear Judd Apatow used to watch eight-plus hours of TV every day after school, and as your entertainment rags will tell you, things turned out OK for him. 

Dear Starshine,

My dad has been with his girlfriend for almost 10 years. The problem is that his girlfriend has adult children — whom I have never met. She and my dad celebrate Christmas with her kids and go on vacations with them. My dad tells me stories about them; they have inside jokes. Two of her children even live in my area. But my dad still hasn't introduced us, even after I brought it up to him last year. His excuse was that her kids have college degrees and we don't, so we wouldn't be in the same "intellectual league" as them. I told him I'm not trying to be their soul mate, I just want to meet the people he spends so much time with. Soon the girlfriend will retire and they'll move out of state to be near her only grandchild. Am I right to feel put off by my dad's continued resistance, and should I push the issue?

You're right: That's totally weird. A year or two of not meeting your dad's girlfriend's kids, sure; people get busy, social trajectories fail to intersect.

But after a decade, Dad has to be working harder to keep you apart than he would to arrange a casual howdy. And the college degree excuse is not only insulting, it's dumb; if there really is a Super Secret Handshake of the Highly Edumacated, I'm betting your old man doesn't know it, either. 

He's handled this dreadfully, turning your mild curiosity about these people into an extreme curiosity about his motivation for keeping you apart. 

And now he's got me curious! What on earth could his reason be? Maybe his girlfriend is ashamed of her kids. Maybe they reveal something about her that your dad doesn't want you to know. Maybe he's protecting you; what if they're racists or terrible snobs? Maybe they don't exist and your dad's just a tiny bit crazy... Or maybe it's you. Level with me: Are you super-judgmental? Pierced in icky places? Prone to saying inappropriate things when you meet strangers?

In any case, your dad owes you an explanation. Talk to him before he moves away. His sustained evasion has clearly hurt you — and you don't even need a college degree to see that.

Send me your dilemmas via email: ToughLove@TheWeek.com. And follow me on Twitter: @ToughLoveAdvice

 

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