Saturday, June 22, 2013

Life without cable TV

When we moved to our new house, we opted not to get cable TV. We’d already made provisions for connections in the house, but at the last moment, we changed our minds. Part of the reason was cost. Cable TV would have set us back by around P500 a month.

We suffered from withdrawal the first couple of weeks. There’s something hypnotic about TV droning on in the background while you go about your business in the house. The new quiet unnerved us. We eased the symptoms by turning to an earlier staple: radio.

What did we miss from cable TV? When we still lived with Emily’s mother, the channels were tuned to ABS-CBN news in the morning and at night, along with a good dose of telenovelas. Yes, you can add “Be Careful with My Heart” to the list. Most other times, it would be set to either a cooking show or Nickelodeon: my wife liked having Spongebob Squarepants in the background while she worked in the kitchen.

And suddenly, all that was gone.

In a way, our own cable provider was to blame for the decision. Last year, SkyCable introduced decoder boxes. In so doing, they took out many of the channels I really liked -- HBO, Cinemax, Star Movies -- and reintroduced them as premium channels, available for additional monthly charges. After that, there wasn’t really much reason to subscribe, except force of habit. Moving to the new house gave us the chance to review our options, and so...we cut the cable.

Local programming was also a casualty of our decision. Installing rabbit antennas was too much of a hassle, so we gave up TV altogether. But that, in my view, has worked out even better for us. No more do I have to hear the vacuous remarks of Karen Davila at eight in the morning, or listen to the screechy narcissisms of Kris Aquino.

Better still, I’ve lost my dependence on TV news. Now I feel less stressed because there’s less to occupy my mind. I don’t have to know about the heavy traffic conditions in Manila (why should I care, if I’m down here in Davao?), or about the latest atrocities against humanity (tragic enough as they are, TV news reports them with too much relish for my taste.)

This media fast has changed the way I consume my news. In stepping back, I’ve realized that a large part of news media is fluff. Along with the few really worthwhile stories they have throw in whatever they can find to fill in their time slot. You can tell when it’s a slow news day when there’s more celebrity stories and opinions getting airtime.

So how do I keep up with what’s going on the world? Google News gives me a summary that doesn’t take an hour of my life. I can scan it quickly and decide what’s news and what isn’t, and what I should like more details on. I supplement it with feeds from other unconventional but reliable Internet news sources, just to dispel any Google bias.

On the whole, cutting cable TV has allowed my wife and I to reclaim our time. Without TV’s distractions, we’re both able to work faster and get more stuff done around the house.

Best of all, I have clarity of mind. Away from TV’s influence, I’m able to decide what’s news and what’s just plain sensationalism. I can form my own opinions because I don’t have to compete with a loud anchor. I can tell for myself what’s important and what isn’t.

That's real freedom right there.