Watch and Grow Stupid

Dan Miller —  May 31, 2011 — 18 Comments

A post by my friend and blogging coach Bill Seaver alerted me to a new study on TV watching from The Center for Media Research.

The average American watched 34 hours 39 minutes of TV per week in the last quarter of 2010, a year-over-year increase of two minutes. The heaviest users of traditional TV are adults 65+ (47 hours 33 minutes per week), followed by adults 50-64 (43 hours per week). Trailing all other age groups, teens age 12-17 watch the least amount of TV (23 hours 41 minutes per week).

Good grief – 34.5 hrs a week of TV!! That’s almost 5 hours a day.  No wonder it’s so easy to read more, write more, produce a new product a month and do more than the average American. And here I thought maybe I was smarter — but no, it appears I just have an extra 34 hours a week to do something productive. Silly me –

So how hard to you think it is to set yourself apart from the “average” American?  Using even 15-20 hours of that normal TV watching time you could write a book, start a business, learn a new language, get another degree, build a house with Habitat for Humanity, take art classes, mentor a needy person, prepare for a marathon, do a stunning landscape of your property, or perfect that invention you’ve been thinking about.

Last night Joanne and I sat down, exhausted after a holiday spent planting flowers and partying with friends.  I flipped on the TV right at the beginning of the new Hawaii-Five-O.  We complained about having to endure all the commercials but actually watched the entire show. And then we immediately thought – Why did we do that?  A lady was murdered, her husband was the suspect but he was suffering from psychological problems.  The little girl lost her Mom and her Dad was likely going to prison or a mental hospital.  How is this good news?  How was this supposed to brighten our day or give us hope?  And then we expected to go to bed for a restful night’s sleep – with those images in our minds?  What a poor use of precious time!  And what negative, useless content to pour into our minds.

Do you really think one more crime show, looking into one more dysfunctional family, hearing one more angry talk show host, seeing one more pretty face reading a teleprompter and calling it “news,” listening to one more politician, or just sitting on your butt for 34.5 hours is going to improve your life?

The most common excuse I hear for not accomplishing new goals is “I don’t have enough time.”  What could you accomplish yet this year if you redirected 34 hours a week to one of your goals?


For more information on these TV viewing trends, and the complete PDF file, download the State of the Media report from Nielsen here.

“I find television to be very educating.  Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx


  • Joel Boggess

     Hi Dan,

    When we chose to “cut the chord”, cable chord that is, it was a freeing experience and a nice little boost to our bottom line.

    Not only was the lift in finance nice, we can now invest the extra funds into our personal development and businesses; (in my opinion, a wiser choice and a more profitable investment).

    • Anonymous

      Joel – that’s a great cord to cut and to recognize the freedom that comes with it.  People often thinks it’s giving something up when in fact, it’s gaining something invaluable.  

  • Darren

    Excellent post. For the past year or so, I’ve not turned on the TV in my house. Instead, I’ve read books and worked on my blog.

    Now it’s become a good habit of mine, and I can totally see the pitfalls of too much TV. Turning it off is the easiest way to “gain” more time in your day.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks – yeah I’m always blown away by these stats.  I can’t imagine the time for reading, thinking, relating and planning that can be lost with mindless TV watching.

  • Anonymous

    It is truly amazing how much time you waste by watching TV.  We justified in for several years with Tivo (which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World in my opinion) which limited our watching to pretty much only what we wanted, skipping commercials.  You find yourself searching for more programs to watch and believe you are relaxing in front of the TV with these limited programs. 
    Several months ago we canceled our satellite cable.  We have more time, are happier, and really no longer want to watch TV.  Yes, we still have the programs that we like to follow, but they are few and can be watched online.  It is truly amazing what you can accomplish without the interruption of TV.  Although most of our friends and family don’t think so, removing that distraction has been one of the best decisions we have made in a long time.

    • Anonymous

      Alan – it’s it funny how getting the technology to make watching more efficient can itself draw us into more useless watching.  I just find so little worth watching that we’ve never gotten Tivo or learned how to record a show.  

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  • AshleyRose

    This is just crazy – I know there are things in the media world that are fascinating and can be one part of learning (I love documentaries), however, spending hours determining who is going to be the next American Idol or who “wins the race” just isn’t my cup of tea.  Then again, neither are sports shows. 
    I’m sold on Netflix through the Wii – the stuff that comes through is limited and we have no commercials and can pause and resume any time.  Perfect to get in the documentaries or spend 20 minutes watching “Cake Boss” – love that show, and yes, I learn something!

    • Anonymous

      Ashley – it appears that so much of TV watching becomes a vicarious substitute for actually living life.  I don’t want to be the next Donald Trump – I want to be the first Dan Miller.  

  • Graham.Mc

     Amen, brother Dan.  As a television addict I can attest that television (even educational) is a mind melting activity.  Television requires no thought or action, you simply sit and your mind tries to keep up with the barrage of images causing this trance.  Then you come to a few hours later and realize you have to be a work the next day so you better get some sleep. The worst part of it is as a society TV is viewed all the time and nobody thinks anything of it…  I suppose it is the same way heroin was legal once upon a time in this country and it was socially acceptable to be a junkie.

  • Alan

    Years ago, I worked for a major cable company, mostly working on the high speed internet side of things. (It has been the only job I ever had where a TV was on in every office) While I enjoyed the job and was amazed to learn just how much technology and equipment is required to bring all that information to your home through that one little coax cable. I also learned that all of that technology can be used for both good and bad. 
    Being an avid reader, I was appalled at the how much junk TV the guys who worked at the master site watched (usually some sort of “Springer” type show, mild porn, and other stuff that was a complete waste of time) all in the name of “checking the channels” to make sure they were working properly. I got so bad at times that I would go outside the building just to get away from the constant drone. 
    This statistic of 34 hours a week is very sad. Too many people watching other people living their dreams and then wondering why things aren’t going well. If I remember right, Captain Kangaroo was the only person on TV who told the parents to turn the TV off after his show and spend time with their kids or have the kids go outside and play instead of sitting in front of the tube.
    A friend of Jim Rohn mentioned to Jim that he has just bought a brand new TV. Jim told him the new TV was costing his friend about $40,000. The friend said no, it cost about $400, he had paid by check. But Jim chastened him to see he was losing $40,000 a year in potential income by watching the TV instead of working on his business. The friend got rid of the TV.
    Not long ago I met Denis Waitley and he said he wrote most of his books during “Prime Time” in the evenings after working at his practice. What are you doing during “Prime Time?”

    • Anonymous

      Alan – I love your input here.  And I love your message from Jim Rohn about how much that TV really “costs.”

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  • Anon in Georgia

    SO TRUE.  I despise television and feel so miserable when I watch it.  I stopped going to the movies years ago (when I could actually afford to go).  I view the news online so I can choose what stories to read.  There are plenty of weeds to pull in my yard, and I do have sidewalks in my neighborhood; so I am luckier than some who have no means of getting out and resort to TV to take their minds off their situation.

    • Anonymous

      Yep TV is a pitiful “escape” in that it often shows the worst in people and the most negative in news.  Neither is uplifting or encouraging in any way. 

  • Steve Riker

    Yes, it’s terrifying to think what we, as a nation, are losing out on because of this.  I checked some numbers for a tweet I posted a couple weeks ago.

    Jersey Shore consumes enough American man hours to completely build 1500 houses a week! How much could we do? #Unplug

    Full disclosure:  I do still like to watch advertisements sometimes!

  • Steve Riker

    Yes, it’s terrifying to think what we, as a nation, are losing out on because of this.  I checked some numbers for a tweet I posted a couple weeks ago.

    Jersey Shore consumes enough American man hours to completely build 1500 houses a week! How much could we do? #Unplug

    Full disclosure:  I do still like to watch advertisements sometimes!

  • danieljohnsonjr

    We haven’t had cable in our home since September 2009. When we do decide to watch a program, we catch it on when we want.  Their commercial breaks are shorter. I’ve noticed, even over the past nine months, though, that I’m enjoying reading, writing, or doing something else instead of being held captive to a program.