Finding the Off Switch

24 Sep

I can’t turn my brain off.

I want to make it relax.  I want to just numb it with some stupid programming or with some mindless game, but I just can’t stand the thought of wasting that kind of time.

This is unlike me, and it’s frightening.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but it all started when I got on Twitter.  I know, I know – I dedicated an entire post to my dislike and inability to understand Twitterage.  But one day it all clicked for me, and now I adore it.

What I like about Twitter isn’t that I can follow people’s trivial updates and opinions; I don’t much care for that.  I prefer to follow news sites and special interests.  I prefer to follow people that inspire me.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ll follow a few friends here or there; but I’m not checking my feed for them.  I’m checking my feed to feast on information.

I’ve been without television for about a year now.  I made a conscious choice to be without it because it made me lose all faith in humanity (Come on – Jersey Shore, celebrity challenges, dumb luck game shows, Desperate Housewives (of the real or unreal variety) – what exactly am I supposed to be watching?).  The only shows I cared to watch were few, far between, and usually on premium channels.  And then what’s the point of going through all the hassle of trying to schedule around shows that I want to watch when I could just Neflix them or watch them online?  That way I don’t even have to waste time with commercials. Television is incredibly inefficient.

My point is that I don’t get the news because I don’t have TV. And I’m not really the kind of person to open up three different news sites each morning to catch up with what’s going on in the world.  So I got on Twitter and followed News Sources – and got my fix in small, limited updates that had links to articles if I want to learn more.  No commercials, no fuss, and no information I don’t want to have to wait through for the good stuff.  It’s beautiful.

The problem here is that I seem to have started a chain reaction in my brain.  I can’t stop soaking up stuff.  I’m clicking links and reading articles like mad. I’m constantly blabbering on about what I read most recently and I have very little patience for mindless talk when I could be chatting about what’s going on in the world.  Today I considered listening to books on tape and listening to Podcasts on my walk home from work so that I can learn things while I can’t be at my computer learning things.  It’s spiraling out of control.  I’m constantly looking for the next fix.  I’m not content to sit in one place alone with my thoughts when I could be making to-do lists and conquering goals and reading about the world and soaking up information. 

You know that part in The Fifth Element where Leeloo is soaking up all the information about human history at the computer while eating an enormous bowl of instant microwave chicken?  That’s me.  Except for the hair.  And the super awesome body.  And the instant chicken.

I need to turn off my brain.  I can’t even make it go to sleep anymore.  I have to stay up so long that I beat it into submission.  I suppose this is a good thing.  Essentially, I’m reading a lot more than I ever had and I’m kind of getting addicted to it.  That’s pretty cool.  But on the other hand, sometimes all I want to do is sit down and veg out and I can’t find the off switch. 

Maybe this will go somewhere amazing.  Maybe I’ll turn out to be a well-informed individual that makes good, sound political decisions, knows what the state of our nation is, and keeps up with all of the stories that are shaping our time.  Maybe I’ll start listening to some crazy awesome podcasts that make me a specialist of some random topic that inspires me.  

Or maybe this is just a phase and by the end of next week I’ll be back on StumbleUpon every day and my Twitter account will go untouched.

Either way is a win I suppose.  Either I get to be smart or I get to sleep.

No one can have both. 

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22 Responses to “Finding the Off Switch”

  1. mistressofpoetry September 24, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I also decided to ditch TV altogether several months ago. Everyone looks at me like I’m weird when I tell them in response to a “hey do you watch” conversation that pops up quite often. There’s just not much on that’s worth watching, and I get my news on the net, which is part of my routine now, along with reading your blog every day. I don’t know what I’m going to do when your post-a-day stint is up. Perhaps sit eagerly by the computer for days on end, waiting for the next post?
    News and your favorite blogs can indeed be very addictive, but hey, just think how smart we’re getting! On the other hand, some down time for the brain is necessary, otherwise I fear a meltdown. For me, it has become news in the morning, a brief check of headlines in the evening and then off to video gaming until I fall asleep. It’s a nice balance, don’t you think?

    • Jackie September 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

      Sounds like a fantastic balance! Video games are a good release for me as well – they’re one of the only things that can still get my head to stop spinning out of control.

      And I do hate the talk of what was on the other night or hey did you see dancing with the stars and whatnot. I don’t mind that folks talk about it – I just mind their reaction when I gently mention that I don’t watch TV. So strange how people feel so married to something that is so far from the essence of real humanity.

  2. lunarmoth September 24, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    I think information overload is a serious cause of 21st century anxiety, which for many people evolves into some type of addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.) to bring the anxiety down to a manageable level. I have seen it happen in myself several times. My partner enjoys watching the news channels every evening for 4-5 hours. At one time, I frequently joined her so that we could discuss the news of the day. Then I noticed a growing anxiety in myself, as evidenced by overeating (which is one of my addictions) and bad dreams. Talked to my therapist about it and we agreed I should limit my news-watching.

    Internet news is another thing — I do read some, but it is relatively easy to choose what I want to read, instead of being stuck with the stories some news editor believes I ought to hear.

    I admire your decision to get rid of TV entirely!

    • Jackie September 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

      Hey thanks! Wow, 4-5 hours?! That’s killer. And they milk those stories. Reading an article takes just a minute or two and you get the information all at once without the drama. Much more efficient, much less stress-inducing.

      Isn’t it sad that just watching the state of world affairs can make someone so stressed and anxious? Kudos to you for recognizing that and cutting down!

  3. wordsweneversaid September 24, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    *shy*

    I got rid of my TV in an effort to limit my exposure to things I had no control over.

    I would watch the news/reality (so called) shows/talk shows(read ‘fluff’) and it was an endless barrage of negative messages – bad news and horrible things…nothing good.

    It warped my world view to such an extent that I began to feel helpless, hopeless and very negative toward life in general.

    I care.

    I want to know how I can help.

    I want to live in a world where everyone cares…

    I am one of those folks who just can’t see something disturbing or upsetting and move on.

    It becomes a part of me – I am keenly aware that what I am seeing is happening whether I want it to or not – whether I can make a difference or not…

    So – ya.

    One person can make a difference – but not if they think they should be able to fix a whole world by themselves.

    Balance – we all need that.

    Nice post Jackie.

    M.L.

    • Jackie September 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

      Absolutely – there is a difference between keeping abreast of world news that is presented in a relatively neutral manner and being barraged with negativity and extremity on television news. There’s something much more soothing about getting the information by seeking it out and getting a variety of opinions instead of just watching folks on TV blow most things out of proportion. It really does make you feel helpless and sad.

      And their little “People Interest” stories about a dog finding his way home or a little kid that learned to swim after losing an arm doesn’t do much to outweigh the almost hour-full of programming on war, disaster, and political crap.

      Thanks for sharing, M!

  4. Jules September 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Fifth Element. The most awesome scif-fi movie ever. Can you say multipass?!?!

    Oh and I fully support your tv-less life. I don’t have a TV either and I’m pretty sure I’m happier without it. Who needs lap-band commercials shoved down their throat when you can pick and choose what information to consume via the net. And don’t get me started on my dislike for vapid reality-tv programming because they are far far away from being grounded in reality. Teenage moms? Sweet-16 brats who get cars for their b-days? Say what?!?

    • Jackie September 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

      Corbin Dallas Multipass.

      I hated Sweet 16. Hated it.

  5. Neil C. Reinhardt September 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    Hi Jackie,

    To be honest, I do not understand those who do not watch TV as they miss so much.

    I am a 76 year old whose lived in more places (3 countries, 10 states 20 cities as well at higher altitudes, 14,300 ft., and within 80 ft of the Atlantic and 15 feet of the Pacific) than most people ever visit.

    And I have had many more different professions, from being a lifeguard, deep sea diver and a paratrooper to being an industrial engineer at Xerox and a manufacturing supervisor in the manufacture of large main frame computers of NCR. Done more dangerous / exciting things than most even consider doing.

    So all this means that I AM much more knowledgable about more things than are most my age are (much less anyone younger) and yet, I LOVE learning, hearing and seeing new things.

    Just today, on BOOK TV, I learned about how very intelligent President Garfield was, And how, while he was shot by a crazy person, his death was directly due to the incompetence of both his doctor and the backwardness of American Medicine at the time.

    I was just watching a great interview with an Italian lawyer & Author Beppe Severgnini whose new book, “Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S.”

    During it, I have not only learned things about America I had no clue about, I’ve also learned some interesting things about Italy, England and Europe.

    Now I’m seeing & hearing a highly educated/intelligent Black Author Anthony Bradley talk of his book “Black & Tired: Essays on Race, Politics Culture and International Development.”

    While some of his views are a result of him being a typical programmed Christian, he uses common sense and logic on anything not connected to religion.

    (The FACTS are, the main reason nearly every religious person is religious in the first place and they are the religion they are and why they believe in the number of gods they do, is very simply due to who raised them.)

    Anywho, THANKS to TV,

    I am constantly not only seeing, hearing & learning MANY new things, I’m also greatly entertained!
    So Like I said, I just really do NOT understand those like you who do not watch TV at all

    After All, YOU DO HAVE A CHOICE ABOUT WHAT YOU WATCH .

    • Jules September 24, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

      Must be nice to be retired.

    • mistressofpoetry September 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

      Wow! I’ve never met anyone who defends his TV time so passionately. However, the sad fact of the matter is that, while you watch some very enlightening programming (and kudoz to you for choosing educational programming), 99% of what is broadcast over the airwaves is mundane crap, and personally, I can’t see spending 50 bucks a month (thanks to the government’s switch to digital tv) just for one or two channels, when I work 2 jobs and can view those videos on the web from the history channel’s or the discovery channel’s or the national geographic channel’s websites anytime I want (and what’s not to love about less intrusive advertising, folks, when you can simply click the X button and it all goes away). That’s just my choice, as watching TV is your choice. By the way, some very interesting information you shared. I’ll have to go by and check out those websites I just mentioned and read more or watch the videos they have available. Thanks for sparking my interest. 😉

    • Jackie September 25, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

      Yes, I certainly do have a choice as to what I watch but unfortunately, the cool programs you speak of aren’t included in my regular, low-tier programming. I have to jack up my costs to about 50 a month to get the channels that air things I really want to watch like the Discovery and History channels.

      What doesn’t make sense to me is to pay that kind of money in the hopes that I will have the time to tune in to the programs I want to watch at the times they are featured and to simultaneously pay for a plethora of channels I have no interest in.

      For my money, I’d much rather subscribe to a disc program or get online and download the specific things I’d like to watch. I can do it on my timetable, I can skip past most advertisements, and I can ignore the junk and filler that I would get with cable.

      You may not understand the non-TV watchers but I don’t understand the TV watchers. 😉

      • Amy September 26, 2011 at 9:59 am #

        I watch a lot that is on tv but not on my tv. I download stuff that I like and watch whenever I feel like it. It’s free (other than the cost of internet). I will say in defense of cable that I do miss specific shows and I sometimes do not have the patience I should to wait for them but since I don’t have cable I am learning to deal with my patience issues. http://www.hulu.com is my friend as well.

      • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

        I’ve been trying the hulu party lately. Not bad. And I must admit that it’s hard to wait sometimes, but if I just stay patient, and keep queue of what I want to see, I’m steadily excited for what’s about to come out on DVD as opposed to what’s going to come out in theaters. But yes – there are still times that I would rather just turn on the TV and watch something that I want to know is good or not 🙂

  6. Amy September 25, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    I posted about this this morning. Except I was singing “The wheels in my brain go round and round” as I typed. (to the tune of “The Wheels of the Bus Go Round and Round” of course) While a cheery little tune, it’s also annoying when I want to sleep.

    • Jackie September 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

      oh indeed – it’s bad enough to have lots on the brain but to have a mocking tune to match it? ugh.

      • Amy September 26, 2011 at 10:00 am #

        I wish the wheels would break for my brain! I also wish another tune would occupy the brain. Oh! I know! The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” is a good one.

      • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

        20 20 20 4 hours agooo–ooo–ooo.

  7. Caitlin Antram September 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    This post makes me proud of your growth as a woman of the world 😀

  8. pegoleg September 26, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Sometimes TV is an enlightening source of information, as one commenter said, and sometimes it IS an off switch. Often I sit in front of vapid, pointless programming to give my brain a break while my hands are busy doing something else.

    • Jackie September 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

      Oh yes, sometimes I just want to watch something stupid, for sure. Not often enough to pay for it, I suppose.

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