For over 50 years, the television has been a solid household fixture in the Western world. But with life becoming increasingly full of digital clutter, are television sets still necessary?
We spoke to three people who choose to live TV-free.
Tess Cassidy, 40
Has a four-year-old and no TV
When Cassidy and her husband separated three years ago, they realised that neither of them wanted the TV and gave it away. Cassidy says the decision was largely influenced by having a small child.
“It seemed like not having a TV might improve the quality of our domestic and family life rather than diminish it, and that’s been the case,” she says.
The only screens in Cassidy’s home are her laptop and smartphone, and while her four-year-old son watches programs on these devices, he views them as “sacred territory” rather than items he is free to switch on at any time.
And as someone who works from home, Cassidy says withdrawing the option to switch on the television has been great for her productivity. She streams TV shows on her laptop but feels liberated by the absence of the “black box that once dominated the living room and to which all chairs were angled”.
“When I was a single girl I found I would have the TV on for company,” she says. “I definitely don’t do that any more.”
Tamara Pearson, 34
Grew up without a TV and chooses not to have one
Televisions haven’t been a part of Pearson’s life since she was five years old. She says the experience transformed her childhood for the better.
“Not having a TV meant that I did a lot of reading, drawing, playing,” she says. “My mum helped us make a lot of toys out of old bottle tops or pegs. I had a friend from around seven who didn’t speak much English, and she’d come to my place after school and we’d draw pages of flowers together.”
Pearson also credits the person she is today – a writer and qualified alternative education teacher – to her TV-free childhood.
These days Pearson lives with her partner, and the pair have consciously decided not to own a TV.
“We both honestly find most of it really boring,” she says. “Having said that, I recognise that relaxation is really important, and don’t judge people who need television for that. And I love to watch a drama or doco or some comedy pretty regularly. The thing about streaming though – through Netflix or YouTube – is you can choose, to an extent.”
Tom Sheahan, 28
Grew up with a TV but chooses to live without one
Sheahan hasn’t lived with a television in the house since he moved out of his parents’ home in 2009. It’s the “mindless” ads and reality TV that turn him off.
“Not having a TV means I’m in control of how I spend my time,” he says. “I’m not a slave to the billion-dollar commercial networks. If there is something I’d like to watch, I’ll watch it on my computer. Sometimes we’ll use a projector to watch a movie or a big sports game.”
As a result of his decision, he’s become more aware of the imposing nature of TV sets.
“Often when I go home to visit my parents the TV is on but no one is watching it. It’s like a member of the family. A family member that mostly spouts inane, irrelevant crap – though occasionally some gems.”
Sheahan admits that watching TV as a kid shaped his sense of humour and world view – particularly the three hours of The Simpsons that he watched each Saturday and Sunday morning.
“But now, thanks to the internet, I can choose to watch that, and anything else at all, any time I like,” he says.