"IF YOU really want to be happy, throw away your television set"

according to researchers at the University of Zurich: “IF YOU really want to be happy, throw away your television set. That’s the bizarre finding of new economic research completely at odds with traditional assumptions.”

"The team was left with a paradox. Watching TV made people feel good while they were doing it, but seemed to make them less satisfied overall.

Other activities affect us in the same sort of way. One is smoking. Cigarettes hurt smokers, but they do so slowly. Immediately, they offer relaxation - which becomes addictive.

Bruno Frey could see how television might act like that. It offers an immediate benefit - relaxation, with the costs not apparent until later. Those costs include tiredness, weak social relationships and insufficient attention to study and careers.

Opinion polls suggest that this is the case for many Americans. Forty per cent of US adults and 70 per cent of teenagers say they spend too much time watching TV."
I watch about an hour a day on average, more than I would have thought before I added it up. But I wonder if time spent on similar pursuits, such as video gaming and surfing the net, has similar effects?

I wonder how much advertising has to do with that, or if the study controlled for watchings ads. I mean, much advertising is designed around making you feel shitty about yourself/your life. I have no doubt that has a culmative effect on your happiness, above and beyond the amount of TV you watch. This is one of the reasons we have no cable and no antenae, but have Netflix. Had I children, I think I’d be more comfortable with them watching sex and violence on TV than with them watching commercials aimed at kids.

I put a photocopy of this article on the office noticeboard this morning so that it could be read by those of my colleagues who think I’m “weird” because I don’t have a television.

If I threw away my TV, what would all my furniture point at?

Bah. I spend more time working on the computer then watching TV anyway. In fact, most of the TV I watch I don’t actually watch. I just have it on in the background as I work on the computer.

Same here. I somehow find it easier to work on the computer when the TV’s on even though I’m not watching it. I guess I just need some background noise.


The room would be without their leader.

Hey, you may have a point there!

Their premise is flawed – they’re assuming I want to be happy. :wink:

How is this a “bizarre” finding? What traditional assumptions are there that TV makes us “happy?” How is it paradoxical that short term gratification is at odds with long term happiness. Christ, if that weren’t true then cocaine would be nirvana. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I think Manda JO brings up a good point about advertising, and that’s not just confined to commercial breaks. Look at all the “house porn” on TV these days that’s devoted to telling people that their homes are terrible and need to be completely overhauled by color-blind decorators. I know from firsthand experience that emotional effects these shows have on my mother, who claims she enjoys watching them but once the TV’s off, she’s bitching about every little thing in the house. Human makeover shows would probably have a similar effect. Superficially these shows may promote the idea that you can do it yourself, but the overall effect is that the status quo is never good enough and you need expensive experts and lots of products to fix “the problem.”

In earlier generations, the family would sit around the parlor watching the radio. No shit.

I find it works to get some more furniture and point them at each other. A sofa across from a loveseat where the TV used to be, maybe a couple of easy chairs. That way people can sit across from each other and talk instead of sitting next to each other and being non-interactive.


I originally cancelled the cable to save money but quickly found that with the same arrangement things are much calmer at my house. Its easier to evaluate before the fact what my kid is watching. He also doesn’t barrage me with “But why can’t I get Evilord Action Figures? They’ll make my teeth whiter!” Besides all the consumer ads aimed directly at kids, there are so many things advertised that he just doens’t need to know about yet.

The article is not at all stupid. It was written by an economist, and economics is (in part) based on the assumption that people want to do what makes them happy, fulfilled, and so on - ie, the market is rational and will sort it out. He’s simply pointing out that this assumption is false (in the case of TV anyway) as it fails to account for addiction rather than fulfillment as a motive for consumption.


20+ years without TV here folks and I feel fine :smiley:

Tain’t called a idiot box fer nuthin’

I grew up w/o a TV (until about age 8)–I never really acquired the habit. If I watch something, I WATCH it-and then turn the TV off.

I also don’t like background noise like radios etc.
Not sure if I am “HAPPY”, but I do know that listening to TV all day (at work; I’m a nurse) is extremely irritating–everyone yells and the commmercials are moronic for the most part.
I do think you all are on to something re: the dissatisfaction egendered by comparing RL with “RL” on TV.

A lot of TVs here in the UK come with a revoluntionary gadget called an “off switch”.

It’s great - it does the same thing as throwing away the TV, but means you can watch it when you do want to!

How cool is that!

Seriously, with a bit of will-power it’s easy to ignore the TV. We use the video to record programs we want and watch them at a time that’s convenient.

I’ve loved watching Wimbledon this week - isn’t the same on the radio. I can live without the soaps, and never watch them, but there are some real gems in the schedules that people sans TV miss out on.

I don’t see how spending time silently watching TV is any different to spending time silently reading a book - both passive, both exclusive, both able to rot the brain, depending on the material.

I stopped watching TV for an extended period once (actually twice) when I couldn’t afford the licence; I was happier and more productive, generally, but I found it harder than usual to fit in socially with my peers; so much conversation relates to what people are watching or have watched on TV, if you don’t have a handle on it, you don’t fit in and you can’t really function properly. Even so (or maybe even because of this), I was happier.

My (then)boss sent me out to buy some item of hardware or other; he handed me what I thought was a note of foreign money - I laughed and handed it back to him; it was actually the ‘new’ five pound note, that I’d heard precisely nothing about.

I’m not sure I agree with this; the social aspect of it, perhaps (although a book is, or has been until the advent of Tivos etc, easier to briefly set aside than a TV programme).

But the fundamental difference (IMO) between a TV and a book is that a book typically forces your brain to supply the pictures - your imagination is stimulated, whereas a TV just dishes them up in prechewed, predigested form.
OK, of course visual media can stimulate the imagination (hence the Batman vs whoever threads and stuff like that), but I maintain that in general, books provoke thought, TV stifles it.

That and the ratio of ‘good’ reading material to ‘bad’ is probably generally higher than the ratio of ‘good’ TV to ‘bad’.