“But what about my reality shows?!?” This was my plea to my then-boyfriend, now-husband, in 2011 when he told me he wanted to cancel our cable subscription. He made a valid point. We would be saving quite a bit of money each month and we weren’t utilizing most of the entertainment we were paying for anyway. However, being a TV addict, I was terrified. I told him that I would need a full presentation that would show me that I would still be able to watch all of my favorite shows. Shockingly enough, he complied (sign number 1 that I should marry that guy).
About a week later, I sat down in our living room with a complete list of device options and all of the shows I would still be able to watch. The only catch was that E!, Bravo, Food Network, and HGTV did not have any of their shows available for streaming. Being a reality tv junkie, this was a hard pill to swallow, but we had started our careers right in the middle of the recession so any ways to save money had to be welcomed. I knew this would give us a much smaller monthly entertainment budget but what I didn’t realize was that it would give me more power, presence, and mindfulness in my life.
1) You Must Watch Big Live Events- LIVE.
Before I cut the cord, I could set my DVR and feel free to start/pause/rewind to my heart’s content. Now that I watch major events over the antennae (awards shows, sporting events, political speeches, etc) as they happen, I don’t have the safety net of being able to get distracted by a magazine, an instagram posts, or any of the millions of things that can grab our attention these days. I had to learn how to become present in the moment, knowing that if I looked away, I would be missing something. It is also oddly freeing to know that for that chunk of time, you are choosing to sit and enjoy this for yourself, and not have the crutch of a DVR so that you can finish just one more chore before doing something that was more in the ‘treat yo self’ category.
2) You Have To Choose What You Are Going To Watch
This seems obvious but when you start streaming your content instead of choosing from continuously playing channels, you can’t just turn on your Roku, Apple TV, etc and just let whatever white noise is playing be your background sound. You have to make a mindful decision about what you are going to watch. This reason alone is why I kicked the reality tv habit. Even if I had the choice of watching ‘Real Housewives of Everywhere,’ when the option next to it on the screen is that documentary you’ve been meaning to watch, or that critically acclaimed sitcom that you haven’t yet gotten to, you will rarely find yourself choosing the reality show.
Which leads me directly to…
3) You Finally Have Time to Watch Those Critically-Acclaimed Shows
When I had cable, I felt like I never had time to start a new show. However, immediately after cutting the cord, there was a large shift in my TV viewing time. When I finally stopped watching 5 hours of Cake Boss because “there is nothing on tv,” and finally had time to watch all of those BBC shows I had heard about!
4) You Manage Your Time More Wisely
When you get to the end of an episode or movie, you have to choose if you want to watch more. Now, some devices have changed this and will have a countdown in the corner and then go directly into the next episode, but even then, after a certain amount of time, your device will ask you “Are you still watching?” At any of these times, you have to make a conscious decision about how you are going to spend your next 30 minutes to 3 hours (if you are deciding to watch a James Cameron film).
5) You Lose Your “But I Used to Love This Show” Guilt
This was the one that I didn’t see coming. I figured we would cut the cord, I would have to give up some shows, but I would continue to stream the shows that I do watch on Hulu/Netflix/etc. What has happened since has become a phenomenon. I used to feel like once I watched a show- I was committed to the end. But when you start streaming, you get a sense of ownership over your time and your choices. I started to find myself deciding not to watch the next episode of Community one day because I just didn’t feel like it. And the next day, I still didn’t feel like it. And 3 seasons later, I realized, I gave up on that show. And that was so incredibly freeing!
6) And You Will Find Your Weirdly Specific Favorite Genre!
Once I let go of the shows that I was guilt-watching, I was able to dive deep into what I didn’t even know I wanted to be watching! For some, this could be crime dramas, sports documentaries, or cooking competitions. For me, it was the world of British Panel Shows. To force my own agenda onto you, dear reader, please youtube any of the following: 8 Out of 10 Cats, Would I Lie to You?, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, QI, and the recently cancelled (for shame!) Nevermind the Buzzcocks.
Now that I have convinced you, go forth and cancel those cable subscriptions! Your wallet, and mind, will thank you.