Television is a national pastime. Research shows that, depending on your age, you likely spend anywhere from two to nearly seven hours a day in front of your television set. Plus, you can add online streaming to that number.
This isn’t a TV-bashing article that tells you to stop wasting your time. Television can certainly get in the way of your goals by preventing you from getting things done but, for now, I want to look at five surprising ways it can trick your brain into making big mistakes.
I’m currently reading Rewire by Dr. Richard O’Connor. In it the author briefly discusses television and the ways it can influence our thinking. I found it so interesting that I wanted to share those insights.
If you think TV is just a way to kill time or unwind at the end of a long day, then here’s something more to consider.
1) TV convinces you to spend more money.
As soon as you hit the ‘On’ button, you’re seeing commercials and shows full of people who live in luxury. They have the clothes, cars, homes and amazing nightlife; and it all seems so easy.
All that exposure to messages of extravagance can leave you feeling like the whole world is wealthier than you, and that you’re obviously doing something wrong.
According to Dr. O’Connor, we typically spend $4 more per week for every hour of television we watch. Even if you’re at the low end with a daily average of two hours, that equates to an extra $8 per day, $56 per week or $2,912 per year. It adds up fast.
2) TV creates a sense that the world is unsafe.
Your brain uses a shortcut called the Availability Heuristic. I’ll explain with an example.
What’s more deadly, a snake or a cow?
If I wasn’t trying to make an obvious point, you would probably say snake. In which case you would be normal, but you would also be wrong. Every year in America, more than 20 people are killed by cows, while only 6 die from snake bites. Even spiders are only at a mere 7 annual deaths.
Here’s the lesson: whatever information your brain is able to recall first is given the most significance. Because you think of it with ease, you naturally assume it must be the right answer; most prevalent, dangerous or important.
You think of snakes or spiders over cows because you hear more about their deadly venomous bites. However, the amount of attention they receive makes them appear worse than they really are.
As a result of the Availability Heuristic, watching news reports that constantly focus on terror, destruction, infidelity and immoral behaviour can put you at risk of assuming those bad things have completely taken over mankind.
3) TV tricks you into being less committed to your partner.
According to Dr. O’Connor, the more images you see of attractive people of the opposite sex, the less committed you feel towards your own partner.
Suddenly your special someone doesn’t seem so stunning. Of course it’s absurd and your brain is playing a twisted trick on you, but it feels real. And unfortunately, too many people fall victim to that feeling and make big decisions based on nothing of substance.
4) TV makes you feel ugly.
It won’t come as a surprise to you that looking at images of attractive people of the same sex can make you feel unattractive in comparison. Television, along with all forms of media, sets unrealistic standards and expectations that do nothing but rob you of your self-esteem.
5) TV tells you to stop working so hard.
It’s easy to look at celebrities or professional athletes and assume their raw talent was the only key to their success. Not only was hard work required to make celebrity status possible, it’s also required for them to keep it.
Of course there are elements of genetic giftedness and favourable circumstances at times, but if we limit success to those two ingredients alone, we won’t give our best effort towards achieving our own dreams.
Yes, be realistic. If the American Idol judges laugh you out of the room, it might be time to try something else. But for the most part, don’t let yourself be deceived by TV into believing it’s impossible to do what others have done.
Put Up Your Guard
I don’t hate television and I don’t judge those who spend countless hours in front of it. However, I am concerned about the ways it hurts their health, relationships and success.
If watching TV is part of your daily routine, then you need to be aware of its effects on you beyond distraction and entertainment. Don’t let it to trick you into spending more money, feeling unsafe, becoming less committed to your partner, perceiving yourself as ugly or giving up on your dreams.
Your mind is a precious resource that needs protection. If that means watching a little less TV, then so be it.
How will you stop being sucker punched by television?