At long last, the deed is done: I am cable TV free, and then some…
This is one way to cut the cable cord (but not the way I did it…)
Well, I finally did it! This past Sunday, I cut the cable cord.
The decision was a big deal, which is why a strange mix of thoughts and emotions passed through me after I returned the remote device and converter box. I felt a keen sense of detachment and release, as if I had removed a horse bit from my mouth or some other apparatus that I’d worn for so long that I’d forgotten it was not really a part of me. I felt the presence of attachments waving frantically like tentacles trying to regain their hold on me, as if I was freeing myself from one of those disgusting human birth pods in The Matrix movie series. (Yes, those images really did come to my mind.) Maybe that would also explain why the phrase “naked and afraid” kept running through my head.
There’s another reason I had such a strong reaction: because I’ve replaced cable with — nothing.
That’s right; no Roku or Apple TV or anything like that. No TV at all, in fact — at least for now. Unlike my recent social media/news diet, I went cold, cold turkey on this one.
This decision evolved from my ongoing quest to build a healthier relationship with my stuff. Now that I’ve dealt with most of the physical things in my life, moving on to other types of clutter seems like a natural progression. Watching cable TV was for me probably the biggest example of the mental and digital clutter that inhabits my life. The bulk of my viewing time was spent watching sports — soccer, baseball, and an eclectic variety of others. Most of the rest of my viewing time was spent channel surfing through programs which I really didn’t care much about. There were certainly some occasional nuggets here and there, but mostly it felt like a not-very-effective way to relax and decompress and possibly a huge waste of time as well.
So cable TV was a ripe target for some zero-based budgeting — setting the counter back to zero to determine the actual value of watching TV through questions like these:
– What do I really need and want for TV consumption?
– What will I miss so much that I’ll be able to calculate that it’s worth the time, energy, attention to purchase it, knowing what I’ll be paying for it instead of having the cost hidden in a cable TV “package”?
– Since being able to afford it is not an issue, what other factors will form the basis for my decisions?
– Will I be able to discern what I’ve removed from my life that needs restoring? Will I find that I can replace what’s valuable to me by other means? Or will I find out that my TV consumption was in fact just a huge waste of time?
This decision has been a long time coming and involved a lot of unraveling for me to get to this point. I’d been meaning to do this for well over a year, but I kept putting it off. There were plenty of reasons to keep dragging my feet on the decision. There was the time back in April when someone reminded me that I wouldn’t be able to watch Washington Nationals baseball if I got rid of cable. That stopped me in my tracks for a while. Then there was the unnecessary need to time the event with the end of my billing period, which hardly seems like a savvy cost-savings decision in retrospect, given how many months it took for me to make the decision. The last straw was having the complete Verizon FiOS service — cable, internet, and phone — stop working on Saturday night. I thought, well if I’m not going to have cable for the next couple of days anyway, why not go ahead and do it now? Spending hours trying to troubleshoot Verizon FiOS on a smartphone also helped push the decision; adding on the extra two hours or so it took to cut the cable service on top of the hours I was already spending on dealing with the service issue didn’t seem like much of an extra effort (see above pic for the cause of the disruption).
Many people I know will say, ‘So what? Big deal.’ Most of these folks got rid of their cable (if they ever even had it) a long time ago. But many other people I know are surprised or even thoroughly appalled at the very idea of cutting the cable cord (‘How could you even think of doing that?’). Maybe this was why, while it felt as if I’d made the right decision, it didn’t feel 100% right: because it also felt as if I was cutting myself off from an important part of society. If consuming less feels faintly un-American in an economic sort of way, cutting the cable cord feels faintly un-American in a cultural way.
But in fact, my intent is the opposite: to get in closer touch with myself, others, and society by removing mindless distractions of TV viewing which had become obstacles to connecting. I imagined myself as an observer who had stepped to some outside and was now looking in. I imagined trying to cajole people to join me ‘out here’ but finding that their digital lives made them difficult to access, maybe even impossible.
In any event, it felt good overall, as if I had really turned a corner in my life — from where to where I don’t exactly know yet, but I know that my life will be significantly different somehow and in a positive way. It felt liberating.
So back to zero it is. It’s only been a few days, but I haven’t missed having cable so far. This decision is also a perfect way to launch my next habit reforming project, which is to change my TV and sports viewing habits. (More about that in a future post.) So I’m keeping track of my urges and triggers to watch, and it’ll be interesting to see how they emerge as time goes on…