I moved back into my childhood home with my parents in March 2020, and I spent the first several months bingeing “Survivor” with my brother and mother in the living room. However, as weeks at home became months, I longed for personal space and uninterrupted alone time. I decided to buy a TV in November 2020 to keep in my room, so I could play video games or watch whatever I wanted in peace.
After six months of watching TV by myself, though, I felt like I had begun regressing into my high school self, who would stay in her room all day after work or school. So when I finally repainted and started redecorating my childhood bedroom in May, I replaced my TV area with a reading nook. I wanted to read more and build healthier habits, like actually interacting with my family members outside of dinnertime and exercising more frequently. In the process, I learned four surprising things about myself, my relationship to TV, and home living.
My attention span is smaller than I imagined
Following six months of having a TV in my bedroom, the first week without one was kind of rough. After work, I had the urge to lounge in bed and catch up on “Drag Race España,” but my new reading nook, which consists of a papasan chair and bookshelf, meant I’d have to stream it on my laptop to do so.
Occasionally, I would, but that first week, I tried to sit in the new nook and start a book instead — and after a few chapters, I turned to my phone and watched TikToks. My average daily screen time went up a couple of hours that week. I noticed that without my typical evening TV downtime, time went by slowly, and I desperately tried to fill it.
You may have noticed this about yourself, too, whether that’s because you struggle to avoid scrolling on your phone first thing in the morning or you flip on a TV episode whenever you’re bored. One 2016 French study showed “dose-dependent associations between screen time and self-perceived levels of attention problems and hyperactivity.” Licensed psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee, Psy.D., told Time in 2019 that your aim should be to create balance between screen-based activities and non-screen-based ones.
Your off hours are what you make of them
A week or so after constructing my reading nook, I suddenly felt compelled to wake up earlier so I could enjoy the sunrise while drinking tea and reading, whether that was a book or the day’s news. This was new to me, given that I used to approach the morning time as only “before work” and evenings as simply “after work” hours — in short, I had struggled to separate my off hours from work itself.
I began realizing that I can have the relative luxury of building my hobbies into my hours both before and after work as long as I bake in enough time to transition between activities and work hours. In turn, I won’t feel rushed or stressed about packing too much into my day. As a result, I’ve become more intentional about how I spend my time and diversified my daily activities. I’ll go for long walks with my dog, swim, make jewelry, paint, read, do yoga, and more. Bonus: Verywell Mind reports that engaging in various physical and social activities after work can help individuals avoid burnout and other stress.
TV can still bring people together
Growing up, I’d sneak out of my room in the early mornings to watch reruns of “Full House,” and would plop on the couch after school to catch a rerun of “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Friday nights were reserved for “Fashion Police” viewings with my mom. I forgot about how enjoyable the experience of watching TV is — especially when it’s a shared activity — when it’s not immediately accessible.
After removing the TV from my bedroom, I encountered a newfound appreciation for watching programs with my family members on the couch. Some days, I looked forward to drinking coffee and following the news with my dad at the break of dawn, while my grandfather and I would take in soccer games together before dinner. And every Friday night, my family would order pizza and watch a movie together. The experience allows us all to connect without having to say a word to each other, and some days, that’s what we need most.
… and provide a necessary catharsis
Still, there’s nothing like watching whatever you want, especially after a long day of work or on a lazy Saturday. And while laptops and tablets have their place in my world, there’s just no substitute for a medium-screen experience. I thought I took advantage of having a TV in my bedroom, though I may have taken it for granted, too.
Many people turned to bingeing shows and playing video games throughout the pandemic. During the fall of 2020, my TV area brought me comfort and entertainment when I became further isolated. At the time, I didn’t consider my viewing habits as escapist, but today, I realize the time spent indulging in season after season served as a form of companionship when I rarely had any. A recent Bustle article unpacks how consuming copious amounts of escapist media could contribute to numbing your feelings, and could negatively impact your mental health in the long run. Setting aside a certain amount of time for a show, video game, or movie, though, could allow you to healthily engage with such media and mitigate its negative impacts, such as isolation and stress.
While my urge to fill the time subsided, there were still days when I longed to snack and binge “Below Deck Sailing Yacht.” I loved cozying up in my reading nook at the beginning of the day or right before bed, but I also really missed the TV area and the private rituals that stemmed from it. (No one in my family will watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with me — which is honestly their loss!) So, yes, after a couple of months without it, I decided to invite my TV back into my bedroom. It’s right next to my reading nook, so now, I can fill my time however I want.