Americans watch an average of almost three hours of television per day, devoting nearly 1/8 of every day to staring at digital images on a screen. Over the course of a year, this means a full month and a half (43 days or 1,022 hours, to be exact) are spent in front of the tube with barely a second thought. Before giving away another minute, give yourself perspecTiVe to better understand your relationship with television and how it affects your pocketbook, your family, your health, and more!

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Abraham Lincoln

The Year 2050

And in other news, the United States of America slid again today in global economic rankings, dropping out of the top ten behind China,India, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, France, Russia, Canada and, most recently, its neighbor to the south, Mexico. Economists blame lackluster productivity, a crippling healthcare crisis, and the largest trade deficit in the country's history.

The former global powerhouse has fallen precipitously according to world economic and standard of living rankings. Of course, the entire world remembers the nation's record plunge from the standard of living ranking years ago as it fell out of the top 10 in healthcare, education, wealth per capita, and gross national happiness back in the thirties and forties. Americans do, however, still top the gross television viewing index, collectively logging more than 349 billion hours annually!

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
Abraham Lincoln

Finding perspecTiVe

It all started on a sunny fall day in northern California. I had just gotten home after a long day at work and was ready to kick back on the couch to watch some of my favorite TV shows. I went to turn on my 60-inch high-definition television and cable box only to have the screen freeze after a few seconds. I flipped the channel to unfreeze it, but it seized up again. Irritated, I went to check the television in my office, then the one in my bedroom. Same problem.

I started troubleshooting by unplugging the master box and rebooting each of the local boxes. Still nothing. Desperation was setting in as I dialed the cable company. After being bounced around several times and put on hold many more, I was finally told the cable was simply out in my area and there was nothing I could do but wait. As millions of people have done before me, and likely thousands did that very same day...

For the first time in history, our country's Triple A credit rating would be downgraded, leaving investors around the world to wonder whether the United States is still a good bet.
President Barack Obama

Smarter Choices for your Pocketbook

On an otherwise uneventful Monday afternoon in late July, 2011, President Barack Obama took to his favorite pulpit, prime time television, to warn Americans of their impending financial demise. As he spoke, millions of Americans stared at their television sets, faces glowing, hanging on his words and wondering how we would ever survive the financial crisis and imminent doom to the U.S. economy. Of course, a few citizens were likely upset that a presidential speech had superseded their favorite television show. Virtually no one, including President Obama, realized the irony of his message to millions in economic hardship who have little grasp of the true financial burden of watching their television...

It is a great thing to know our vices.
Cicero

From Scientific Breakthrough to Addiction

To better understand how television first captivated our attention as a nation, let’s take a brief walk through its history and evolution to meet a few of the many scientists, engineers, innovators, and entrepreneurs who contributed to it along the way.

It may surprise you to learn that the television is actually quite an old invention, although it has come a very long way since its birth. It has been evolving constantly from its inception as a crude method to relay still images half the size of a business card to the super-sized high definition flat screens we know and love today.

More than 135 years ago, in 1873, and English electrical engineer named Willoughby Smith made an important discovery that would become a key contributor toward the early development of television. While testing underwater cable...

Parents can really help, but they can also really hinder the development of their youngsters.
Mike Krzyzewski

Wired from Birth

Ever since little Ken Philo witnessed Mickey Mouse on screen, children have been fascinated with TV. One might imagine young Ken’s eager face filled with awe, wonder, magic, and pure delight. Few were present to witness this child’s expressions with the glow of the TV on his face, but many have seen it since.

Children are very impressionable and attracted to whatever captures their attention best, whether it be a puppy, fireworks, or Mickey Mouse. Media companies have been quick to capitalize on this attraction; hence so many youth targeted programs with bright colors and fun characters. Years ago, these were scheduled at prime times for child viewing, such as Saturday morning and after school hours, but now such programming is available 24/7...

Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.
Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta

Body and Mind

Television has made an incredible impact on people’s lives within the United States and beyond. Over the course of just a few decades, TV has completely altered the way information is disseminated through society and how free time is spent. Before the internet, television revolutionized the way we digest news from around the world through a visual lens. We are fortunate to live in a time with such informative content that can be absorbed in such a convenient manner. Just 150 years ago, Charles Darwin had to put his life at risk on a boat to learn about organisms inhabiting regions of earth. Today, we only need to flip the channel to Discovery to find a high-definition documentary on the Galapagos Islands.

TV has become such a force for entertainment it is now virtually synonymous with the word. For most Americans, it is the most common way to spend leisure time. Every night of the week...

Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.
Henry David Thoreau

Seeing the Big Picture

Have you ever stopped to think, “How exactly did we end up here?” We live in a time where humankind has the capability to overcome existential challenges such as starvation and disease. In America, starvation is mostly non-existent and has been replaced (and then some) by the other end of the spectrum: overeating. Access to clean water and sanitation is a foregone conclusion, with most tap water clean enough to drink and even fortified to help strengthen your teeth. While imperfect, our healthcare system is cutting edge and has all but eradicated once deadly diseases such as malaria, smallpox, and more. The ability to treat chronic diseases has advanced leaps and bounds in the last 50 years with once dangerous procedures becoming routine and less invasive.

Beyond our basic necessities for survival, our wants are fulfilled in astounding ways we now take for granted. The internet has caused an...

Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.
President Ronald Reagan

Creating Balance Through perspecTiVe

So there are the facts about our friend, the television. A little perspective on an object we could have hardly imagined to become such an integral and transformative part of our lives. Fortunately, it is not too late to alter the course of history so that we do not fulfill the scenario described in the prelude: unhealthy, unhappy, and broke. The good news is that television has changed history for the better more than once, and there is no reason to believe it can’t do it again if we demand it.

For starters, as individuals and families, we need to practice better self control and not commit every free minute to television. Moderation is a necessity; if we can limit our viewing to programming that we really value we will be making progress. This moderation will mean something different to everyone. The six hour-a-day viewer will be making tremendous progress to trim hours to a mere three...

About the author

Chris Ryan holds an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree in Financial Economics and Biology from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. In 2001, the North Dakota-native merged his passion for business and healthcare by joining Medtronic in a corporate office role. In 2007, he took on a new challenge with a Sales role within the Cardiac Surgery division.

In 2010, Ryan co-founded a medical distributorship business, Shamrock Surgical, in the Pacific Northwest. Most recently, he partnered with a team of enthusiasts to help launch Insight Coffee Roasters, which encourages best practices in sourcing and production.

PerspecTiVe is his first and only book exploring the true costs of television on one's life. In his free time, Chris enjoys traveling, hockey, and spending time with his family and friends...without the glare of television in the background.

Dedication

To my parents, who definitely did not leave parenting up to TV...

To my Granny Sanny, who first taught me how to live life to the fullest...

And to a nation finding its way off the couch to make the world a better place for future generations