The concepts of Financial Independence and Early Retirement are not the norm, with society and the media having conditioned us to believe that extreme levels of ever-increasing consumerism are the only way to achieve happiness. Keeping you glued to the “idiot box” as your main source of information is another key goal of the commercial networks, with a huge portion of the population effectively brainwashed into this thinking already.
The fact that you are reading this blog (and any others like it) means that you have made, or are in the process of making, the transition away from extreme consumerism to using your time more productively, and I hope that the support of others in our online community helps you in staying strong while you complete the transition to a better way of life. Once you break away from your TV addiction you will notice that not only does the grey matter between your ears not hurt when you use it, but it actually gets stronger and you become happier instead.
Unfortunately the whole time you are making this transition, the media is trying to drag you back into their bottomless pit of consumer doom, where you don’t have to think about anything and just have your “knowledge” spoon fed to you. It is therefore important that you do your best to avoid exposure to their evil tricks.
To help you on this journey, I thought it best to point out some of the media tricks that currently go on to try to get you to part with your cash and continue thinking that their content has some value. Most people don’t even see these tricks because they have been slowly conditioned to think that they are normal.
- Percentage of advertisements per hour on TV: The commercial free to air TV networks are permitted to broadcast advertisements for 15 minutes every hour. So one quarter or 25% of what you are watching is actually a commercial. Who in their right mind would choose to do that? Isn’t that like being required to drink one glass of curdled milk every time you want to drink three of your favourite beers?
Well you had better get used to it as in 2014 channels 7 and 9 began lobbying the government to increase the advertising minutes per hour to 20, or 33% of all content! Then you’ll be having one glass of curdled milk after every two glasses of your favourite wine!
- Volume of advertisements on TV: On free to air TV, you will notice that the volume on advertisements/commercials is way louder than during the normal TV shows. While the networks give all sorts of bullshit justifications for this, it is quite convenient for them. Because I am so rarely exposed to these commercials, when I tune in to them now I am almost blown away by the “aural assault” of these advertisements during the breaks. How the hell do people put up with this every night?!
- TV shows that are actually more like advertisements: I was unfortunate enough to watch a few episodes of “The Block” (a high-rating renovation challenge show) in 2014, and couldn’t believe the amount of blatant product placement in the show. It wasn’t like their logo just happened to be in the background (like in a movie), but the host and the contestants actually talked about the brands that they used as a clear way of plugging the product that they had been paid to support!
- Breakfast TV shows:
If you look closely, so much of breakfast television is meaningless drivel. It follows the same repetitive format, and covers the same types of stories that only someone that has been brainwashed would actually find interesting. A common format is where they are “doing a story” on a topic, which just involves the host of the show sitting between two “social commentators” that happen to be a blonde bimbo who doesn’t know jack shit about the topic, and a chauvinistic try-hard comedian male offering stereotypical views in the form of half-arsed jokes. None of the three people really know anything about the topic, and the topic is bullshit in the first place. Once you pick up on this format you realise that it is repeated a number of times throughout the show, every single f*&king day!
The breakfast TV shows also include a flamboyant Hollywood reporter, and even if he is actually gay in real life, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has totally turned up the cheesiness and flamboyance so that he can fit a stereotype while presenting his cliched meaningless news about when some Hollywood star took a dump and how many times their dog humped a tree yesterday. And this character appears every hour of the show, every day, and sometimes more often if something “more important” happens.
The final nail in the Breakfast TV show coffin is the choice of people actually hosting them. I don’t need to name these people, but the shows are more about them than the content, and as people they are enough to make me sick. Why a person would choose to watch shows that are essentially about the two “boofhead” male lead anchors I just can’t understand. And it seems as if a large portion of the population actually look up to these clowns!
- Morning TV shows: These are the shows that go from 9am through until about 11am, and aside from having no meaningful content whatsoever, they have a huge component of embedded infomercials. I have enough steak knives and I don’t want the latest ab-swinger-cruncher-thing thank-you very much. Although if you do want one of their exercise machines I’m sure you can find last year’s model for probably a 90% discount on eBay!
- Current affairs shows: These are like breakfast TV shows, but I firmly believe that the people watching them become even dumber over time. They are therefore dangerous for independent thought, especially as dumb people treat them as a source of “information” or “knowledge”. If someone starts a sentence with “I saw a story on XYZ current affairs show last night…” you know that what is going to follow is the most shallow analysis of a subject based on a deliberately dumbed down broadcast to satisfy the viewers.
As they said in Adam Sandler’s movie Billy Madison: “Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to you. I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul”.
- Junk mail: This “material” just tempts you with an endless stream of products that you didn’t even know you needed. If you didn’t receive the junk mail you wouldn’t even know what you were missing, and no wonder people spend so much at Christmas – the junkmail goes into overdrive!
- Commercial radio advertisements per hour: Some people feel the need to listen to a radio all day every day while they are at work. I personally can’t stand listening to the sound of the radio as I find that the noise lowers my productivity, but another issue is the brainwashing and meaningless chatter that goes with it. You see, 18 minutes of every hour (or 30%) on commercial radio stations is made up of commercials, so nearly a third of what you are listening to is trying to sell you something. The balance of commercial radio is made of repeating the same songs multiple times per day, with extremely limited/superficial news and then meaningless chatter filling up the remaining balance. If we go back to my glass of curdled milk example, radio is a bigger offender than TV, dishing up 1 glass of curdled dairy product for every two pints of your favourite ale. I wonder if people would still choose to listen to the radio if they knew this?
Unfortunately many of the above tricks are very difficult to avoid if you don’t have sufficient determination, but here are my tips for freeing yourself from the dyson-like suction of the bottomless pit of consumer doom.
- Don’t watch commercial TV at all: I realise that not watching any TV is a very hard transition to make, but since I have stopped watching the three commercial networks (Seven, Nine and Ten) and their other digital channels it has been brilliant.
- Get a “No Junkmail” sticker for your mailbox: That way you won’t be subjected to advertising material.
- Get a “Do Not Knock” sticker for your front door: Just head to http://donotknock.org.au to order one for free. It is illegal for a door-to door-salesman to knock on your door if you have one of these, so there should be no chance that you will waste your hard earned cash on any crap they would try to sell you.
- Put your telephone numbers on the “Do Not Call Register”: Head to http://donotcall.gov.au to add your name onto the register, and from 28 days afterwards it is illegal for telemarketers to call you.
- Eliminate advertising/spam email: Unsubscribe to mailing lists or block emails that are meaningless advertising content.
- Use non-profit news sources like ABC and SBS: The news programs of these two networks actually present news in a non-sensationalised way. Many would argue that they have a leftist slant, but whatever your political inclinations are you need to educate yourself to make up your own mind rather than have someone else make it up for you. Both of them have their own TV news propgrams (ABC actually has its own news channel!), news websites and mobile news apps, and they are all free!
- Listen to music from your iPhone/Android phone when rather than the radio: Everyone has so may songs on their phones nowadays, why not listen to them instead of the radio. You’ll immediately be increasing the volume of songs you hear by 42%, and it won’t cost you a thing as you already had the songs!
Consider a low information diet
People may be familiar with the low information diet that Mr Money Mustache wrote about some time back, and when I read it back in September 2014 I decided to give it a go. It has now been about four months since I decided to take this on, with the key changes being:
- Giving up reading the newspaper: I haven’t read a hard-copy newspaper in years, but previously spent probably 45 minutes per day reading free newspapers online. Not only did I free up that time from taking up the challenge, but I also realised that I am missing nothing. I previously thought I need to “keep up to date” so that I could talk to my clients, but I have never been caught out not knowing about something snice I have taken up the challenge anyway. Which tells me that what is in the newspaper is something that I can do without.
- Just about giving up watching the news: I admit that I occasionally still watch SBS World News, but since my 5 year old is staying up later (and by later I mean a little after 7pm) this cuts across the bulk of this program, so I rarely watch it anyway. As per the newspaper point above, I feel like I have missed out on nothing and am never really caught out being ignorant of anything remotely important. So that’s more time freed up.
- I am not on Facebook, nor have I ever been: Some of my friends waste so much time on Facebook, and from observing my wife I can see how it can take up a lot of time. I prefer to just call or actually visit my friends, that way I can have a beer with them too if I feel like it.
I have found the experiment to be great for freeing up time and my general well-being. Now when I get up in the morning I don’t spend 45 minutes reading the newspaper online, I spend 10 minutes looking at blogs while I eat my cereal, then I head out for some exercise. I have done this almost every single morning since I started the challenge, with the exception of probably 9 mornings when I have been away or hungover (or both). I think giving up pointless information consumption to gain exercise time has been a great trade-off, and it is now just a habit that I don’t even think about!
Over the last four months I would say that my awareness of and attitude towards consumerism has completely evolved to the point where it will never go back. My biggest problem now is to tone down the cynicism towards (and criticism of) blatant consumerism around others as my views on the topic can make some hyper-consumers a little uncomfortable!
How has your attitude towards consumerism changed over your FI journey? Do you find reading PF blogs has helped you to change in this area?