Interview with a TV addict

I’ve been posting about TV addiction lately and in my efforts to find people who are addicted to TV, I came across such a unique example that I had to dedicate an entire post to her story. Her name is Xochitl Garza, though her blog readers know her as Equis Buffy. Her daily posts about TV can be found at her blog, You Have No Messages: The Story of My Life. How I found Xochitl (Aztec for “flower,” her name is pronounced So-cheel) is its own story, but suffice it to say that this is one addict who is clearly not in denial. In a recent interview, she answered some of my questions about what it’s like to be an addict:

How many hours of video do you think you watch in a typical week? I usually watch about 30 hours of primetime TV. I have three daytime programs (“Martha”, “Oprah”, and “ General Hospital ”) that air 5 times a week but I do not necessarily watch each episode. So on top of the 30 hours of primetime I probably have an additional 10 hours of daytime TV that I watch.

How do you break down that viewing: live, DVR, online, anything else? I would say at least 95% of that viewing is DVR. I rarely watch live TV anymore but there are times when it can’t be avoided. Like when I’m home sick or on the weekends if there is really nothing else to do.

How important is it to you to share your watching with others? There are some programs that I watch that I never find myself discussing with others like “Samantha Who” or “The Mentalist”. These are the types of shows that any viewer can start watching mid season and never feel like they are missing any crucial portions of the plot. Then there are other programs such as “Heroes” or “Lost”. As soon as the credits roll I am bursting at the seams with anticipation. I can’t wait to discuss all the twists and turns, the questions that have been answered and the new theories the episode has spawned.

How important is that impulse to share in your choice to blog about your shows? I decided to start blogging about TV this past summer. When I noticed how many emails I was sending each week to my family, friends, and co-workers on the subject of TV. Everything from a weekly recap of specific shows to which programs may or may not have been canceled. I figured instead of generating a distribution list for all the fans of “Gossip Girl” and a separate one for “30 Rock” I might as well put all this information in one place.

What’s the best way to tell whether someone is addicted to TV? I would say the same way you would gauge any other addict. If it starts to interfere with other aspects of your life then it has become a full fledged addiction. If you find yourself spending the first hour of your workday online trying to get spoilers for next week’s episode of “Fringe”. Or if you’re skipping your niece’s birthday party because you want to watch the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” live then you are an addict.

Is it necessarily bad to be addicted to TV? The name of my blog is You Have No Messages. I always use to tell one of my sisters that if I ever wrote a book it would be called You Have No Messages: The story of my life. The same sister thinks that the vast amount of time I spend watching TV might be the reason for the lack of voicemail I receive. I think it has more to do with getting older and priorities shifting. Instead of going out every other weeknight and every weekend I like to spend more time at home these days. The more time I spent at home the more I learned to enjoy TV. TV has not completely annihilated my social life. All of my friends will tell you that not only am I a walking TV Guide but that I also throw the best parties this side of the Mississippi. I feel my life is well balanced. If TV consumes all of your life then I would say it is a bad thing.

What would someone have to pay you for you to watch no TV/video for a whole week? How much more would they have to pay you to get you to promise not to go back after the week is over and catch up on your shows via DVR or online?  I’ve thought long and hard about this one. There are a few different variables I have taken into consideration when determining my answer. If the week is during November or February (two out of three sweeps months) the amount would be $5,000. If the week takes place any other time with the exception of May, the amount would be lower, $1,000. It would take an additional $1,000 in both situations in order for me to not be able to go back and catch up. As for the month of May I’m going to have to say now way no how. Not with the possibility of missing an excellent season finale. I thought back on episodes that I could have possibly missed in years past such as  The Gift from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” The Telling from “Alias,” Everyone’s Waiting from “Six Feet Under,” or Leave It to Beaver from “Veronica Mars.” I would have never forgiven myself if I had only had a verbal recap of any of these episodes instead of getting to witness them myself. Who am I kidding for a cool million I would practically do anything.  

There are many gems in Xochitl’s story. One of the most telling tidbits is that she knows the names of the episodes she’s referring to. At a more intriguing level, what she says about balancing life and TV is particularly important. Contrary to the image of the couch potato sitting for hours on end in front of a flickering screen, today’s TV addict is an engaged, socially connected viewer who wants to talk about TV with others and engage them in the conversation. Xochitl is an example of a more empowered addict, a viewer who can veg with the best, yet hang with her peeps at the best parties “this side of the Mississippi.” One tool that helps her do this is the DVR, but the Web also plays a role in not only the viewing but in building the conversation. This may be one addiction that gets healthier as technology improves it.

Does Xochitl’s story resonate with yours? 

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6 Responses to Interview with a TV addict

  1. lizzie g says:

    Who isn’t addicted to TV, i think TV is a safe comfort in our lives. i am not as big as an addict on watching TV as Xochitl, but i love reading her blog you have no messages. i am more of a channel flipper, i like to watch 2 to 3 shows at the same time, i do this by watching tv live (i know a sin) when the commercials are on then i flip the next show i am watching. loved your article!

  2. James McQuivey says:

    I love Lizzie’s comment — she confesses to being a channel flipper. What primal urge do we satisfy when we do that? It feels like a hunter-gather experience, always keeping an eye on the prey while scanning for other opportunities. Love it! Keep the comments coming.

  3. X says:

    I lived for a good year and a half without TV (was living with a guy who didn’t “believe” in it) and honestly thought I could be OK doing it forever. The one thing that bothered me was not being able to participate in “water cooler” talk and we all know if it’s good enough this kind of talk always follows you back to your desk and for cocktails after work.
    The one show I remember constantly hearing about and not knowing jack about it was “Laguna Beach.” I finally broke down and rented the DVD’s, which I had to watch on my boyfriend’s laptop because of the non belief system.
    Anyway, as far as the living without it forever thing goes: My current bf and I have three TV’s in our house and I’m asking for a mini TV for Christmas so that I can watch TV when I clean the kitchen and get ready for work in the morning.
    That said, I will NEVER be on the level of Xochitl, who I’ve referred to as a walking TV Guide for several years now.

  4. James McQuivey says:

    X raises an excellent point: there are many of us who have gone without TV (as in this extreme form, or in limited form, like when we cut the cable cord some years ago because our kids were vegging out too much). Most people I talk to admit that these were mostly good times, though peppered with moments of slight regret. Yet, when a life shift occurs (loss of a boyfriend as in X’s case, or in my case, the kids got old enough they could be more responsible with TV) we almost always come back to TV. Can’t tell you the number of people who have confessed to me that even though they cut the TV habit, they snuggle up to the laptop and watch a favorite show online.

  5. I blame a part of my addiction on my parents. Growing up we were often restricted on the amount of TV we would consume. We were latchkey kids and I remember the parental units going as far as coming home from work and feeling the top of the TV to see if it was warm. This would tell them if we were actually coming home from school and doing our chores and homework like we were suppose to. Instead of wasting our time watching stuff like “He-Man: Masters of The Universe”, “Tom & Jerry” and “Saved By The Bell.” There were times where my father would allow extra viewing hours but only if the programming was on public television. These were on again/off again practices growing up but I think it’s one of the reasons I do not restrict myself as an adult.

  6. James McQuivey says:

    I love the hand on the top of the TV — like an episode of Dragnet. “Ma’am,” he said, his hand resting on the top of the television set, “Is there something more you’d like to tell us about your activities this afternoon?” And then the confession would tumble out, admissions of He-Man, Tom & Jerry, all of it.

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