I’d Rather Be Watching Friends

I went to the gym as usual this morning to do my workout (weights and then 40 minutes running on a treadmill). Next to me was a woman at least 10 years older than I am, running faster than I was and at an incline. I glanced over and noticed that she had been running for over an hour and didn’t seem to be exerting herself much at all. Seeing her effortlessly move while I sweated and huffed was simultaneously motivating to me and slightly depressing.

After a cold shower–the water heaters at Gold’s Gym are no match for peak hours–I got in the car and headed to work. A young woman passed me on University Parkway in a Ford Focus with Arizona plates (I figure she must be a BYU student). At a stoplight, I saw that the frame around the license plate read, “I’d rather be watching Friends.”

Now, I have nothing against television or even “Friends,” which these days seems to have faded from its prior omnipresence in syndication. But it struck me this morning that of all the things I wish I had more free time to do, watching television is at the bottom of the list.

When I was dealing with depression, I watched more TV than I do now. These days I might watch TV when I’m loading the dishwasher, but I’ve been trying to read more and do some research for my book. But a couple of years ago, I would come home from work and immediately lie down and turn on the TV and watch whatever was on. Or I would get on the computer and read a ton of message boards and news sites and even just look up random stuff on Wikipedia (how pathetic is that?).

What I found was that I was withdrawing from everyone I loved and cared about. I’m not a horribly social person, but at one point the only human interaction I was having was with my wife and kids (during commercials, naturally). I did Facebook and email and caught up with all my old friends and relatives. But I never actually saw them or spoke with them. I made friends, or so I thought, but it’s difficult to be a real friend when you have never seen each other and communicate only through typed messages.

So in a very real sense for me, my hooking myself up to the information flow from TV and the Internet made me less connected and far more isolated. I was becoming my own island in my room (cue “Brian Wilson“). All I needed was my own sandbox.

I feel like I’ve gotten off the island, and I’m alive again. I go out once in a while. I have friends. I get to the gym regularly. I’m writing again. And the last thing I want to do is hang out with Joey and Chandler.

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