April 20 marks the beginning of Turnoff Week 2009. (There’s another one starting Sept. 20.) It’s an effort by the national nonprofit organization TV-Free America, founded in 1994 to raise awareness of our couch-potato society’s increasing obesity and to generate interest in activities that are more literate, productive and engaged than watching Gilligan’s Island reruns.
According to the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness (www.screentime.org), “On average, people watch 4 hours of television and then spend another 4 plus hours with computers, games, video, iPods and cell phones. According to Nielsen, the average World of Warcraft gamer plays for 892 minutes per week! The company that owns Second Life…claims that its users spent over 1 million hours on line.”
Across the nation, schools and bookstores, along with municipalities and activists, are planning events to encourage us to turn off our TVs and get more active. Here in the NOLA area, the Metairie location of Barnes & Noble is planning special activities to celebrate Turnoff Week, including story times, games and costume parties. (Hmmm, sounds like a Harry Potter book release!)
In conjunction with Turnoff Week, Saturday, April 25 is The Great American TWEET-OFF. Organizers are asking tech junkies to “consider leaving that computer off for the day, staying away from the cell phone and doing things you just don’t normally do.”
Turnoff Week has been around since 1994, but efforts to make us less media dependent, if only momentarily, go much farther back. In 1971, John Denver exhorted us to:
“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own.”*
If you’re at JazzFest on May 2, you’ll hear local favorite Cowboy Mouth remind us that:
“Jenny says turn off the radio
Jenny says turn out the light
Jenny says turn off the video.” **
Just don’t forget to turn the TV back on and pick up that newspaper. Journalists across American need the jobs!
* by John Prine “Spanish Pipe Dream” 1971
** by Fred LeBlanc “Jenny Says” 1992