Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
27 Sep

Are You Living an Active or Passive Life?

Humans enjoy being entertained. We like watching funny, engrossing, exciting shows, movies, and plays. We love good tunes. And we enjoy watching a great stand-up comedian at work, the kind that makes your abs sore from laughter. But why? Well, it boils down to our need for sensation. Simply put, we need to laugh, cry, tense up from excitement, experience emotional highs and lows, and we enjoy the activation of our adrenal systems – whether it’s due to something happening to us in real life or to an imaginary character on a screen somewhere – because we have the equipment necessary to experience all those things, and we need to use it. Feeling sensations, emotions, excitement, then, is a prerequisite for being a healthy, happy human. An ancestral expectation.

This makes sense when you think about it. Everything that we had to do to survive, like hunting, fighting, exploring, and climbing to tall places, naturally elicited powerful sensations. And if we were going to continue to perform those actions and survive long enough to reproduce, the sensations had to be rewarding on some level. The flush of adrenaline that came with killing an antelope had to be enjoyable, or else we’d be less likely to kill again. Even simple socializing, while not necessarily thrilling or exciting, is highly entertaining because it reinforced an activity that allowed us to exchange ideas, solidify relationships, and learn new things, tips, and tricks. You want to know where the tastiest berries are? You gotta talk to someone to find out.

But look at the passive voice we use when we talk about entertainment nowadays. We are entertained, we like being entertained; we do not entertain ourselves or do exciting, hilarious things that also entertain us. We are largely passive participants in entertainment, while “entertainers” are an elite, select group of professionals who make good money entertaining us, and “entertainment” has come to signify the various mediums through which we consume entertainment – TV, Internet, video games, etc. Entertainment is very much about things being done to and for us, while we lay back and take it all in.

The numbers are pretty staggering. In an average American household, the TV is on for 6 hours and 47 minutes each day. 66% of Americans regularly watch TV while eating dinner. The average American kid watches 1,500 hours of TV a year, and over half of 4-6 year olds polled preferred watching TV to “spending time with their father.” But the television has been around for decades, and it’s always been popular. In fact, research suggests that people watched almost as much TV back then as they do today (PDF). I watched plenty as a kid, but I still managed to get out into trouble, run around, play, and experience life in between episodes of Bonanza and the Andy Griffith Show, so what explains today? Well, these days 93% of teens and adults aged 12-29 also go online daily, with more than a third using it several times a day. When you factor in mobile and smart phone usage, every waking hour is consumed by electronic entertainment, the vast majority of it passive. For a people mired in media, there’s simply no time left for active entertainment.

What did people do before television? Before the Internet? How did people keep themselves entertained during those occasional five second periods of inactivity without a smartphone to pull out? How did people occupy their time when they weren’t working, going to school, or procuring food? In other words, how did people back then keep themselves entertained without the wealth of media options available to us now? Did leisure time consist of staring at walls, the ground, and/or the ceiling, or if you were lucky and weather permitted, shapes in the clouds?

10,000+ years ago, folks had nought but their own imagination, their community, and the wild world around them. When they weren’t procuring food, shelter, or safety (activities that were often exciting and engrossing in their own right), Grok and co. could play games with and talk to each other, explore the environment, tell and listen to stories, play games, and practice hunting skills. I’m probably missing a few activities (and there’s no way to know for sure what specifically went down, unless perhaps we unearth a paleolithic version of Twister somewhere), but we know what they did not do. They did not lock the door, shut the blinds, plop down on the couch, and watch TV for half the day. They did not go to the movies. They did not surf the web late into the night. The closest thing to passive consumption of entertainment was listening to someone tell stories, but even that was a participatory act, since the listener was in the same room, probably knew the person telling it, and would respond and react in real time to their words. Oh, and there were no commercials. Basically, if Grok wanted entertainment, he had to go out and do things to make it happen. And if he wanted to be entertained, say by a storyteller, he had to go directly to the source. There were no other options.

When you take everything into account, it’s difficult to lay too much blame on folks today. Most of us grew up in a world where entertainment and sensation came prepackaged and easily deliverable, and that’s hard to get around. After all, humans love the easy route. Heck, animals in general prefer the easy route, because easy routes are few and far between in the wild. So when you see one, you take it! Ten thousand years ago, the only way to feel anything was to go out and actually experience it. Today, it’s easier to watch other people’s experiences on a screen, and it’s sometimes more effective, especially when they’re enhanced by sex, violence, explosions, special effects, audio, and teams of writers/actors/directors working to make the experience that much more intense. And remember – feeling those powerful sensations is not optional. We crave and need them to function well, so the path of least resistance and most abundance will also be the path most traveled. I think we’re just too far removed from real experience, from having to engage with the world. To counteract that, we have to consciously decide to turn away from the easy route, to go out and do things differently, and that’s hard to do for an animal wired to take the path of least resistance.

But we gotta do it.

So here’s my challenge for the day: be engaged with the world and those who populate it. Get off the computer and off the couch. Find/do/explore/feel the real thing. How you do so is up to you, but I have a few suggestions.

  • Watch TV, sure, but watch it selectively. Set the shows you truly care about to tape and keep the TV off otherwise. And try to stick to shows that make you think. More Dexter, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Ken Burns docs; less reality TV and Two and a Half Men. Don’t just have the TV on because you’re home.
  • Use Facebook, but use it to facilitate real world, face-to-face interaction. Make an event and invite people to it. Catch up with an old friend and meet up at a coffee shop.
  • When you read blogs, participate in the comment section. Don’t just consume; produce, interact, discuss!
  • Watch a movie at the cinema, or better yet, go to a comedy show or watch a show at the theater. Afterward, talk about what you just watched over coffee or drinks.
  • Join an adult sports league, or organize something with your social circle. You could even just head down to the local park for a pickup game.
  • Instead of playing video games, have friends over for a board game night, or maybe poker night. And if you’re going to play video games, try multiplayer games.
  • Read fiction. It’s passive, but you have to actively process the words and imagine the world the author creates.
  • Look for a paleo Meetup group near you, join it, and start attending functions. If your new Meetup group is staid, start suggesting meetups yourself! Don’t wait for others to do it.
  • Instead of buying all your meat all the time, try hunting. Instead of buying all your produce, try gardening. If you don’t have the option for either, go to farmer’s markets, where you can look the person who grew your food directly in the eye as you exchange money for goods and actually get to know them.
  • Get a dog (and feed it an ancestral diet). It’ll get you outside and teach you to be more present and aware of the moment.
  • Make a point to say “hello” to passers-by. Even a smile and nod will usually work, and it’s not a big commitment. It’s just a quick connection, a mutual acknowledgement of another human being. No “stop-and-chat” required.
  • Stop using porn. Have real sex instead.

If you’re complaining that this is all too hard, that everyone else you know lives on Facebook and only text messages, change that. Invite them out. Think about how much you wish you could have more real experiences and realize that everyone else probably feels the same way. Like you, they’re just waiting for someone to take charge. Be that person who takes charge.

With all that said, I have to ask: how are you going to be engaged with the world? How do you plan on living an active, versus passive, life?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great List! I’m doing some of these, but look forward to doing more! The dog thing is an interesting idea. I have never been a dog person, but I’m starting to warm up to the idea.

    Jeff Witt wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I wasn’t a dog person either until my wife convinced me to get a golden doodle. Gotta tell you, I’m hooked. I never thought I could love an animal as much as I love the dog.

      I spend more time outside with him and I get inspiration from him everyday to get outside and enjoy it.

      Do it man … hop on the wagon!

      Brandon Boyd wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Dogs are awesome and they get you to socialize! Just go to a park with a dog, where other dog walkers are, and you have an automatic invitation to dog parties where you pretty much just watch the dogs play while you talk about how great dogs are LOL!
      But then you get to know the other owners and you meet some really cool people. One thing about dogs is they are not shy, and they won`t let you be either!

      Robin wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Get a Boston Terrier! Greatest dog on planet Earth!

      Primal Toad wrote on September 28th, 2011
      • Get some hybrid pugs, they are the greatest dogs on the earth(next to Bostons). I go walking with my 3 at least once a day, usually before sunrise. We also sneek into the Jr High football stadium and do Tabata’s doggie style.

        Gman wrote on September 28th, 2011
      • I’ve got 4 dogs, 2 mini Dachshunds, a large american pitbull and an english mastiff. I walk about 4 miles every day just with dogs, all of them combined.
        Dogs are a great way to pass the ‘boring’ times of the day.

        Issabeau wrote on September 28th, 2011
        • Wow that Mastiff must be awesomely behaved. I have a Lab/Great Dane cross and she would be stepping on the little dogs constantly. She’s totally obilvious to anything shorter than her chest level lol

          Darcy Guy wrote on September 28th, 2011
        • I have a great dane/ bulmastiff that was a rescue dog, he is wonderful and super aware of other dogs. He plays with my mother in law’s yorkie and has never once stepped on her. He lies down and lets her run all over his head, it’s cute. I love walking with dogs!

          Katie wrote on September 28th, 2011
      • Please don’t go out of your way to get a specific breed.

        The loveable mutt at the pound will be at least as good of a companion and doesn’t feed the puppy mills.

        Warren wrote on September 28th, 2011
    • I love this post. For me, the irony of this technological world we have created is that connecting people in so many different ways (email, txt, facetime, networking . . .) has left me feeling completely disconnected! I live in Scotland where cynicism and a ‘stiff upper lip’ rule over emotion; changing my diet has completely changed my life in a way I never thought possible and I no longer feel the need to bury the way I feel behind a mask, and so I will improve my life further by following the above advice. As you can see I’ve started with Point 3 :). Thanks Mark for all your enlightening efforts. I am forever grateful.

      Si wrote on February 8th, 2013
  2. Teh – I’ve spent more time on the computer since discovering MDA and primal. But that’s ok – I’ll slow that down soon, once I’ve learned what I need to know. I can’t believe the stats on people watching tv at mealtime. WOW. We NEVER watch tv at mealtime – well not true haha on sundays the old 1970’s batman comes on and my kids are obsessed with it. So we have a family picnic with veggies, meat roll ups, and fruit on the picnic blanket on the living room floor – but that’s it.

    I plan on being more active with and playing with my kids. I spend a lot of time with them but more refereeing than playing – I need to get back into the tree climbing and tea party-ing. Can’t wait until nap time and school is over actually.

    MamaB wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I was also shocked by this. I knew a lot of people watched TV way too much but 2/3 watch TV while eating dinner?! That’s absolutely obsured.

      I am not against TV even though I never watch it except for the occasional inning in a Detroit Tigers playoff game, few series in a Lions football game (3-0!), etc.

      If the entire world was primal where would we be? Would we all be happy?

      Primal Toad wrote on September 28th, 2011
  3. So, here’s something…

    I have kept myself very busy all my life. I’ve just always felt like I needed to have things on the go – committees, sports teams, art classes, social outings… Every minute of my day was typically full of stuff that I “joined” that made me happy and fulfilled, educated me, entertained me, excited me, you name it.

    Except that EVERY MINUTE OF MY DAY was spent doing stuff and I never had a moment to NOT DO STUFF. You know?

    Since going Primal, I have developed an urge to slow down and enjoy the quiet parts of life. To be less busy. So I have downgraded my involvement in many of my extracurricular activities. This gives me more time to relax and unwind before going to bed at night.

    And part of my relaxing and unwinding has been to watch a little more TV than I used to. I’ve started to really “get into” a few shows (and not necessarily “smart” ones like those listed above; I like things like Project Runway and Top Chef – reality shows where creative people ply their trades); it’s now my thing to do on quiet nights at home. I’m not watching scary amounts of TV, but definitely more TV than ever before.


    Erin wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I definitely agree in that there is a balance to be met. I have periods of my life where I was out doing something all the time, my house was just to sleep and yet other times where I wouldn’t leave the house for a day or two.

      I’m slowly learning how to listen to myself more. Am I out doing activities because I’m afraid to be alone or am I staying home to really focus and accomplish something vs being lazy to engage with the world.

      Looks like you’re hitting a stride where you can have the freedom to be quiet and relax and go and have fun when you’re ready.

      JohnU wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I hear ya. Seems like I’ve been busy my whole life. I’m the type who feels guilty if I’m sitting doing nothing, like hey! I gotta dust something or clip the dog’s nails, or, uh, or uh, something! Hard to relax. I haven’t been socializing as much lately so this article reminds me to call my friends and neighbors over for a game of darts or Monopoly or just sitting around BSing.

      Hillside Gina wrote on September 28th, 2011
  4. Great tips. We don’t struggle with tv/games/computer time. My husband and I lead by example and don’t do much of it. We have horses, chickens (fresh eggs!), a dog, and a few cats outside to care for. TV time is brief, games are a once in while thing and the computer is strictly for homework/work. Otherwise we read, play outside, participate in sports, and always, always, always eat a mostly primal dinner together with zero tv. :)

    Iowamom wrote on September 27th, 2011
  5. I don’t watch a lot of TV…Mainly HGTV when I feel like I need some motivation to clean my house LOL. BUT I am addicted to my smart phone and the internet…Something I need to really learn to deal with. Right now my addiction is Pinterest. Pinning things I like to eat, pinning places I want to see, or arts and crafts ideas. Probably a better idea to actually DO those things instead of stare and daydream about doing them.

    Earthspirit wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Oh my lands, I LOVE pinterest. Maybe we should pin something, then do it, like a one at a time limit thing. :)

      Allie wrote on September 27th, 2011
  6. CRAFTS!!!!!!! I kept shouting this as I read your post.

    Paleolithic people surely did it and we can do it too.

    Learn to knit and sew. Learn basketry. Learn how to do beadwork, both as jewelry and as applique on fabric/leather, learn to tan hides and spin your own yarn if you want to be really hard-core. Soap stone carving, woodworking, painting and drawing, there is an activity under the heading of CRAFT for everyone.

    These are entertaining activities that, engage your brain, give you a sense of self-sufficiency and accomplishment, and you have something to show for it when you are done.

    toaster for sale wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Ive been learning crochet, and I looove it. Im still super beginner but im already fantasizing about things I can make, especially gifts to give people.

      Ive developed a ritual lately of crocheting while watching through episodes of Star Trek TNG on Netflix. I say it counts as thought-provoking TV, and it reminds me of my childhood, and I engage with it by yelling at Wesley whenever hes on the screen.

      cTo wrote on September 27th, 2011
      • I have about 10 episodes DVRed right now. I thought we were supposed to have a drink when Wesley appeared. I know I need one when Lwaxana is on.

        Hillside Gina wrote on September 28th, 2011
    • I quilt in the winter and garden in the summer – I know that’s not a craft but I find pulling weeds very relaxing. Oh and play with playdough all year with kids – I’m great a making cats lol

      MamaBear wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • oh and read – everything, anything (in book form). I’m with Mark – I just love the smell of new books. By book buying habit is almost as expensive a groceries.

      MamaBear wrote on September 27th, 2011
  7. LOL, Mark, all three shows you listed are on my watch list.

    Add True Blood, and that’s pretty much my entire TV schedule.

    Uncephalized wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Does no one watch Castle? That`s thought provoking!! I’m always trying to guess who done it! Plus it’s just funny!

      Robin wrote on September 27th, 2011
  8. Same here! Game of Thrones, Dexter, and Breaking Bad are on my list too!

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when I go out to eat with some of my friends. While we’re waiting for food, everyone busts out their smartphone and ignores the people around them. COME ON GUYS!

    Jasmina wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • My family and I actually get enjoyment out of watching people in restaurants not interact with each other because they are on smartphones. We make up stories about them and why they don’t talk to each other. Even our boys get into the act and we usually all end up cracking up and trying not to cause a scene because we are so happily interacting with each other!

      Rebeccab wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • One of my employees does that when I take my team out to lunch. I’ve pulled him aside and explained why that’s rude and inappropriate, but he still does it.

      Warren wrote on September 28th, 2011
  9. In reading Primal Blueprint, the blog posts on play, and this post, I realized that one of the areas where I’m most lacking is free, uninhibited play. So much of life (work, chores, “responsibilities”) is regimented. I truly want to break out of the “adult maturity” mold and get in touch with my playful side. I think one of my biggest challenges is letting go of what I feel I “have to” act like and removing the mantle of “I should behave like this” because it’s what is expected of me as a …… (fill in the blank.)

    One of my inspirations is a young woman named Katie who is clearly living life the way she wants, to the fullest. Check out some of her posts for inspiration:
    It’s pretty brilliant.

    Kathleen wrote on September 27th, 2011
  10. Same wavelength? Haha! I recently went to an event I randomly found on the net, a storytelling evening by a group called the Stokey Spinners. It was amazing! Storytelling by candlelight in the middle of far off Stoke Newington. Worth the train ride!

    I even got inspired and did a post on storytelling on my blog: have a read!

    Milla wrote on September 27th, 2011
  11. As a kid, I used to love rides in the car, from short rides across town to road trips. This was because I used to look out the window and just THINK. I would look at the passing scenery, check out interesting houses and wonder what the people in them were like, look at unusual buildings or properties and wonder what they were for. Frequently, while driving through more wild terrain, I would make up stories about what it would be like to live in such a forest/desert/mountain terrain. Sometimes I would listen to music to soundtrack my thoughts, but the main entertainment was the thoughts in my head. I attribute this practice to my interest and skill in writing today. Of course, today I have to, you know, focus on driving, but whenever Im a passenger I still find myself slipping into such a creative, zen state.

    Since time spent with ones thoughts is so rare today, I am adamant that should I have kids, there is no way in high heaven that we will have a TV in the car.

    cTo wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I was the same way!! I used to love car rides… And my family did plenty of long cross-country trips in the ol’ station wagon:) I think that’s part of why my family is so creative. (That and the fact that whenever we complained about being bored, my mother would say “only boring people get bored.”) I have a two year old now, and you can be sure we won’t be getting a car with a DVD player anytime soon.

      Jess wrote on September 28th, 2011
  12. after more than 20yrs w/o one, I finally got a dog last year. We go for walks twice a day. He’s learning to run along without tripping me during sprints. We play. We share food – sometimes his is less-cooked than mine :) He does something to make me laugh every day. His joyful exhuberance is infectious…

    peggy wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Yes Peggy “exuberant” is the word to describe dogs =D I’m so glad you discovered how wonderful they are! We always had dogs when i was growing up and then I moved out on my own and couldn’t afford one for the longest time. It was actually really hard for me to be without canine companion. Now I have a wonderful little girl who probably the smartest dog I’ve ever had, and the most loyal :)

      Robin wrote on September 27th, 2011
  13. Great post, our household hasn’t had had TV for almost 6 months and I haven’t missed it. We use Netflix and boxee when we want to watch something but what we watch his a lot more stimulating and we don’t watch just to waste time anymore (ignoring the day I watched Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus).

    Growing up we only got 2 channels on a 20″ tv and both came in grainy and rarely aired anything worth while. I remember reading, playing cards, exploring outside, wood working, baking, gardening, … etc keeping my and my parents from myself getting bored.

    Darcy Guy wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • We don’t have a TV either. We use my parents’ HBO credentials to watch HBOGO online (I would happily pay for HBOGO myself, as it’s a great service, but it is only available to people who already have HBO on cable. WTF?), and Netflix covers most of the older stuff.

      Uncephalized wrote on September 27th, 2011
  14. I discontinued my cable nearly 2 years ago, so now we have to choose what to watch (DVDs or downloads). Also, when my son was younger (he’s 13 now), I took him to plays, music performances and various festivals so that he got to know that it was real people creating the entertainment, not just stuff on a screen. I think it’s paid off because he’s a hands-on kind of guy (sort of a mad scientist, actually), plays 4 musical instruments and likes to make movies with a friend to post on their YouTube channel. They’ve gone from being entertained to being the entertainers.

    Nicky wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • We have a TV but don’t let our kids watch it. As they are still young (2 and 4), they really don’t seem to mind. But when we go over to other people’s houses, they get sucked right into watching the TV if it’s on.

      We let the kids go outside and play in the backyard (barefooted of course!). We also do crafts, colour, play games, read, get them to help prepare lunches and meals. Evenings seem to go by really fast when you are engaged in activities.

      I am sure the day will come when they will protest but hopefully by then they will realize how much more they get to do by not watching TV.

      By the way, my husband and I have found that since we cancelled our cable last year, that we read and talk more. Also, we tend to go to bed earlier! 😉

      Happycyclegirl wrote on September 28th, 2011
  15. Very timely. I just deleted all the games off my iPhone last night and am taking a hard look at my TV consumption.

    I’ve already cut the alarm clock, dropped Netflix, started running without music blaring in my ears and use the computer ONLY for work hours.

    Now if I could only get the rest of the household to agree to kill the cable subscription!

    Nicole wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Good for you!! I’m trying to break an addiction to Snood. Very tough to do…

      oxide wrote on September 30th, 2011
  16. Great Post, Mark. This life is about the people we love who populate it! Don’t let life pass you by and miss out on the wonderful relationships you could have. Grok on!

    Ryan wrote on September 27th, 2011
  17. Mark, you’re a Game of Thrones fan? Now I officially love you! (Dexter and Breaking Bad rock too)

    You hit the nail on the head. When I think of a creature that has to be constantly entertained and cannot do much for itself, I think of an infant. Then I think of most people.

    I work part time the entertainment industry so I watch a lot of television and film. I’m also a writer so I sequester time to do that too…not to mention school and trying to squeeze in Crossfit workouts. It’s hard! I think of “me time” and my first thought is lounging around watching Arya stab people. But then I begin to feel, wow, I finally have time to myself and I waste a lot of it.

    This post motivates me to try harder to do more things I want. I love going to the movies, but a lot of the joy I get from it is hanging out with friends. So maybe after the movies we’ll go hang out in the park or something. Ideas!

    Mimi wrote on September 27th, 2011
  18. I haven’t watched tv for about 3 years since I got involved in SecondLife, which is a multi-player virtual reality. It is not primarily a combat environment, although that’s available. I’ve done some and it is very active. I now mostly spend time with the avatars of REAL human friends. I build and design things. I do stand-up comedy. I role play. Why watch tv when I can be on it.

    Harry Mossman wrote on September 27th, 2011
  19. The less I watch TV, I notice that the quicker I got sick of being in front of the screen. I’ve been reading a lot more books (non-fiction) that gets my brain cells working, learning everything from psychology, nutrition, spirituality, power of the mind, and quantum physics. If I see an article I’m interested in reading online but it’s long, I’d print it out and read it from the paper the old fashioned way, or load it up onto my Kindle – no back-lit disturbance to my brain. My significant other was a tv addict when we met less than two years ago, but his commitment to primal lifestyle has completely changed his lifestyle and reaping benefits from it too! Now he’s reading more, watching less tv, downloading less silly passive shows, and is actually training consistently (he used to hate working out). I might amount to a max of 6 hours of tv a week, just 3 the past week actually. His numbers are coming down significantly too, from just having the tv making noise when he’s home all day, to having it off entirely and watching it only to watch documentaries and two of his favourite shows. Not bad, I’d say!
    Bravo to everyone enjoying life, to finally LIVING.

    Jess wrote on September 27th, 2011
  20. I am super lazy and I need to change that. Your blog and ideals are inspiring. For me, less TV, more reading, more moving.

    Shelby wrote on September 27th, 2011
  21. One thing that was left off this list of how Grokette entertained herself: she made pretty things, in her spare time. These things were also probably functional, but their decorativeness went beyond just function. That’s one big way I entertain myself.

    I don’t have a TV and I don’t listen to the radio either. I look at FB every day (and Mark’s Daily Apple). I also go out every day and talk to my neighbors. Sometimes this is hard because a lot of them are kind of neurotic: there are some alcoholics, some sexual harassers, people who drive too fast on our one-way rural road. But I try to get along with them.

    Sometimes it’s hard to be more social because so many people around us have lost the skills and training they need to BE social, or engage in pro-social behavior most of the time. Even old people seem very immature and anti-social to me these days. When I was a child I always thought my grandparents seemed wise, calm, and kind. The old people I know now are frequently crabby, addicted or enabling addicts, and do things that endanger other people regularly. People that grew up in the Depression and WWII seem dysfunctional to me as a group.

    shannon wrote on September 27th, 2011
  22. I always love getting reading encouragement from MDA!

    Oddly I was just reading about this today…in The Other 8 Hours. We’ve got to create in our lives and not just consume, or we’ll be sorry (passive) substitutes for vibrant human beings.

    I am loving this week with the double posting!

    Anne wrote on September 27th, 2011
  23. “How did people keep themselves entertained during those occasional five second periods of inactivity without a smartphone to pull out? ”

    I like to think people used to keep books with them. I always did as a kid and do most of the time as an adult.

    You said TAPE shows, Mark – you’re old 😉 we don’t have TIVO or the like, either. VHS in my house.

    AlyieCat wrote on September 27th, 2011
  24. Back when I used to compete in triathlons, (before the days of sprinting and NatFit) I gave up my television set, as I felt it was robbing me of valuable training time. I literally deprived myself of the tube for two years. When I finally broke down and bought a flat screen, I found that I had trained myself right out of the desire to watch television at all, and the damn thing sits on the dresser in my bedroom almost completely unused, unless I find a movie I want to watch before retiring. Usually my evenings are spent with a good book or Kindle, or with some friends of mine. We love to walk down to the beach and commune in the sand, or up in a tree. (I love tree climbing and have hooked my friends on it as well.
    Here in Chicago, there’s a million and a half things to do, and the ability to free ones self from the shackles of the television set and enjoy them, is truly a gift. Basically, I retrained myself out of the comatose world of television, and back into a life with people who truly live.

    Paleobunga wrote on September 27th, 2011
  25. Just dropped by a neighbor’s house on my way home from my walk. They were watching the news while eating their supper. At times it was hard to converse because of the noise of the TV, and the fact that the man of the house kept getting distracted by stories on TV. It’s hard to put this “real life socializing” into practice when everybody around you is glued to various screens!

    shannon wrote on September 27th, 2011
  26. “10,000+ years ago, folks had nought but their own imagination, their community, and the wild world around them. …. Grok and co. could play games with and talk to each other, explore the environment, tell and listen to stories, play games, and practice hunting skills.”

    I think you are unfairly lumping video games in with TV. Video games, while not as primal as a dodgeball game, do fill a lot of those niches. Once you get past the casual gaming niche, games are no longer about pure reaction. MMOs like Warcraft have people coming together to socialize and make up stories with each other. Even in single player campaigns, you’re not just listening to the story, you are an active participant in it.

    And while it’s not possible to hunt down a wild pig everywhere, games do allow players to learn, practice, and refine the hunt no matter what their walk in life is. Real time strategy, first person shooters, and massive multiplayer games are all genres where you work with and against other people to refine your hunting strategies.

    And exploring environments? This will drive players to continue long after they have beaten the game. Rockstar specializes in open sandbox games where you can explore every inch of the world they made. MMOs like Oblivion and Warcraft also have in depth environements to explore.

    If fiction novels are a lesser evil due to their less-passive nature, then video games are even less still.

    LXV wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I have to agree with a lot of the comments you made here. Once, I harped on my husband pretty hard for spending too much time playing. He was playing a lot of MarioKart and got involved with the online community, eventually running a team and creating competitions and tournaments. For someone who had just moved halfway across the country and was struggling to find employment and friends, it provided him a community with similar interests. We even once met one of those individuals in person.

      It was no substitution for the real thing, and once he started making local friends the gaming died down. But even now, it’s a good way for him to spend time with his brother who is 15 years younger than him. They call each other up and talk while they’re playing Modern Warfare, trying to come up with strategies or just cover each other’s backs.

      That’s a lot safer than trying to do that in real life!

      Deanna wrote on September 29th, 2011
  27. As an avid gamer, I definitely do agree with a lot of the points you make, LXV. Games are still the reason that I haven’t had cable in almost ten years; I’d rather participate in the story instead of just watch it. However, I think the real detriment of the video game isn’t so much that it is a video game; I think what is killer is the sitting six inches away from a giant backlit screen hitting the same few buttons repetitively for several hours on end.

    I mean, I’m sure you’ve had those days where you just sit down to chat with a few of your friends online and three hours later you haven’t budged from your chair, you’re sitting in some awful hunched over position, and your mouse hand is a tad sore from smashing that click button as much as possible. Not to mention the slight headache from staring at the screen for so long.

    I definitely agree with a lot of the points you’ve made, maybe it’s just people using video games as a replacement for all of those things. Am I looking forward to plopping down in my chair tonight and exploring a game world for an hour or two? Sure. But that’s only going to come after I take the dogs for walk, where we go explore one of the nearby neighborhoods that I drive by everyday, but have never been through to see.

    Mike wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • In my personal n=1 experience I have to say Jane McGonigal is right. For up to 21 hours a week** I see an improvement in the quality of my life. (And I include the time I spend playing D&D with IRL friends). Anything over that and there’s starts to accumulate the deleterious effects you mention quickly. We’re absolutely in 100% agreement that video games should not take the place of real things. I just get really hopping mad sometimes at people slagging my industry.

      ** 9/10 weeks I do not play that that many hours a week. But that is the mark where I go from entertained and uplifted by it, to getting run down by it. (The weeks when Blizzard puts out a new game are exceptions – lol)

      LXV wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I do about an hour of gaming each day- I have invested in the free MMORPGs that way I get some interaction with people.

      Lexxy wrote on September 28th, 2011
  28. Mark – I love this article. Exactly why I read MDA daily. Inspiring, as always.

    Kevin Meyers wrote on September 27th, 2011
  29. Without even realizing it I think I’ve grow into an active person as opposed to passive. I never turn the TV on anymore and when my roommates do I’m often just reading blogs (and commenting!). I can’t take part in all of those dicussions about last nights episode or an upcoming movie but I don’t really care, it’s not real life! I’d much rather be cooking, taking photos, reading blogs or exercising these days.

    katie wrote on September 27th, 2011
  30. Hands up all those people who actually chose porn over sex?

    Josh wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • oh they exist…

      Robin wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • There is no need to choose one over the other, although some people definitely do. Porn can be one part of a healthy sex life and approach to sexuality. While the original point is to choose something active over something passive I for one good people don’t completely stop watching porn. Of course, being a pornographer i must admit to some bias!

      Bourke Wills wrote on September 28th, 2011
    • That’s unfair! Their hands are too busy elsewhere! 😉

      Neil wrote on September 28th, 2011
  31. I love this post. I grew up with a lot of superficial media exposure and also grew up playing a lot of online video games and not much else.

    When I got into college, it was whole new experience. There was almost no room for introverted people there because the school was very activist-oriented (which kinda got out of hand at times) but nonetheless, I was still able to grow and connect with people in a natural way.

    But now that i’m out of college, it seemed kind of inevitable that I would go back to connecting via technology because of how our society is so conditioned this way.

    That’s why I love the suggestions you put up Mark. Instead of complaining how our world is the way it is, you give us a perspective on how we can bring the bright side of it by using just a little creativity.

    I’m a ‘pick-up’ game kinda guy. I developed most of my friendships in college from pick up basketball and frisbee games in college.

    Great post.

    P.S. Anyone have any good suggestions for books in fiction? I need to stop reading science books, and biography books :)

    I also heard Paolo Coelho real eased his new book today called ‘Aleph’. Just heard the interview online and just ordered my copy, can’t wait to read it.

    Brandon wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Good fiction books?

      Game of Thrones of course. The series is up to book 5 now so it’s a good time to get started.

      LXV wrote on September 27th, 2011
      • isn’t that a tv series? sorry for my ignorance, I just never heard of it.

        I’ll definitely check it out though.


        Brandon wrote on September 27th, 2011
        • There is a fantastic HBO series now based on the books.

          Andrew wrote on September 28th, 2011
    • Shantaram. it is the greatest book ever written. its very long but does not drag at all, buy it. you’ll thank me later.

      Bourke Wills wrote on September 28th, 2011
    • @Brandon: These are some of my favourite American novelists – Carl Hiaassen (very primal – he writes eco satire), Elmore Leonard (unimproveable – La Brava is my favourite), James Ellroy – LA Confidential is great as is Black Dahlia. I’m currently obsessed with James Lee Burke. What about science fiction? I love Philip K. Dick – his short stories rock. I think A Scanner Darkly rocks.

      Charlotte wrote on September 28th, 2011
      • Soz – Carl Hiaasen – apologies for spelling.

        Charlotte wrote on September 28th, 2011
      • wow thank you Charlotte! I now have a list to use to go out and search for. haha

        I’ve heard some of those names before, just never looked into it. Definitely will now

        Brandon wrote on September 28th, 2011
        • My pleasure!

          Charlotte wrote on September 28th, 2011
  32. The stimulation provided by passive entertainment is much more damaging in terms of our neural pathways being modified than any of us think. Your last list item was on stopping the porn and engaging in real relationships: an excellent example. I can only imagine how the brain is being rewired when a harem of willing 2-dimensional partners is always available in ways that presses your specific buttons. Not your grandpa’s Playboy magazine, for sure, and I can’t imagine it not affecting real relationships.

    boo wrote on September 27th, 2011
  33. I’m finding that the better I’m eating, sleeping and stronger I’m getting, the more offensive television has become. All those mind numbing “reality” programs and the ads for processed crap non-food, germ killing sprays, medicines for heatburn, anti-perspirants that now last **two days** (without letting a drop of that pesky sweat escape). That’s incentive enough to leave it turned off.

    I crave reality now. The sand in my toes, sun on my shoulders, giggling through a crazy tennis game, smelling the rain coming, creating real connections with friends, even feeling gravity sticking me to the earth. I’m loving it! :-)

    Caroline wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • Right on – I actually feel cranky when I can’t fulfill my insistent desire to get the negative-ions in the woods or that trail hike/run that gets me sweating. Those darn commercials are so grating!

      Jessica wrote on September 27th, 2011
  34. I think that the most interesting aspect of this whole dilemma is that it seems we’re no longer able to entertain ourselves.

    If Grok had to wait for a few hours in a park, I’m sure he’d have a blast. But most of us would just sit on a bench and get bored.

    Moreover, most of us are so socially-conscious that we’re actually afraid to let go and have fun in that kind of situation. Like “I wonder what the random guy walking his dog will think if I climb a tree?”.

    Josh Frey-Vitamin Source wrote on September 27th, 2011
  35. I love the post and the comments. I’ve had a hard summer. I’ve always been a voracious reader and I am thankful for the books that have kept me company during this season. When my father died in early June, I did rely heavily on select television/movies through Netflix. I just couldn’t think straight. In July, a local musician created a free ukulele club. I had always wanted to learn to play and bought a cheap uke 2 years ago and hardly used it. This club has done so much for me. I’m 46 and I’m finally experiencing the joy of learning to play music. Last night, quite unexpectedly, an 83 year old man showed up to our club meeting with a 1951 baritone uke and he wanted to learn a particular Earnest Tubb song by December. It was awesome!!! I love the challenges, the club members, just everything about the uke!

    Debra wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • I too lost my dad, this spring, Debra. I think your awakened interest in music sounds like an amazing salve! The uke must be so fun.

      Jessica wrote on September 27th, 2011
  36. One word… Trampoline!
    My house-mates and I brought a 16ft trampoline 2 months ago and it has completely transformed our house dynamics. Learning new tricks and trying to perfect flips has kept us pretty busy. Plus it is a social vortex, we get alot more visitors coming around for a coffee and bounce.
    Only one accident so far, dislocated foot & broken leg (the guy hasn’t been primal, weak bones you know)

    Dange wrote on September 27th, 2011
    • wow! trampolines are great fun. 16 ft is huge. my house-mates and i have one too. love hanging out double-bouncing each other, and egging each other on.
      one of my friends ruined his foot too though. funny coincidence.

      tilden cats wrote on September 28th, 2011

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!