Sound check

November 12, 2012

So from Thursday evening until Sunday afternoon, Eric was in Tennessee running the Ragnar Relay for the second time. It was my first time being alone in our new house and I had a pretty nice weekend by myself. It didn’t feel terribly different from most other weekends (I’m sure the fact that I cut myself off from “Law & Order: SVU” and all true crime TV in the weeks leading up to it helped me get through it without sleeping with a knife in my nightstand) but one thing I noticed throughout the weekend was how different things sounded.

I feel like there are two kinds of people in this world when it comes to TV: those who turn on the TV looking for something to watch, and those who turn on the TV only when they want to watch something specific. Eric is a total TV-on-all-the-time person. He watches TV to relax and he just likes having the TV on for background noise. My grandma is like this too, so I’m used to it, but it’s not my style at all. When it comes to TV, I’m pretty much only going to turn it on if I know I can find something I like to watch. (Even the shows I like tend to back up in my DVR f0r days or even weeks. I just finished the first season of “Scandal” and caught up on the new one last weekend…and I’m already behind again.)

When I tell people that I don’t watch a lot of TV and prefer reading, it comes across as super smug, but it has nothing to do with one medium being a more noble pursuit than the other. (Seriously, I still get my mindless entertainment fix; I just prefer getting it from blogs instead of Bravo.) I really just don’t like the noise. And for me, it’s not just the actual noise (though that definitely bothers me); I also find that TV has a lot of visual noise. I’m surrounded by so many screens all day (and so many windows within that screen!), and when I get home at night, I just want to shut it all off. I try to limit myself to just one screen (or less) in the evenings, and I find that a tablet or a phone doesn’t create nearly as much visual noise as a big HDTV. And reading on my Kindle or an audiobook is really my ideal way to relax. TV just stresses me out.

Even with the TV off, the most background noise I tend to want is a podcast or music, and that’s only if I’m doing something mindless, like cleaning. As soon as I start creating or consuming any kind of content, I don’t want or need any kind of background noise. Occasionally, I may put on some music to work to, but after a few minutes, I’ve completely tuned it out, so I typically don’t even bother.

Eric and I have dealt with our differences in this area by setting a few ground rules. Whoever is cooking dinner gets to choose the background noise during that time because the other person has the option to just go upstairs. Beyond that, we just kind of balance the amount of time the TV is on or off when we’re hanging out together. And if I really feel exhausted by the noise or the visual but we want to spend time together, we can compromise with an audiobook.

Even though we’ve worked it out and I really don’t think about it too much anymore, I have to say, I was kind of delighted when I realized I could tune everything out this weekend. I read a ton (just started Committed — umm, why had I not read this book already?!), with only the sound of the ceiling fan to keep me company.

How much background noise do you like when you’re hanging out at home? How do you and your significant other or roommates deal with differences in this area?

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