The Nielsen TV Diary

I love surveys. 

It’s not that I want to help out the survey-makers.

I’m not so altruistic.

It’s just that I love any opportunity to give my opinion.

When I was a kid, my mom would get these surveys in the mail asking which household products she used.  There were pages and pages of check boxes, covering everything from laundry detergent and dishwasher soap to breakfast cereal.  I replied to every question, double-checking with mom when I wasn’t sure of an answer.  I don’t remember getting anything for filling out and mailing these surveys back in their (postage-paid!) provided envelopes, but really, filling out a survey is its own reward.

Then one day out of the blue the Nielsen Television Diary arrived.  This was more than a simple survey; this was a booklet where you logged everything you watched on television for a week.

For me, it was manna from heaven.

I believed the fate of my favorite shows rested in my hands.  I faithfully logged in my viewings of General Hospital, because if they cancelled the show how would I know if Frisco and Felicia were reunited?

I also cleverly gamed the system, claiming that I had watched shows that I hadn’t.  I mean, just because I hadn’t watched them didn’t mean I wanted them to go off the air.

For my meticulous record-keeping, I was rewarded with a crisp $1 bill sent to me through the mail.  I wish I still had it.  If I did, I’d hang it up on the wall like those small business owners who frame the first dollar they ever made.

These days all the surveys (like everything else) are online, but I’m no less addicted.  I constantly receive Civiqs surveys asking my political opinions.  I drop everything to tell them if I think the country is moving in the right direction or the wrong direction, and if I would vote for a generic republican or a generic democrat if the election was held today.

A few years ago I was selected for an in-depth research project.  After making sure it was legit, I agreed to participate.  A woman came to my house and asked my opinion on all things for over three hours.

It was the best day of my life.  A captive audience for three hours?  Never offering her own opinion, only wanting to hear my thoughts on everything from if I thought people were mostly bad or mostly good to whether or not newspapers ran misleading headlines?

My ego never felt so stroked.

Maybe this is what therapy is like, I thought.  Maybe I should get a therapist.

Nah.  I’ll just keep on filling out surveys.

A much cheaper way to keep my sanity.

And way better than wading into the comments section of the internet.

That’s the fastest way to losing your sanity, not saving it.