Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TV Can Be Good For You!

My friend Jill Dobson from Fox News had me in today to discuss an interesting new study.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, has found that watching TV can drive away feelings of loneliness and rejection. The researchers did four studies that suggest watching TV provides viewers with the illusion that their social needs are being met. Psychologist call this the “Illusion Of Intimacy” (and I explain it at length in my book plug plug ha!)

But seriously, it’s a real thing. When experiencing this illusion, you feel that you truly know the person talking to you in your living room from the TV. Then when you seek out more information on them like who they are dating or what kinds of activities they’re into, you feel an even greater bond. But the intimacy is an illusion, you don’t really KNOW that person, it just feels like you do.

The AP reports:

"The first study found that subjects felt less lonely when viewing their favorite TV shows. Study 2 found that subjects whose 'belongingness needs were aroused' wrote longer essays about their favored TV programs. The third study found that thinking about favored TV programs buffered subjects against drops in self-esteem, increases in negative mood and feelings of rejection. And Study 4 found that subjects verbally expressed fewer feelings of loneliness after writing essays about their preferred TV programs."

So why would someone feel “belonging”? Well, many of the shows that we are talking about here like Sex and The City, Grey’s Anatomy, and LOST have a huge following. This of course means tons of websites, blogs and chat rooms so in turn the person does feel a sense of belonging, even if they don’t directly participate in any of the web stuff. LOST is a great example of how a TV show can become so much more than just a TV show, and how it's followers can become part of something bigger; almost like a cool pop culture cult.

Other research has shown that it depends upon who you are. If you are someone who feels that the world is unfair and unjust you will be more likely to connect with shows about law and fairness where justice is done and all wrapped up by the end of the episode like CSI and Law & Order. Researchers concluded that a viewer's fictional bond with TV characters can help ease their need to connect with others. But they do caution that bonding with TV characters rather than real people, even if you are socially anxious, can harm you in the long run because it is important to have people in your life who can really be there for you when you need. While TV characters may make you feel as though you belong–when you have real issues it is only a friend, even just one, who can give you the support you truly need.