Is watching TV good for you? The research is surprising
Watching TV could easily be seen as a mindless timewaster that encourages people to slip into a warm Jacuzzi of lazy escapism. It’s common knowledge that the binge-watching trend keeps people on the couch for hours as they double fist junk food — overeating and lack of exercise, the bane of nutritionists and clogged arteries.
But research into the benefits of watching TV paints a different picture. According to recent studies, watching TV is good for you in a surprising number of ways. Researchers have found some unexpected answers to the following questions about the beneficial effects of watching TV:
- What are the benefits of watching TV?
- Is watching TV bad for you?
- Does TV have bad effects?
- What are the brain benefits of subtitles?
Enhances Feelings of Belonging
According to researchers, the benefits of watching TV depend on what you watch. Shira Gabriel, a professor of psychology at Buffalo University, points out how watching classic feel-good sitcoms gives people a sense of belonging. “There’s this strong, very old evolutionary system in us that pulls us towards wanting these comforting narratives,” she says.
In her research, Gabriel has found a link between watching TV and the innate need to belong to larger groups for survival. Humans find comfort in stories, which is based on a primitive drive that happens on an unconscious level, she says.
This could explain why retro TV shows saw a significant increase in viewers during the pandemic. Stressed people locked in their homes were craving a piece of nostalgia for the carefree good old days, and rewatching classic TV comedies were the perfect remedy. “While the comedy genre is always popular, comedy viewing over the past year highlights a resurgent of nostalgia programming,” the 2021 Nielsen report states.
Restores and Energizes
In contrast to rewatching comedy favorites, tuning in to a new show requires the viewer to pay close attention. There are new characters and fictional universes to warm up to. Consequently, a new show can be too much for those that come home exhausted from a full day of work.
Jaye Derrick, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston, found that rewatching TV shows helped re-energize people and restore feelings of self-control. In one study, college students that completed a draining writing assignment were more likely to watch familiar shows instead of new ones. They also reported feeling better after watching.
Creates a Sense of Community
Similar to the positive effects of watching sports, which is outlined in the article on the Vidgo blog The Stream, “Experts Say Watching Sports is Good for You,” watching TV has benefits because it helps create a sense of community.
One-sided attachments to people on TV, known as parasocial relationships, have a social function. As Gabriel explains, “Through the television shows that we watch or the movies or the books that we read, even celebrities that we read about online, they can give us a sense of connection.”
The benefits of rewatching TV shows are also supported in a 2021 research article. The study found that viewers reported good feelings of being in other people’s company but without being subjected to rejection or the hassle of scheduling an in-person interaction. “They are there whenever we need them, whenever we ask,” says Raymond A. Mar, a professor of psychology at York University and co-author of the study.
The Dark Side of TV: Viewer Discretion is Advised
Choosing entertainment to stream is like wandering the aisles of a grocery store. You don’t want to pile your cart with mountains of junk food, just as you don’t want to watch shows that negatively affect your unconscious mind.
Watching TV can have subtle unconscious effects that you might not even realize. For example, in the article “Suffering From Post Cinematic Stress Disorder?”, studies have found that watching violent birth scenes, an all-too-common trope, can cause women to develop irrational fears and unrealistic expectations of childbirth.
Also, the fake love portrayed in the rom-com industrial complex can set couples up for failure when high expectations are unconsciously developed, and later on, they aren’t satisfied in their real-life relationships.
Being unconsciously or mindfully influenced by TV shows or movies is not always a bad thing. In fact, it can be the catalyst people need to get out of toxic scenarios. In another study, 33% of viewers reported that watching a show or movie inspired them to seriously consider leaving a relationship.
The End Credits
Is watching TV good for you? Just like resisting too much junk food at the grocery store, the benefits of watching TV all depend on what you choose. So, grab the remote and get a dose of feel-good medicine when you rewatch beloved shows from days of yore.
Vidgo subscribers can enjoy access to popular classic comedies along with the best in sports, news, and entertainment with 150+ channels and thousands of on demand shows and movies. Discover other positive effects of watching TV on the Vidgo blog The Stream such as The Surprising Brain Benefits of Subtitles.