Sometimes a research paper comes along that really makes me question the validity of our society and culture through sheer ridiculousness. Sometimes a paper comes along that makes me think time is running out before we all become mindless blobs of fat cheering and applauding every minor development in the lives of the few people who are actually living.
This is one of those papers.
Remember the writers’ strike a few years ago? When movies were delayed and a lot of television shows had shortened seasons and there were a ton of reruns on? When – if you’re like me – you got mildly annoyed that a couple of shows would have to wait to find a resolution, but quickly got over it and had a beer and read a book?
Apparently some people were actually distressed by the absence of their favorite shows and characters. What’s more, this “condition” actually has a name. It’s called a parasocial break. And apparently there is a whole body of work that deals with the distress that happens when a show or character goes off the air permanently.
That’s right, I said distress. People actually get distressed.
However, there was little research about the effects of a temporary break – a whole which Emily Moyer-Guse of the Ohio State University used the writers’ strike to fill. She recruited 403 undergraduate students to fill out questionnaires about how often they watch television, why they watch television, how they felt when their shows were interrupted and what they used to replace them.
Believe it or not, the amount of distress felt by the students was actually measurable. With responses ranging on a scale from 1 to 5 to questions like, “Now that my favorite television show is off the air, I feel more lonely” and “Now that my favorite television show is off the air, I feel a void in my life,” people apparently gave answers that weren’t “ones”.
Personally, I would have wrote-in, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
The results showed that a temporary break does indeed cause distress, more so to people who watch television for “entertainment, social interaction, information, arousal and escape” than those who watch for “relaxation, companionship, habit, and passing time.” It also showed that men were worse at coping with this “loss” than women.
Finally, it showed that when faced with the absence of their favorite shows, people tended to simply consume other forms of sitting-on-your-ass entertainment. They watched reruns, movies, played video games, spent time on the internet, etc.
So quit blaming television for your kids not playing outside. If it goes away, they just find other lazy activities to engage in.