In this blog, we will answer the question ‘Why am I so attached to a TV show?’. Post that, we will understand the meaning of parasocial relationships. We will also look at some ways in which we can prevent attachments to TV shows and ways to overcome unhealthy attachments to TV shows.
Why am I so attached to a TV show?
Some reasons why you are attached to a TV show are:
- You feel deprived of good social connections in your life.
- The adaptability of the human brain.
- You are binge-watching the show/s.
You feel deprived of good social connections in your life
All human beings crave a social connection. As a species, we are social animals. We cannot live happily in our lives feeling disconnected from other human beings. When our social needs are not met in the real world we seek comfort in the reel world. We try to develop attachments that are essentially one-sided and unhealthy for you.
The personality traits of being an introvert or an extrovert do influence to what extent we have a social reach. But, introverts too, who draw most of the energy and happiness from within themselves rather than the outside world, need some social connection to be content. Probably, they have a really small circle of people with who they are comfortable or maybe they have just one person they hang out with to fulfill social needs. But those needs do exist.
Ask yourself are you isolating yourself from being social? Are your current social relationships not giving you the comfort and reliability that you seek? If yes, it is time you seek new groups to hang out with and dig in deeper within yourself to find answers for why you are choosing to stay away from others.
The adaptability of the human brain
Our human brain has still not evolved and adapted to the concept of television viewing and binge-watching. What effect psychoactive substances have on the brain, the same effect the shows could have on our brain when binge-watched, maybe in lesser intensity. Our brain depends on neurotransmitters for feeling good, bad, angry, stressed, etc.
Our brains can’t tell by themselves that the character we see on TV is not a real character. It responds only to our emotional reactions towards the character. The brain needs to be consciously told that the character and the story are both fictional, borne in the mind of a scriptwriter, and cinematized by a director.
You are binge-watching the show
Binge-watching has only cons. For one, it makes you physically stationed at one place for long hours making your body stiff. The body needs to be in motion to function in a healthy way and develop a better approach towards work, hobbies, and relationships. Second, when your life revolves just around watching the show you do not get any other work done. This procrastination leads to a huge amount of stress because of piled work. You barely drive your energies into developing meaningful relationships too. It is essential to have a life apart from Tv watching because those are the true essences of human life.
Another upcoming reason for binge-watching, which might necessarily be out of choice is the profession you are in. Currently, the entertainment industry is not just about actors, filmmakers, etc. It involves a huge crew behind the scenes which does the job of editing, subtitle making, reviewing and critiquing the content. In all these jobs, the amount of hours spent watching content is surplus. This could lead to binge-watching and probably even attachment to characters because you are putting your heart and soul into the work you do. In such a case, if you find it troublesome to detach, it is advisable to switch jobs into something less strenuous for you.
What are parasocial relationships?
Many television and daily-soap viewers develop a bond with the characters or performers they see on-screen and develop an attachment with them which is similar to a real relationship. Horton and Wohl describe this virtual, one-sided attachment as a ‘parasocial relationship’, for the first time in 1956.
Researchers since then have studied a lot about the repercussions of parasocial relationships in the lives of the consumers of the entertainment industry.
There are two important factors that influence the development of a parasocial relationship. Both are related to the emotional bonds developed by the viewer with the show because of the character/s.
The first is the development of an emotional bond by idealizing the character. In this, the viewer wishes and glorifies the character and the actor beyond limits to the point that they wish someone exactly like that virtual person to manifest into their real life. The line between real and reel can look faint. People can become so attached to the actor that they even begin stalking and keeping a tab on their personal life. The qualities they wish to develop based on the character could also be too idealistic. It could be personality-based qualities in self or a potential partner or changes they wish to see in the current partner. It is important to notice that there is no or minimal amount of pressure put on self and others because of a parasocial relationship otherwise the relationships can get strained.
The second is developing an emotional bond by relating to the character. Relating to the character becomes a crucial part of the intensity at which the emotional bond begins and develops. These parasocial relationships develop as the viewer spends time understanding the character’s personality, behavior and draws parallels with their own self. The storyline, character history, personality traits, childhood and other life events, beliefs, and value systems of the character might be coincidentally aligned with the person’s life which makes the viewer feel understood and belonging to that character.
In both these situations, when the character or the game/show is taken abruptly off-air or ended for the purposes of the script, the viewer experiences a ‘parasocial relationship breakup’.
Research done in 2007-2008 during the writer’s strike in the United States demonstrated that people experienced distress when their favorite shows were unavailable to them. The college students, between ages 18-33 who participated in the study, were asked about their viewing habits, their favorite characters, and the level of distress they experienced on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being low and 5 being high. They stated they had average levels of distressing symptoms, ranging from 2 to 2.5, when their favorite show ended or their favorite character ceased to exist in the show.
This study also stated that parasocial relationship breakups can be as intense as a real relationship breakup.
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Ways to prevent attachment to TV shows.
Some ways to prevent attachment to Tv shows are mentioned below:
Limiting the hours spent watching TV shows
Having a limit to the time invested in watching the show can prevent addiction and sudden dopamine fluctuations because of the show. This might have to be a very consciously done task as many people tend to push their time limits in the attempt of finishing just one more episode.
Have a schedule that includes TV viewing instead of a schedule around TV viewing
Try not to make TV shows the center of your routine. Try not to build your life around the show viewing experience, instead make it a part of your life because it brings you added joy- in addition to other things that bring joy into your life.
Try switching genres of the shows you watch
Often, people can get addicted to watching shows from a particular genre, for example, murder mysteries. Watching murder mysteries one after the other can make the person addicted to it. Watching one particular show with many seasons and episodes within a few days in an indication of binge-watching, try limiting that by switching and watching some other show or even better get some work and play done.
Alternate between high-intensity and low-intensity shows.
Switching between high and low-intensity shows/ genres can be beneficial for people instead of being submerged in a series of high-intensity genres one after the other. This also ensures there is no slump of periods between dopamine generation and exhaustion.
Ways to overcome intense unhealthy attachment to TV shows.
Have a healthy social support system
Have a group of people- family, friends, and other gamers that help you in case you find yourself experiencing intense attachment to a TV show. This may sound funny but it is not. People can genuinely be troubled by not being able to get out of watching the show or becoming detached from the character. People close to you can also guide and warn you against binge-watching and also encourage you to have a healthy life apart from TV viewing.
Understanding the psychology and neurobiology behind what TV shows offer and entails can be beneficial in making informed decisions.
For example, this blog itself can be a source of information for people who might be watching shows frequently but do not know about the ill-effects of binge-watching and the phenomenon of unhealthy attachments with fictional characters and parasocial relationships even though they might be experiencing the symptoms.
In severe cases of severe attachments to the point that you cannot get anything else including urgent work done, medical and psychological help will be required in order to recover. Psychiatrists may prescribe medications like antidepressants and psychologists can offer cognitive-emotional and addiction-withdrawal therapies.
Counselors can also offer different perspectives about one’s need for attachments and probable reasons for developing unhealthy attachments. An understanding of attachment styles and patterns can help a person to figure out how they can maintain a distance in parasocial relationships.
Support groups involving other gamers who are on the same journey as you, where they share stories of their struggles with attachment with shows and how they recovered can be motivating for people dealing with it currently. Just do a quick online search there could some people on the same journey as you.
Remember, what we crave is a good social connection. It is always advisable to have a real one than a reel one. What could be better than building a connection with someone who is going through the same thing as you, understands you, and is also willing to overcome the challenge along with you.
In this blog, we answered the question ‘Why am I so attached to a TV show?’. Post that, we understood the meaning of parasocial relationships. We also looked at some ways in which we can prevent attachments to TV shows and ways to overcome unhealthy attachments to TV shows.
We recommend that you take a look at our article on ” Can’t Cope Won’t Cope ” a TV drama and comedy show that portrays many issues.
Frequently Asked Questions: Why am I so attached to a TV show?
How do you get over a show?
Know that it is not real. Even if it is inspired by real incidents it is not the entire reality, it is a creation by another human.
Join online support communities, Reddit communities, fan bases of the show to try and understand how to get over the show.
Take a break from TV watching, probably read books instead.
Seek professional help.