We all have ongoing on and off relationships with our many devices and platforms, television is one that is such a persistent thing in our lives that we no longer bother to question how it is affecting us and if its instant gratification outweighs its detrimental counterparts. During the pandemic many of us may have found ourselves glued to the television; as background noise, part of your dinner setup or even a comfortable movie before bed. It probably sounds like an exaggeration to say that it’s consuming most of our free time, but it is, especially when that free time is spent locked indoors for months at a time – how do we know when it’s beginning to affect our day to day lives? Lets talk about a few things television could be doing to your psyche during the pandemic.
Have you been having issues concentrating, sleeping or just decreased productivity in general?
The new normal where binge watching has taken the limelight opposed to a more traditional viewing of week-by-week sittings has brought television back to the forefront of technological addiction. Streaming services such as Netflix, Prime and Disney+ continue to churn out new content every month despite a global pandemic, even with ever-growing comments about the content’s declining quality it’s become a popular fad to spend entire days at a time binge watching your favourite television show. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve binged a new series and ten hours later as the finale draws to a close I’d stop and think “I mean it wasn’t too bad.” Before I knew it I was scrolling for my next fix!
Your inability to sleep at night can also be directly affected by your viewing habits, it’s recommended you turn off any devices such as televisions and mobile phones at least an hour before you go to sleep. This gives your brain time to rest from the consuming plot lines and indistinctive conversations that will continue to rummage about in your head whilst you’re trying to fall asleep.
I’ve also found that I have a tendency to postpone my plans for a productive day locked in my house, the moment I become enthralled in a tv series. Your concentration levels and strength of will can decline on a consistent basis when you start swapping all the hobby enriching things you used to do, with just sitting around watching television.
When was the last time you read a book? Or did something else mentally rewarding? I love to write; short stories, poems, screenplays – yet for the better part of the pandemic and consequential lockdowns I’ve found myself ignoring the things that used to give me happiness in the long run, which meant not cultivating a skill that is dear to me. Recently since I’ve taken more time out of my not-so-busy schedule to write, I’ve become more comfortable with sneaking off to watch a cheeky episode or two as a reward after I’ve done what I needed to do instead of as a crutch holding up my lack of personal development.
Are you finding yourself less sociable the longer the pandemic goes on?
Obviously the effects that covid-19 have had on our society in its entirety draws way past your viewing habits, but I like to think the smallest problems have the biggest and quietest repercussions. They also give you something attainable to change in our current state of affairs where too much is already beyond our control.
Over a decade ago a series of studies were published including one by sociologists at the university of Maryland, that discuss research that shows that “unhappy people watch an estimated 20 percent more television than very happy people.” The article goes on to talk about how in times of financial crisis amongst other things the rate of television watching goes up. In 2021 financial crisis is surely a hot topic on social media amongst other budding threats such as the covid-19 virus, you have thousands of television shows and movies at the tip of your fingers, you won’t imagine how easy it is to lose yourself in these fictional world’s.
The way television affected your psyche during the pandemic may not have been apparent on the surface, though coupled with spells of prolonged irritability, comes an increased lack of willingness to engage in meaningful connections in your own life. I’ve personally found that I’m more likely to live vicariously through characters that I’m fond of, than with my very own housemates who are at my social disposal most of the time, it’s easy for me to retreat to my safe space whenever my mental state feels slightly threatened. The way lockdowns and social distancing has affected us also brings back around that innate fear of others.
Before it may have been simply because of opposing opinions or personalities, but now it can go as far as their hygiene and inability to wear a mask. Streaming my favourite movie on my laptop sounds so much better than the hassle of learning how to socialise all over again! I’d even go as far as saying that I’m more likely to ignore messages and notifications from friends when stuck in binge mode. I’ve realised that when I took the time to set myself “viewing hours” – dedicated timeslots in my day where I’m allowed to watch television – my productivity shot through the roof and my need to socialise and share my accomplishments became increasingly more and more aware to me.
You may be finding yourself increasingly more uncomfortable with your own body image and head space.
Found especially in adolescents and young adults is the growing and constant infiltration of self-deprecating thoughts that may make you feel less than your ideal image of yourself. Television series and even more so the reality television genre continue to bombard its viewers on a daily basis with images of unrealistic body standards and unhealthy coping mechanisms for habits that many of us as viewers possess. I often find myself and know of friends and family who spend a lot of time comparing themselves to the airbrushed or surgically enhanced characters on television, leaving behind a sense of worthlessness that is only amplified by the fact that for many it has become the only easy-access escape outlet.
A study showcased on Marie Claire stated “40% of 18 to 34-year-old female Love Island viewers feel more self-conscious about their bodies after watching, that 30% of women have considered going on a diet as a direct result of the show, and one in 10 have thought about getting lip fillers.” Showing how damaging television can be to our psyche and with a constant stream of it at our disposal, especially in pandemic based lockdowns.
I personally believe it’s up to the creative directors and content creators to avoid the warped perception of the world they are putting out. Though as a viewer there are steps you can take to avoid putting yourself in situations that lead you down a rabbit hole riddled with anxiety, such as engaging with more wholesome content, anticipating the content you’re about to sit through before you actually sit through it.
In this article my goal was to show you how easily overdoing on the dopamine that television releases can do to your mental health, and how easy it is it to be fully unaware of the toll that it’s taking on you. Reducing television viewing to a set amount of hours a day or even on a reward based system did wonders for me. In order to increase my productivity and get my brain functioning to some degree of normal standard I also refrained from bingeing on content I knew would negatively impact me.
I also try to remind myself that during this pandemic there have been more than enough reasons for most of us to feel lazy and unmotivated but taking that first step towards some sort of routine really shows clear benefits from the moment you start. Television and social media are two of the cornerstones of interaction with the world, it’s far too easy to lose yourself to it. There are also many times I found myself seeping back into that hole and the hardest part is getting back out, consistency is key. The more you train your mind and body to adapt to your routine, the more likely you’ll be to maintain motivation.
A 23 year old writer, from fictional short stories to poetry and song writing. I enjoy making articles about modern culture, the way it affects our brains and creative lifestyles – how we can learn from it, what I’ve learned from it so far.