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Masking the Fear of the Unknown by Rewatching Old TV Shows

Aug 25, 2021 02:00PM ● By Anand Subramanian

It's been a trying year for all of us. Uncertainty about climate change, political complexity, and the pandemic have begun to seep into our daily lives. In such situations, we have learned to rely on things that make us feel comfortable. With fewer trips and more time for television during the Covid-19 lockdown, we may find ourselves rewatching old favorites rather than finding new series. If there is one TV show that you still cannot get enough of, even if you have seen it more times than you can count, you are not alone. We all need to escape into fantasies of a brighter, more carefree world once in a while, and given the situation of the world right now, we shouldn't blame ourselves for binge-watching familiar favorites such as Friends or Parks and Recreation twice a month. So, let's delve into the reasons why we're stuck in a never-ending binge-watching cycle.

Figure 1 - Portal to our comfort zone. Source - Pexel

We don't realize how desperately we want control until we lose it. This is why unexpected occurrences, like the death of a loved one or the onset of disease, might be so traumatic. It serves as a reminder that we are not in control, that life does not owe us anything, and that anything may be taken away from us. Because our alternatives are so restricted, we can't choose when we get up, where we go to work, or where we wish to live. The outbreak exacerbated our loss of control by preventing us from leaving our houses. So we grab at the few things we have control over, one of which is what we watch. The plethora of streaming service alternatives has spoiled us. We get to pick what we want to see; we have power over it. Given how fresh this experience is, we may exercise this control with a safe decision. We utilize this power wisely and select something familiar to us.

Figure 2 - Preparation for Binge-Watching. Source - Pexel

We would like to keep things as they are, with our present serving as a reference point from which to develop. This is known as status quo bias, and it explains why people stick with previous judgments when the cost of changing their minds becomes cognitively too high. In many cases, a new show might be overpowering, especially if we suffer from anxiety. In this situation, rewatching a show implies that we are not committing to what we will watch in the coming weeks or even months. Because we are aware of the story, we may join at any moment and leave whenever we choose. This causes commitment anxiety, in which the commitment to watching a new series may feel overwhelming because all it takes is a bad character or a poorly timed character death to ruin the entire experience. This is also why sitcoms are the most rewatched shows. There are no obvious plots to follow. Each episode tells a different story.


Figure 3 - Finding the courage to switch off the Binge. Source - Pexel

We want to turn to individuals we know well because we believe we can trust them more when we are down. We don't want to be approached by strangers or personalities that may do anything or divulge a secret that would alter our perception of them. We want to be with our companions, even if they are behind a screen. Rewatching shows allows us to become more acquainted with the characters. The characters become a part of our lives, a standard to which we hold our real-life counterparts, and, most crucially, a warm blanket during the chilly nights of reality. Let us question ourselves from a broad viewpoint, Is rewatching TV episodes a good thing or a bad thing? Well, yes and no. “Yes”, since it helps us overcome loneliness and supports us in building relationships with characters, which allows us to form social connections outside of our comfort zone. It has also been shown to reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms and have a calming effect on our thoughts. “No”, since we revisit shows because we are frightened of moving forward and prefer to live in the past. This may bring up memories of happier times, but it also keeps us cognitively fixed on the present, and we are hesitant to let go of the past. As a result, we are hesitant to appreciate the present and be enthusiastic about the future. We must analyze why we select to watch a specific show. Whether we are binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the hundredth time or not, it is vital to be aware of the effects of binge viewing and to have the strength to turn it off when it is time to move on. However, if you feel like you are losing control of your emotions or if you are displaying indications of depression, it is advisable to get professional help.

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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