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Why Do We Watch Television?


A lot of people have been recommending Breaking Bad to me and I keep finding myself saying that I don’t have enough emotional capacity to deal with watching it right now.

Saying those words made me think about why it is that we watch television shows and more specifically what it is that draws us to them. Why do we choose to watch something that we know is not real? Why do we watch other people pretending to be someone else?

As we begin to invest our time in shows, it’s almost as if they become a part of us and so coherently, we become a part of them. We feel a responsibility to wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to a show, we feel inclined to see it through until the end. It’s almost like a relationship; we support it through everything. We watch each episode because it would feel like a waste if we were to give up. We emotionally invest in television shows like we do with people.

It is also interesting how attached we become to characters. We almost treat them like a close friend or family member because there is a sense of familiarity and reality that makes it feel like we have known them our whole lives. We experience their journey with them, we mirror their feelings. We laugh with them and cry when they experience something inordinately cruel. Their pain is our pain. We are a part of each other and we want the best for them. We want justice, we want their happiness.

Although we are subconsciously aware that these characters are not real, their calamities sometimes are. They are a representation of issues that subsist. Television shows draw attention to other people’s perspective, their pain. They make us experience what someone else is going through, what these people are suffering with, in turn making us sympathetic. They teach us to be more compassionate. We can sometimes be in situations that we do not know how to handle and we remember a scene in a television show where the character was going through something similar. Without realising, we can sometimes draw strength from this scene, remembering how the character acted and emulating the way it was handled.

In a way, television shows can teach us how to deal with life, how to exist. Sometimes they are our guidance, they create and capture sentiments. Although we watch them as a form of entertainment, they remind us that our lives are not as bad as we think. They reiterate how lucky we are and we watch them to get away from our own predicaments. They can shape who we are as people. 

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