I can't watch "This Is Us," and that's not because back in 1999, I wrote a beautiful song called "Brandy," which was stolen by Mandy Moore and changed sloppily to "Candy."
It's because I am a very emotional person -- I cry over commercials. Imagine what "This Is Us" would do to me.
Still, despite a show basically selling itself by saying "we're gonna eff up your day," fans tune in every week with a renewed dedication a broadcast TV show hasn't seen since pre-Netflix.
But according to new research, becoming attached to TV characters is actually healthy.
The relationship we share with characters is called parasocial by psychologists -- because we care and know about them, but they don't know anything about us. (So, it seems like all my crushes are also parasocial relationships! Hahahahah I'm so sad.)
Assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma, Jennifer Barnes, said,
The interesting thing is that our brains aren't really built to distinguish between whether a relationship is real or fictional. So, these friendships can convey a lot of real-world benefits.
Those sweet, sweet benies? Higher self-esteem, less loneliness and increased feelings of belonging.
But watching tragedies, despite making us sad, is cathartic. In fact, crying over a character on TV helps you get rid of negative emotions.
It gives us something to focus those negative emotions on and get them out of our system.
Psychologists also think while we feel sad from watching our characters experience tragedy, we may experience "meta-emotions" where we're happy we can feel that way over another person's struggle. Barnes said,
We might actually feel glad that we can be empathetic and feel things like this on behalf of someone else, even if they're not real.
Watching TV dramas also helps you read people's feelings better, and you'll be kinder and more compassionate.
We should make sure we're also feeling just as much empathy for real people, including real people we don't know.
TO WHICH, I SAY POO-POO! I only care about my fictional friends.