Let’s be honest: as hard as you tried to digitally detox over the long weekend, you probably just watched Netflix. If you’re feeling more guilty about the devouring of your digital library than an intake of Easter chocolate, we’ve got great news – you were doing your emotional intelligence a favour.
While TV, and its new extension of streaming, has long been dogged by accusations of numbing the brain and killing your eyesight (as well as links to depression in extreme cases), a lot has changed since shows first hit the scene.
“Narratives and characters are becoming increasingly complex and challenging, and, as some have argued, even make us smarter for heightening our ability to decipher layered meanings.”
As assistant professor of communication at West Virginia University, Elizabeth Cohen points out, luckily for us, we live in a golden age of television (excluding the abundance of reality TV, of course). Narratives and characters are becoming increasingly complex and challenging, and, as some have argued, even make us smarter for heightening our ability to decipher layered meanings and anticipate episode outcomes.
This study, in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, suggests that high-quality dramas actually increase emotional intelligence. The researchers tested participants’ ability in the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test’ (a classic emotional intelligence test) before and after watching The Good Wife, The West Wing and Mad Men, with significantly higher and better results post-show watching.
And there’s truth to the idea that binge-watching can be a beneficial way to relax after a long day: Elizabeth also points out that during a binge, you’re likely to experience the oft-chased ‘flow’ – a kind of ‘peak’ mindfulness theorised by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – adding to your overall feeling of wellbeing.
So, don’t feel too bad if it was a one-off (or four-day off, in our case). Like the old adage goes, everything in moderation.