Why We Really Watch TV When We’re Lonely

If you’re feeling lonely, you likely turn to your television to help numb your feelings. Here’s what a few experts and regular folks told Showbiz Cheat Sheet about why TV tends to be one of the main tools we use to soothe our pain.

TV helps us escape reality

Ziva and Tony on NCIS | Richard Foreman/CBS via Getty Images
Ziva and Tony on NCIS | Richard Foreman/CBS via Getty Images

I used to watch TV to escape reality. I was lonely and depressed, and TV was my escape. I wouldn’t say it actually helps with feelings of loneliness—it just masks them. When you’re caught up in the world of your favorite characters, you forget about how lonely you are–that is, until the episode ends. Then you have to decide whether you’re going to face reality or watch just one more.

Mitch Glass, former lonely TV addict, current travel blogger at Project Untethered

Television can provide company

NCIS Los Angeles cast | Kevin Lynch/CBS via Getty Images
NCIS Los Angeles cast | Kevin Lynch/CBS via Getty Images

TV can feel like company. Having visuals, voices, and even personalities that are familiar and enjoyable can serve as a mock community of sorts that makes the house feel a little less empty. Sometimes having a show on can distract us from the quiet that being alone can bring. Other times it can absorb us in a story that is more interesting than the life we’re living. Often it can provide entertainment and keep us from spiraling into a dark emotional place. Bottom line, TV can help us forget we’re lonely and help us get outside of our own heads.

Karissa Sovdi, counselor and founder of Singled Out

Watching TV is easier than socializing

Stranger Things cast and crew | Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix
Stranger Things cast and crew | Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

Switching on TV whenever I am alone seems like the easiest thing to do compared to going out by myself for any other activity. When I watch my favorite shows on TV, I can detach myself from the outside world and live the life that the characters are playing. Some shows, like “Breaking Bad,” can engage me in ways that nothing else can and I want to keep watching to see how the characters evolve over time.

Anupriya Basu, writer for EffortlessInsurance.com

Television can provide a sense of community

The noise, the camaraderie, the progression of the story (if it’s a series) give us the sense of community we desire. We see the characters as friends and the dilemmas as our own.  We are emotionally drawn into the shows we relate to and we are drawn into the theme songs that become triggers for our happiness too! We all know the immediate feeling of elation we get when we hear the intro to our favorite show.  Shows define the era we love, so if we are emotionally troubled, we may escape into an old series we watched when times were better. 

Kimberly Friedmutter author of Subconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You’ve Always Wanted

TV Shows provide a way to interact with other fans on social media

Nowadays with social media, being a fan of a TV show can provide a real way to feel less lonely. If you’re a fan of a certain TV show, you can interact with other fans online, forming new connections and friendships that can lead to you feeling less lonely. Just look at some of the fandoms that have formed around certain TV shows. Fans of shows like “Wynonna Earp” and “Shadowhunters” have known to not only help spread the word about their beloved shows but also help each other through difficult times. And these fan interactions can be integral to people feeling less lonely and like they are a part of a community.

Kristiana Kripena, owner of TV Show Pilo

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