Next time you find yourself tearing up during a particularly heart-wrenching scene in one of your favourite TV shows, you’d be wise to welcome the waterworks.
This is the advice being touted by a new study that claims crying during TV shows can offer various psychological benefits.
“When you spend an hour every week with a person for an entire television season, they really do become a sort of friend - it’s totally normal to feel upset over them,” said researcher Jennifer Barnes of the University of Oklahoma.
Despite these kinds of relationships being inherently parasocial (or one-directional), Barnes said they can still offer real-world benefits like self-esteem boosts and decreased loneliness.
More broadly, Barnes’ research illustrates how watching scripted television shows (particularly dramas with lots of character progression) can help people understand emotions in themselves and in others. Her research supports other studies that have shown that watching these kinds of programs can increase altruism.
“The interesting thing is that our brains aren’t really built to distinguish between whether a relationship is real or fictional,” Barnes says.
“So these [parasocial] friendships can convey a lot of real-world benefits.”
In other words, feel free to take the sitcom Friends a little too literally from time to time. It’s good for you.
h/t Men’s Health