Social distancing is guaranteed to affect our friendships, but it doesn’t have to damage our relationships.
Everyone is searching for creative solutions to maintain connectedness, be it for employment, to bond with friends or to connect with loved ones. But your romantic relationship could benefit from time in isolation, whether you’re physically together or not.
We’ve Got A Study For That
A 2016 study into shared media experiences found that TV shows, books, and movies had positive outcomes on relationships. We know that when you do something with another person or partner you exercise the muscle of connection, and whether it’s your love language or not, sharing time together draws you closer together. But the study also found that regardless of distance, a couple who were to watch a show like When Calls The Heart at the same time and then talk about it together later are more connected because of the mutual fictional friendships.
“When people lack a shared circle of friends with their partners, sharing media like TV shows, books, and movies with partners may compensate for this deficit and restore closeness.”
Two studies examined the influence of sharing real and fictional social worlds on relationship outcomes. When you’re watching TV your mind is keenly seeking social attachment. A TV series, particularly when the writing is good, provides an opportunity for us to feel socially engaged with the faces we regularly meet on screen. Social interaction, whether real or imagined, is a necessary part of yoking with another person. Shared friendships create a sense of shared community. There’s no point pretending that what we watch doesn’t affect us socially. It does.
Don’t Deny Your Fictional Friends
Now, an Aussie Bloke mightn’t admit to building relationships with fictional characters in a romantic drama. But I will. The characters in Hope Valley are like friends. Their faces are familiar and warm like a cup of hot chocolate, and I’m inescapably along for the ride as they journey the highs and lows of whatever the shows’ writers throw at them. Being able to say “that’s so Rosemary” or “smooth move Lucas”, or even a quiet chuckle proves that I am hooked in. But now I know that sharing this show with my wife is actually helping our connectedness because we have mutual friends. Hook, line, and sinker.
Connecting In Isolation
Maintaining friendships at the moment is hard. There’s no escaping that, and we shouldn’t put any less effort into remaining connected with friends. But if you’ve got a bit more screen-time at the moment then why not share the community of fictional friendships with others?
But do you just watch anything?
There are decades of studies into the positive and negative effects of watching television, pointing attention to increased anxiety and depression from binging, improved academic scores from educational shows, and violent content dampening logical reasoning. But what hasn’t seen enough research is the psychological impact of regularly watching violent, illicit, or sexual content compared to watching Good TV that inspires.
While social science is still to explore this space, we’d be naive to think that what we watch does not have an influence on how we think about our world. Have you ever had a dream about a show or movie? The influence is getting in. ‘As someone thinks within himself, so he is.’ – Proverbs 23:7
Switch On Your Brain
Dr Caroline Leaf’s book ‘Switch On Your Brain’ encourages us to mold our thoughts for better health and wellbeing, and actively filter out negative thinking. From her extensive qualifications in neuroscience, she puts the science behind what Paul wrote to the Romans 2,000 years ago: that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. As Dr Caroline writes,
“As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. As we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.”
For a positive influence in your life, and for some fictional friends to share with your partner, ACCTV is always providing family-friendly shows that are filled with hope and life. It’s probably clear that my first recommendation is When Calls The Heart. If only Elizabeth could hurry up and make a decision between Lucas and Nathan.
Those poor boys can’t be strung along through Season 8 too!
Leigh is a Video Editor with ACCTV, a social commentator and a dedicated family man.