Remember the Glee episode dedicated to mourning the death of Cory Monteith’s character Finn? Or the episode of This Is Us when William died? Or when Rory had to leave Stars Hollow and Lorelai after getting a real job in Gilmore Girls?
Well, if you are anything like me, you were sobbing like there was no tomorrow when watching these memorable and emotional scenes.
Good news for us: it is actually really healthy to feel so strongly about your favorite shows. According to Jennifer Barnes, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma, when you watch a TV show you enter into a parasocial relationship with these characters. This means that we know everything possible about them, but they know nothing about us.
The thing is though, our brain doesn’t have the ability to differentiate between whether a relationship is real or fictional, meaning that these relationships have the same real world effects as real friendships – decreased loneliness, self-esteem boosts and a sense of belonging.
There is also the paradox of tragedy. This is centered around the idea that tragedy is obviously a negative emotion, but dramatic TV shows do it very well. It turns out that the tragedy we experience in TV shows can just be cathartic because we are able to focus our already present emotions on something else and get them out our system.
Barnes has given us the green light for the occasional (or weekly!) cry fest to our favorite show, so go grab the tissues and your favorite pint of ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s and get to work.