I’m very interested in the role of TV-watching in our happiness. After all, after sleeping and work, it’s the biggest consumer of the world’s time.
So I was interested to see that new research suggests that for couples who don’t have lots of mutual friends, watching the same TV show (or reading the same book or going to the same movie) can help both people feel that they inhabit in the same social world.
It turns out that couples who have lots of mutual friends tend to have the strongest bonds, and for those who don’t have a lot of mutual friends, having “shared media experiences” helps them to feel connected.
This rang true for me. My husband Jamie and I have some mutual friends, but our social worlds don’t overlap extensively. Years ago, we both worked at the Federal Communications Commission, and I remember how much fun it was when we knew so many people in common.
We do have the habit of choosing shows to watch together, and it really is an activity that draws us closer. For instance, we’ve watched Transparent, Game of Thrones, The Wire, Lost, The Shield.
I bet this finding is true for non-romantic relationships, too. With my daughters, I’ve watched The Office (American version), Friends (yes, questionable judgment on my part, it’s raunchier than I remembered), The Mindy Project, SuperStore. And I’ve heard of offices that have a specific “office show” that people watch and discuss. It gives everyone something to talk about — and a form of unhurtful gossip — apart from work.
I love to read, and I like reading in a room where someone else is reading, but it’s true that this activity has never seemed as…companionable…as watching the same TV show or movie. We’re not inhabiting the same inner world, we’re not reacting to the same material at the same time.
I always felt a bit guilty about watching these TV shows with my husband — shouldn’t we be doing something else? But now I recognize that it’s a valuable, relationship-strengthening activity.