Monday, March 12, 2018

Break the addiction to passive entertainment

When I was a child, there was just one channel Doordarshan. And I'm not even sure what they would broadcast most of the time. But every sunday 9:00 AM, we used to sit infront of the TV eagerly waiting for Jungle book. That was the first TV show that I remember watching with rapt attention.

Of course new channels came and with it came an explosion of entertainment. So our expectation of entertainment has changed. We started expecting to be entertained at any time. With youtube and netflix, now we have any time entertainment with our preferred things. It was never so easy to get entertained. And this thing is addicting. But why is this so addicting ?

Multiple reasons - With its fast cuts and engaging story, it grabs our attention with the question - what happens next?

The human body responds in a unique way to signals of danger. The brain readies the body for fleeing or fighting. And it does so by a sudden release of neuro-chemicals, including the hormone cortisol and both adrenaline and noradrenaline. These chemicals not only ready us for action, they also cause us to believe that we can overcome opposition. Confidence in threatening situations provides an evolutionary advantage, as long as it leave the door open to a rapid exit of the odds are too heavily stacked against us.  Fear, danger and violence all provide us with a natural high that makes us feel more powerful, more positive and more confident. Also, dopamine, the fuel of our reward center, is released as we encounter novel situations. These chemicals, acting together, create a feeling of satisfaction for us. 

This I feel is the main reason to get addicted to TV. This need for stimulation is called sensation seeking. And the more you love seeking these sensations, the more addicted you will be.
Because of mirror neurons, we also start feeling the emotions the characters on TV are feeling. All these things setup to cause addiction to watching the shows.

Now think about where we are getting time for watching this TV -- at the cost of other things especially being social with friends and spending time with family. If there was no TV we would have spent time talking with friends and family and playing games. So this passive entertainment is hitting and taking away at what really gives us the happy moments of life. Well will you regret not watching a TV show or will you regret not spending time with friends and family ? With kids at the age where they learn from us directly ? In the small window of time we have before they leave for their own lives ?

I certainly feel I will regret if I don't make good use of this time. So how to overcome this addiction and reclaim this time ? First become aware and accept that we might not get that much stimulation from anything else and get comfortable being bored.

Next think about active things you can do with your friends and family
Play cards and other games
Do art
... The possibilities are endless. Each of these things have their own way of giving a high to us and also we might become more close with our loved ones.

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