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If TV Watching Goes Social Is it Still Passive Entertainment?

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Many of us are active TV watchers, so does that take away the guilt?

BlogLike some of you, I was raised in the age of junk TV and I felt bad about watching it. TV was always a guilty pleasure, because there was nothing decent on. For us, this new golden age of TV is a challenge. We want to catch up on every hot show, but we know we shouldn't spend that much time on the couch.

A study released today by the researchers at The Diffusion Group (TDG), however, shows that TV watching is changing. That's because 73% of people who use social networks use them to engage with TV-related content. TDG breaks this down even further: 43% interact with show-related humor via mashups and memes, 39% read recap articles or watch recap videos, while 38% view animated GIFs.

"There is a separate universe of online multimedia content that orbits TV shows," says Michael Greeson, president of TDG. "A majority of TV viewers no longer simply watch a show, but also view 'the making of' specials, read spoilers, chase plot theories, follow actors on social media, and share comments (especially jokes) about the show."

What was once purely passive is now active, at least a little bit.

That got me thinking about a 2016 Fast Company article tweeted today by VidCon Industry Track editorial director (and friend of StreamingMedia.com) Mark Robertson, showing that TV viewing can have harmful effects on the body including a reduced verbal reasoning ability, lower IQ, Type 2 diabetes, and depression. The article's author went cold turkey on TV and reported an increase in happiness.

I believe it, but here's what I'm wondering: If we're active viewers—constantly checking feeds, posting jokes, and looking up the cast—are we saved from those deleterious effects? Do our brains and bodies respond differently?

Until further studies are done, I'm going to assume active TV watching is just fine. Now excuse me as I scroll through TikTok and goofy memes for the next half-hour.

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