If you are using TV and video games as a relaxation tool after work and it doesn’t seem to be working, well it might make sense.
In a new study, called The Guilty Couch Potato: The Role of Ego Depletion in Reducing Recovery Through Media Use in the Journal of Communication, researchers found that coming home after work and watching TV or playing video games can actually make you feel worse about yourself, not more relaxed.
The researchers got participants for the study from a German gaming website and only accepted peoples’ responses who had worked (which also could have included students who were at school) and who had played video games or watched TV the previous day.
Their method was using an online survey.
The study stated:
“Results suggest that ego depletion may increase the risk of negatively appraising the use of interactive (video games) and noninteractive (television) entertaining media as a form of procrastination. The resulting guilt is negatively related to the recovery experience associated with using entertainment. Therefore, ego-depleted individuals may benefit less from the psychological recovery potential of entertainment media, despite their greater need for recovery.”
Meaning, people who are not feeling great after work may feel more inclined to play video games or watch TV, but these forms of entertainment may hurt their recovery, not help.
“It demonstrates that in the real life, the relationship between media use and well-being is complicated and that the use of media may conflict with other, less pleasurable but more important duties and goals in everyday life,” Leonard Reinecke, one of the researchers, said in a statement. “We are starting to look at media use as a cause of depletion. In times of smartphones and mobile Internet, the ubiquitous availability of content and communication often seems to be a burden and a stressor rather than a recovery resource.”
The Independent said, “Previous research has shown that using entertaining media can produce a ‘recovery experience’ that helps people relax and detach from the stresses of work.”
Though this study said it “does not provide an answer to the question under what circumstance ego-depleted individuals do not feel guilty about media use,” maybe what you are watching does make a difference.
TIME Magazine reported, “It seems, however, that the content of what people watch on TV can alleviate some of this guilty pleasure perception. Other studies have shown that intellectually stimulating media content (like a History Channel segment or a documentary) can positively impact people’s emotional states, so the study authors believe that watching ‘low-brow’ forms of entertainment (we’re guessing reality TV qualifies here) are more likely to make people feel guilty about using it as a stress-reliever.”
So, maybe think twice before you go home at watch Survivor reruns if you are feeling down.