Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
We’ve all had those days where we want to shut the door on everybody else, grab our favorite snacks and curl up to watch a show in privacy. There’s a unique, sweet kind of restoration that comes from that very personal experience.
In the broad picture of things, though, people are social creatures. From that perspective, shared viewing experiences can be powerful, positive tools to connect on a deep level and revel in our passions. As an expert on content streaming, I believe that people can find comfort and solace in knowing that sharing an entertainment experience brings people together on common ground. As the dust begins to settle after Covid-19, I think that striving for more shared engagement is an important part of reuniting an isolated world.
How Shared Entertainment Gives Us a Boost
Think about when you find a television show, movie, podcast or book that you absolutely love. What’s your first reaction? For most people, the initial desire is to run and tell somebody else about what they’ve discovered. When we care about someone, we want them to experience the same joys and excitement we do, and when we are excited about a new discovery, we want to share the news with others.
However, the urge to share our passion for entertainment extends further than just the people we know. On social media, millions of users share the books they are reading, the movies and shows they are binging and even the podcasts they are listening to. They consume, they post, they comment and, of course, they read what others are sharing as well. Many people share these discoveries with their existing friends, and many more end up connecting with others as a result of their shared passions. Why do so many people want to share their opinions — sometimes with total strangers? It helps us feel validated, it helps us feel connected and it extends the enjoyment beyond the moment of consumption. And of course, it builds and extends the bonds we have with others.
The Modern Dilemma
In the past, it was a lot easier for people to engage in shared viewing. For example, “must-see-TV” was based on the idea that people would use shows as fuel for fun conversations the next day. People tuned in not only to enjoy the show but because they wanted to participate in the buzz the next day.
Fast forward to today. Now, we have nearly infinite on-demand consumer choice that allows us to watch whatever we want, whenever we want. But there is a downside — a big one. With the exception of live sports, a blockbuster movie release or the occasional unveiling of a reality show, we rarely synchronize our viewing with others. The very human desire to share our passions is still there, but the opportunity to scratch the social itch that most of us feel is not. This further isolates us from each other and it is neither fulfilling nor healthy. We are social creatures at heart, and we derive great pleasure from sharing what we love with others.
Covid-19 didn’t exactly help the situation, either. More than ever, people couldn’t come together to watch anything — from the big game to the newest movie release. At a time when we craved social interaction more than ever before, we became more acclimated to tuning in alone.
Together, We Can All Feel a Little Better
In this new reality, if you’ve been feeling like something is missing from your entertainment, it’s not all in your head. An important part of the content consumption experience — the sharing — has left us and we need to get it back. Discovering new shows, movies, books and podcasts is exciting and people want to share their discoveries with their loved ones. As the pandemic took hold, more people than ever were pouring their passions and excitement into these mediums. Communal excitement is an event that provided people with a social experience when they weren’t allowed out in society.
As we emerge from our physical isolation, take the opportunity to also share your passions with others, whether they are local or virtual. Unlimited content choice is a gift. But like most good things, it has come with unanticipated consequences, in this case, greater isolation. But tools exist that can add that enjoyment back to your entertainment and media experience — whether it is social media, a group text or any other way you choose to find and connect with others that share your passion.
So go ahead and devour that next show or novel. Enjoy every minute of it and then make the most of the experience by doing what comes naturally — sharing your enjoyment with others. That sharing is affirming and it creates and extends the social bonds we all crave, now more than ever.