A couple years ago, I was irritated when Netflix abandoned the binge model for several of its shows. I think it may have been The Great British Baking Show that simultaneously made me happy and mad about it. I had become accustomed to sitting with a series and blazing through it before moving on to the next one. It seemed everyone in our family had their own thing going, and, looking back, that wasn’t too healthy.
Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Susan Pinker says:
“This finding aligns with a mountain of research showing that our brains sync up when we interact in the same location, participate in the same activity, or simply agree with each other. The new study goes one step further; it tests whether our heart rates become synchronized while taking in the same narrative—even though we’re not in the same room nor even listening at the same time as other listeners.”
Last year, when our family picked up our lives and moved to Oklahoma City, one of the things that held us together during the rough patch was a weekly commitment to watch a television show together. We started with the new series on PBS, All Creatures Great and Small, and were pleasantly surprised when the teenagers got waaaaay into it.
Since then, once a week, we gather round the tube and watch TV together. I don’t think any of us is willing to give it up at this point. And when the show is lights out good, it not only makes family time more enjoyable but we get to have vulnerable conversations we maybe wouldn’t have. Watching Ted Lasso for the last three months has been a masterclass for us about vulnerability and fragility and resentment and forgiveness for which I’m unbelievably grateful. We’ve shared things with one another about our inner lives because this “same narrative” invited us to.
When we hear the same story at the same time, Pinker says, our “heart rates rise and fall in unison” making clear to us “we’re not alone.” I think the world needs less bingeable narratives and more opportunities to take time to hear the same story at the same time.