The story is familiar. After a tough and stressful day at work or school, you come home and watch TV or play video games as a way to relax. But according to a new study, unwinding with such media could actually make you feel worse. New research publishing in the Journal of Communication found that some people who watch TV or play games when they are stressed out might experience feelings of guilt and failure.
As reported by GameSpot sister site CBS News, past research indicated that people were more likely to overcome their fatigue faster if they watched thought-provoking videos or played games. This "recovery experience" let media consumers detach from the struggles of their daily lives and instead enjoy feelings of control and fulfillment.
The new study, on the other hand, attempts to explain why this "recovery experience" is not actually beneficial to all people. In some cases, like the ones described in the study, exposure to media like TV and video games led people to feel guilty, depressed, or frustrated.
The authors of the study, called The Guilty Couch Potato: The Role of Ego Depletion in Reducing Recovery Through Media Use, argue that "ego depletion" can explain this phenomenon. This is a state in which a person's willpower is exhausted. A person experiencing ego-depletion is more likely to feel tired and listless, be more impulsive, and give in to temptations like fatty foods to help themselves feel better.
When such "ego-depleted" people partake in TV or video games instead of activities like sports, art, or other social events, they often felt guilty instead of enjoying themselves, the study found. Researchers went on to conclude that those who were fatigued after a day of work oftentimes labeled their media consumption as procrastination instead of relaxation or entertainment.
Lastly, the researchers say that the widespread availability of smartphones today is not helping people relax, either. "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," one of the study's co-authors said.
You can read the full study right here. What do you make of the findings? Let us know in the comments below!