Author: Courtney Garcia.
This is a guest post and does not represent the views of CheckPoint. Courtney’s blog site can be found here.
In the previous article we talked about: how media psychologists categorize silly media, and serious media as Hedonic and Eudaimonic media. We laid out the different emotions and reactions each media type provokes from us.
We also summarized the positive effects, of watching/playing Hedonic (silly) media such as: improved mood, recovery from stress, and an increased appreciation of the present moment.
Here we will continue to explore the positive effects of serious (Eudaimonic) media, and the importance of balancing our consumption of both:
Now, What Do We Get from Eudaimonic Media
These media are the kind of stuff we can tell our friends/family about. They’re deep, thoughtful, and emotionally complex. It’s a little tough to watch, or play them all the time. When we’re in a good mood, when stress levels are a little low. When we’re craving an emotional build up and release, we might reach for these games.
(Again, titles that would be categorized as Eudaimonic, would be like Bioshock, The Last of Us, SOMA, Life is Strange, Telltale Games, Dear Esther, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.) According to Huta’s research, these games benefit us by inspiring “feelings of meaning, self-connectedness, elevation, accomplishments, and interest/engagement/flow” (pg. 18, Huta).
Engaging with eudaimonic media and experiencing these feelings has been shown to help us grow as people. According to Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, by playing through and absorbing the emotional stories we find in these games, or other forms of media, we are vicariously learning how to overcome similar obstacles and how to become more resilient in our everyday lives. (Nabi and Prestin, pg. 59)
This explains why sometimes, after finishing a really intense narrative-driven game, we can feel changed and can even approach certain topics in real life differently. We might have been “playing” a game, but we were also exercising our empathy muscles, learning more about life obstacles and emotional regulation, in the face of negative events.
A Balanced Diet of Both Improves Well-Being
There is always something as too much of a good thing. Yes, both Hedonic and Eudaimonic media can be helpful, but Huta explains that we can have too much of either. For example, if we never play Eudaimonic media and instead spend all of our media time (which, be honest, could be several hours a day) on Hedonic content, we’d start to notice some negative side effects. This works in reverse, as well.
As Huta explains, overuse of Hedonic entertainment might derail into “addiction, chronic escapism, destructive impulsivity, selfishness, antisocial behaviour, greed, excessive consumerism” (p.14). Excessive consumption of even the respectable Eudaimonic content “might derail into a workaholic lifestyle, exhaustion, excessive self-sacrifice, overthinking things, excessive theorizing and loss of practicality, losing touch with one’s body, being paralysed by existential angst.” (p. 14)
Further into her research, Huta suggests that instead of spending too much time trying to feel good with Hedonic games or feeling too deeply with Eudaimonic games, we actually need to find a balance in order to regulate our long-term well-being. In fact, research found that “people who pursue both Hedonic and Eudaimonic entertainment have higher degrees of well-being than people who pursue only one or the other.” (p. 19, Huta)
Knowing all this, it might be easier for us to sit easy with our media choices. Watching silly romcoms and playing ridiculous games isn’t a waste of time, it’s one half of the coin. Those titles help us decompress, recover, and live in the moment. When we’re ready, we will return to the serious, respectable stuff. For the sake of our well-being, we need to remember, to be mindful of our media choices and keep an eye on balance. This is so we don’t neglect our emotional or psychological needs.
Huta, Veronika. (2015). An overview of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being concepts. In L. Reinecke, M. B. Oliver, The Routledge Handbook of Media Use and Well-Being, (14-28). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Nabi, Robin and Prestin, Abby. (2016). The Tie that Binds: Reflecting on Emotion’s Role in the Relationship between Media Use and Subjective Well-Being. In L. Reinecke, M. B. Oliver, The Routledge Handbook of Media Use and Well-Being, (51-60). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.