Media Marathoning: Short-Lived Happiness?

Note: This is the first of many posts that will be made by students in Lisa Perks’ Media Marathoning course at Nazareth College.

From Student Elise Miklich:

This evening I attended my first ever Zen meditation class. The instructor took the participants through several steps to ultimately learn how to “be in the now.”

“The reality is, you’re not going to be able to stop your thoughts,” the instructor said, “but by focusing on breathing we can learn to tune them out.”

This process of tuning out one’s thoughts is something that occurs not only in Zen meditation but in media marathoning, too. To take this idea a step further, people may even “practice” media marathoning if it is something they do often to de-stress, or escape. To a Zen Master, this comparison may seem like day and night, but to the average American, media marathoning is a time to forget the worries of the world and allow your brain to enter a whole new dimension.

Before I found the meditation course, I admit that watching hours of a television show or a trilogy of movies was a go-to tactic to remove myself from reality. By sucking myself into the television I could easily ignore the daily duties and responsibilities that brought on anxiety, much like Rohrbacher does in Jurgensen’s article “Binge Viewing: TV’s Lost Weekend.” At a time when I felt as if my world was spinning out of control, all I had to do was watch 4 hours of Intervention on Hulu and in an instant my melancholia disappeared.

Turns out I’m not alone. A study, conducted by sociologists at the University of Maryland, actually shows that people who watch the most television are those who generally describe themselves as unhappy. This unhappiness is not brought on by the action of watching television, but rather remedied for a short while by doing it. A summary of the study says that “tuning in” to media really is an easy way for people to “tune out” of reality.

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9 thoughts on “Media Marathoning: Short-Lived Happiness?

  1. This post makes a very interesting connection between meditation and marathoning. I definitely agree that people will use media marathoning to relieve stress and to escape their worries for a little while. I do this too, but I also think that there is another element to marathoning. Instead of completely tuning out my thoughts, I replace thinking about my problems with thinking about the characters’ problems. While I marathon, I worry how Michael Bluth will possibly fix his family’s next blunder, instead of stressing out about my own paper or test. I think marathoning works as a sort of substitute for the viewers. They can replace their own worries and problems with the problems of the characters they follow.

  2. The connection between meditation and marathoning is brilliant. I practice Pilates and the instructor always begins class with soothing words, trying to clear everyone’s minds after a hectic day. I agree that media marathoning is in a way, linked to media marathoning. I know that from my own experiences of being stuck in bed with my laptop for hours while continuously watching a show on Netflix feels like some sort of meditation. While watching Netflix, I am in the zone and when I am practicing Pilates, I am in the zone as well. They both block out the worries of reality and in my own experience, help me to re-charge my brain and the way I feel or think about certain things. After the break of marathoning or meditating it seems to be easier to deal with the worries of every day life.
    I wouldn’t say that ‘tuning in’ to media necessarily tunes us out of reality, but helps us to reevaluate reality sometimes.

  3. The connection between an individual attempting to sustain mental health by marathoning is a good point. “Tuning out” by “Tuning in” is something we all do. Having dealt with depression all my life, I personally have used marathoning a lot to escape from myself for a while. It always eased anxiety as I sure zen meditation does too. I love the idea of marathoning being like zen meditation.

  4. The connection made between zen meditation and media marathoning is absolutely brilliant. I myself take part in zen meditation and yoga on a regular basis to help reduce my anxiety. I definitely want to try media marathoning to see if that helps me cope with my anxiety too.

  5. I completely agree with the connection between Zen meditation and media marathoning. I have never thought of media marathoning in that comparison before, but now it makes complete sense to me and thinking about all the times I have media marathoned. You get so in focus to the media marathoning that everything else about the world zones out…all I can concentrate on is the show I am watching and the food I am snacking on…atleast that goes for me 😉 I think that if more people were to media marathon with this comparison in mind, people would feel less stressed.

  6. From Steph Cerio: I find your connection between meditation and media marathoning to be a really important aspect to how many of us deal with stress. It’s funny because when I practice hot yoga, they begin and end every class with meditation, a form of cleansing your worries of today and tomorrow. Today’s society, it is interesting how instead of doing something active, we turn to laying on the couch and enjoying our new favorite show. I agree, there is something about watching or marathoning a TV show, movie sequence or a book sequel that really works to clear our minds and rid our anxieties about deadlines, tests and papers us students tend to deal with on a regular basis. I fall victim to doing this, it is so easy for us to forget our problems for those two hours we ‘need’ and fixate on for us to further continue on school work with a fresh mind and eyes. There are plenty of times I turn to my new show I have chosen to marathon as a ‘study break’, to take that ‘me’ time to reevaluate my thoughts, take my mind away from the logic and engage in the simplicity of sitting back and enjoying someone else hardships for that moment.

  7. I agree whole heartedly in the connection between meditation and media marathoning. Although when I marathon, I don’t tune out while tuning in, I often imagine myself in the story, what it would have been like to be around in that particular time period. This happens often when I read books, It’s almost as if while I’m reading, the story comes to life in my mind, I can imagine myself as a fly on the wall.
    I, like Steph, have taken study breaks and watched a couple of episodes of one of the series that I have been marathoning, not to be taken into another place or tune out, but to get away from the reading and blurred vision that is happening.

  8. This is a really interesting idea. I wonder if this is why we continue to marathon, and be content with it for that matter (it being the avoidance of our “real life” responsibilities). Much like any addiction, we continue toying with our “substance”–in this case, media–to avoid the feelings that ensue once we stop. In my experience, when I finish marathoning something, and am forced to return to reality again I feel two things strongly: (1) A sense of dread for the responsibilities I know I have to start being accountable for again, (2) A sense of sadness that I have left a world in which my problems didn’t exist. As I so shamelessly admitted during class this week, my Dawson’s Creek marathon is one that just came to a rather emotional end. I began the series this summer when I was feeling confused about which direction I wanted to take my life post-graduation. The show was the perfect escape from those daunting questions I knew I needed to confront, head-on. I “tuned out” of much more than I am willing to admit and was able to postpone the future freaking me out (Motion City Soundtrack listeners will understand such a reference). I was much more content with watching Dawson, Joey, and Pacey solve their problems instead. Today, after the beautifully scripted 6 season teen soap has come to a close… my future-tripping questions still exist. The odd thing is, I do not regret a single episode that I was able to avoid “real life” for another 43 minutes.

  9. Connecting meditation to media marathoning is really interesting. But it’s important to remember that when we meditate, we shut out all outside stimuli. When we decide to do nothing but watch TV all day, we tune all but one out. We get lost in what we’re watching and become very susceptible to whatever message, implicit or explicit, is being thrown at us.

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