Do you really need to know that the cute guy who just popped up on-screen previously appeared in 37 episodes of another TV show, or that a starlet has famous parents or precisely how many Instagram followers any given actor has (or doesn't have)?
No, you don't. Maybe at some point it would be nice to know, but it's not necessary during the 22 to 120 minutes you're spending with them on screen, in that moment.
We've gotta drop the second screen.
Staring at your phone, tablet, or computer while a program plays on another screen is adding nothing to your viewing experience. It might feel like it is, but it's the absolute cotton candy of your binge-watch: an empty, unnecessary distraction. We're in Peak TV, people! Shows are more detailed, more nuanced, more subdued than they've ever been. Is there not enough happening on-screen to keep your attention? Then watch something else. You've got plenty of choices. We should all only watch the things that suck us in, that keep our full attention, and that force us not to miss a single second of the action, dialogue, or the all-important furtive glance.
There's a reason we were all so obsessed with theorising about Lost, or listening in on Tony Soprano's therapy sessions: we largely watched these shows without the presence of a smart phone or tablet (The Sopranos premiered in 1999, and Lost in 2004). We weren't browsing the IMDB pages of every actor or scrolling through their recent tweets. We let ourselves fall into those worlds, no matter how foreign a mysterious deserted island or suburban New Jersey seemed at the time. We weren't aimlessly picking up cases of fomo from our "friends" on Instagram or developing hives from seeing a news headline in our feeds: for that hour we belonged to those characters only.
Plus, we weren't experiencing a barrage of hashtags and opinions from friends and internet strangers alike. We absorbed what we saw, made up our own minds, and then took to message boards to share and browse other fan theories. Or, get this: we talked about it IRL with friends, or at the water cooler with co-workers. In 2018, it's nearly impossible to make up your own mind when you're busy reading what everyone else has to say about a TV show or movie. Even the most recent Star Wars movie, the most popular movie franchise of all time, had fans in, shall we say, "spirited debates", all across the internet for weeks.
It's okay to sit in that uncomfortable place we've all become so unfamiliar with, you know the one where you recognise an actor but can't remember from where? Well, if they're any good it doesn't matter. Let actors be actors. Watch them in the show or movie they're currently in and appreciate them for that role. Look them up later, but let yourself sink into the story a little bit. There's nothing on Google or social media that you need in that moment to appreciate that performance. Do you not need an escape from the world?
You can't be faulted for consulting a recap or Wikipedia or social media for clarification on an event that took place during a show, but watch the whole thing first. Maybe it's a device they're employing to keep you hooked for at least an episode. Plus, you'll avoid any rogue spoilers this way. Of course, if a show demands so much of your attention that you'll be lost if you glance away for just a second, that's no fun either. But isn't the point of watching a TV show or movie to at least shut off part of your brain for a bit?
Now, this plea to drop the second screen might be coming at a weird time, considering we're smack dab in the middle of awards season. It's understandable if you want to peek at a news feed to see what people are talking about during an award show or even The Bachelor, which has established itself as appointment viewing more than most other shows. Still: drop the second screen and catch up after. Yes, award shows can drag, but invite friends over to watch together. What they have to say is going to be funnier and more astute than most of the people you follow on Twitter.
All this is to say we're doing a lot of distracted viewing these days, and if a show isn't worth paying attention to, then it's not worth watching. Watch what you like, but, you know, actually watch it. Put the phone away and let the blue light from only one screen wreck your eyeballs at a time.