A whopping 85% of UK adults reckon ‘being up’ on current TV puts them at an advantage in social situations where they need to reach for a safe topic, shows that TV talk is the best way to get ahead by avoiding the awkward social silences dubbed ‘Tumbleweed Terror’.
Psychologist Gladeana McMahon said: “Most daily conversations are what could be called ‘small talk’, particularly with people we don’t know that well. It is not surprising that TV shows feature in this, as they give us a wide range of issues to talk about. This takes the pressure off more personal discussions.”
Amazingly, the research showed a quarter of us (26%) believed it was more useful to ‘keep up with’ high quality dramas such as Broadchurch and Breaking Bad than news and current affairs programmes (23%) in order to make interesting conversation with peers. The gap between people's opinion of news and drama widened among young millennials (16-24 years old), 35% of whom think watching dramas is likely to make you more interesting to talk to, compared with watching news (13%).
“It’s interesting that young people think watching quality drama rather than news is crucial to keeping up with conversation,” said Panasonic’s TV expert Craig Cunningham. “Young people are used to consuming news online rather than through the TV. The fact they don’t watch news on the TV doesn’t mean they’re not interested in it – it just means they get their news fix in a different way. For young millennials the TV has never been about news, it’s always been more about quality drama and entertainment.”
In addition, 61% of respondents said they had experienced feeling excluded and left out in a social group if talk turned to a TV show that everyone but them had seen. Young people (18-24 years old) felt this most (85%).
Just over 1 in 4 of us (26%) have pretended to have seen something on TV so that we could join in with the banter, and 36% of respondents admitted repeating a catchphrase, using a joke or making a 'pop culture' reference to a TV show or movie that they've never actually seen. In these instances, the 'TV bluffers' are getting their information from word of mouth from friends (50%), newspapers and magazines (35%), social media (27%) and watercooler chat (22%).
“We hate to feel the outsider, even if this means we have never actually heard or seen a particular item,” added McMahon. “As it is easy to find information on the current ‘in’ thing, it is easy to bluff.”
Just over half (54%) have cancelled, tried to get out of or avoided making social plans with friends because we'd rather stay home and watch TV, and 45% have gone as far as telling a 'white lie' to get out of pre-existing plans because they realised they would clash with a TV programme.
“More often than not, TV is the topic we reach for, whether we’re chatting to our neighbour over the fence or with an important client at a networking event. Luckily, keeping up with the latest shows has never been easier thanks to catch-up TV services like Freetime. This allows us to roll back our TV guide for the past seven days, access all the major On Demand services including BBC iPlayer, ITV player, 4oD and Demand 5, and receive great daily programme recommendations,” added Cunningham.
 A survey of 2,000 adults in the UK commissioned by Panasonic and carried out in March 2014 by Redshift Research
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