Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 01:02
Whether they have to do with fashion, music, films, TV shows, or foods, we all have guilty pleasures. The feeling of guilt that accompanies these pleasures implies that we view them as base, low quality, or unworthy of our appreciation. I have my fair share of guilty pleasures that I absolutely love indulging in, but would likely feel embarrassed or self-conscious to some degree if someone were to catch me in the act. This may sound a bit vague, so, for the sake of clarity, I’ll confess one: the ABC Family show, Pretty Little Liars. Set in the fictional town of Rosewood, PA, the series follows the lives of four teenage girls whose clique falls apart after the disappearance of their queen bee, Alison. They begin receiving messages from a mysterious figure using the name “A,” who threatens to expose their deepest, darkest secrets. At first the girls think “A” is Alison herself, but after she is found dead, they realize that someone else knows their secrets and suspect that the mysterious figure had something to do with Alison’s murder. Undeniably, I am attracted to the scandal, drama, and unrealistic scenarios—however, I cannot help but feel guilty for watching the program. For a young woman in her third year of college, the majority of the drama that these teenage girls face may seem a bit trivial and juvenile, to say the least. Moreover, nearing the end of the show’s third season, the plot has become predictable and gives off the impression that the writers are simply dragging out the overlying situation to keep the show on air. I feel as if I am mindlessly absorbing images flashing on the screen instead of being engaged in a quality production. Despite these reasons, I continue to make my weekly appointment with PLL.
Why do we indulge in such activities in the first place if they make us feel guilty? Well, maybe our guilty pleasures help to relieve some stress, offering us opportunities to escape from harsh realities, or just reality altogether. For example, many engage in stress eating, not-so-“reality” TV, and retail therapy as means for taking a breather and alleviating stress. Maybe our guilty pleasures help us to structure our complex world into a more convenient framework. For example, films can simplify real-life, complicated situations in less overwhelming or convoluted terms. Guilty pleasures serve as valuable outlets, especially for us as college students as we progressively take on more responsibility and independence.
If guilty pleasures have such benefits, then maybe we shouldn’t feel so guilty about them. When done in moderation, indulging in guilty pleasures can actually be good for you. Anything in excess can be a bad thing—yes, even water. There’s such a thing as water intoxication. Don’t believe me? Google it! Guilty pleasures can actually help us stay healthy and live longer. If you need some convincing, let’s consider a few common ones:
Procrastination: While our parents and professors preach to us that procrastinating with social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest is an unhealthy, timewasting habit, use of such outlets allows us to take a breather and recharge so that we can eventually be productive again. Briefly checking your notifications every 50 pages read provides you with a comforting reference point that might help alleviate the heaviness of one’s workload.
Shopping: There’s a reason why we call it retail therapy. Shopping is exciting for the experience itself, allowing us to explore our interests and tastes, not necessarily for the buying. Material things only maintain their luster for so long. Since we tend to buy things that reflect the traits and qualities we appreciate in ourselves, treating ourselves once in a while, like after nailing an interview or being healthy all week, can boost our self-confidence and make us feel gratified. There is no sense in feeling guilty for a treat well-deserved.
Giving into our food cravings: Back in high school, I used to have a strength-and-conditioning trainer for basketball. He taught us that people who allow themselves to give into their cravings once in a while lose more weight and stay more fit than those who try to suppress their cravings. Depriving yourself of foods you enjoy only makes you want them more.
Our guilty pleasures don’t have to be embarrassing or shameful, so long as we indulge in them in moderation. We just need to set the pleasure free from the guilt to reap the lifetime benefits.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.