Micro-Optimism: The Slow Drip of Disappointment

Have you ever sat in front of a TV at night with the remote in your hand, continuously clicking your way through channel after channel? When I do this in hotel rooms, I often find myself looping back around to the hotel’s “Welcome” channel before clicking my way back through the entire line-up.

Why do I do this? The term I think applies to my behavior is “micro-optimism.” Whatever I’m watching, I’m slightly – very slightly – optimistic that I’ll find something better on the next channel. However, I’m more often than not proven wrong, which actually increases my optimism about the next channel.

Eventually, I find something that actually is worth watching and catch 2-3 minutes of the show before a commercial break, thus starting the clicking pattern again.

Compare this to YouTube. Before watching a video, I know how many times it has been viewed and how high it has been rated. This significantly increases that my next 1-10 minutes will be interesting. Better yet, while watching that video, I’m giving a wide variety of options for my next video to watch, including related videos, videos by the same producer, or videos created in response to the one I’m watching.

Rather than watching 3-5 seconds of channels as I flip with my TV remote, I find myself watching interesting content over and over again.

My micro-optimism is more often fulfilled.

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