We have all had those days where all we want to do is laze around in our beds and binge-watch The Office, Parks & Recreation, Game of Thrones, or any other overrated, addictive, and mediocre show. Although an easy escape from reality, binge-watching can have a detrimental effect on your health, social life, and sleep – in other words, ruin your life.
Interestingly, binge-watching affects those who are most likely to do it – teenagers. A survey conducted by Patient.info found that those aged 18-24 were fives times more likely to feel lonely, three times more likely to feel depressed and twice as likely to feel anxious, sleepless and empty after a binge-watching episode, (pun intended) but those aged 55 and over were less likely to experience mental health issues.
Why is it so bad?
1. Jeopardizes Mental Health
New research by the University of Michigan and the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research in Belgium found that higher binge-viewing frequency leads to poorer sleep quality, more fatigue, and increased insomnia, while regular TV viewing does not. Sitting for long stretches of time also increases your risk of health issues (including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer), even if you also exercise regularly.
2. Harbors A Horrible Addiction
While binge-viewing can be fun and feel satisfying, there’s always the danger of becoming too obsessed.
Addiction involves doing an activity more than you had planned.
Behavior also becomes addictive when it begins to negatively affect other aspects of your life, like if you neglect other activities or responsibilities to binge House of Cards.
3. Social Life Is Non-existent.
Binge-viewing tends to be a pretty isolating activity, according to a study by Marketcast, an entertainment research firm, found that 56 percent of bingers prefer to watch alone; 98 percent watch at home. In the study’s leader, Sonja Lyumbomirsky’s (a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside) words,
Whenever you spend too much time on something, you’re taking time away from other essential things in life, like hanging out with friends or working.
4. TV Shows Lose Meaning
Blame a psychological phenomenon called hedonic adaptation, which is basically a fancy way of saying that we get used to new things. At first, a new TV show is really exciting, but the more you watch, the less you enjoy it over time. For all my economists, the marginal utility of consuming the TV show decreases with time. Binge-watching also reduces the pleasure of anticipation. Unless, of course, you’re are binge-racing, in which case, watching a series to completion gives us a feeling of control and power, and viewing a few episodes in a row creates more of a story arc than watching episodes for a designated time.
Any solutions to this deadly addiction?
This probably isn’t what you had in mind when you sat down to binge watch the last five episodes of Breaking Bad that you had missed. Unfortunately, this is the most powerful solution because exercising reduces stress, anxiety, and social isolation while simultaneously improving mental health, self-esteem, and physical health.
2. Eat Healthily
Binge-watching and binge-eating are a match made in heaven. One usually provokes the other and vice versa. So, keeping track of what you eat definitely helps reduce cravings for both. Moreover, spending time cooking a nice meal is a great way to distract you from flicking through Netflix searching for that next series.
3. Take breaks
A boon and a curse – the next episode on Netflix is programmed to begin as soon as the current episode that you’re watching ends. That only gave you ten seconds to make the decision if you want to watch the next episode or not, and for people like me, indecisive, meek and pushovers, ten seconds just isn’t enough! So, I suggest taking breaks in-between episodes or instead of watching four episodes in a row, try watching two and then doing something else in between. These breaks force you to confront what you are doing and hopefully stop you from binge-watching.
Downloading extensions like Stayfocusd or WasteNoTime also help you manage the time that you spend on the Internet. These extensions generally block distractive and addictive websites like Youtube, Facebook, or Netflix. You can even set how much time you are willing to spend on these websites per day, and if you cross this limit, then all these websites are blocked for the rest of the day. These measures not only prevent excessive amounts of binge-watching but also help increase productivity.
4. Talk to Someone
This advice can be taken in two ways – either discussing the show with friends or confiding your addiction with an adult. For the former, experts argue that discussing a show with your partner or pals can bring you closer.
It gives you a common ground for talking about something—the characters’ motivations, the plot. Discussing your thoughts on these aspects of a show is a way of expressing your own world view.
Using a wildly popular series as a conversation topic can possibly help you relate to others more easily. It also forces you to take breaks between episodes, and reflect on what you have just watched.
For the latter, if you are starting to feel down, stressed, lonely or depressed after binge-watching TV you should talk to someone about it. Cal Strode, from the Mental Health Foundation, states that,
When we’re feeling low we’re often drawn to things that can make us feel worse, such as unhealthy fast foods or long periods of inactivity binge-watching TV. If you find yourself stuck in this kind of cycle, speaking to someone about what you’re going through is the first step in breaking it.
Binge-watching or Binge-racing?
Hold your horses! Binge-watching is so 2015. Binge-racing is the new sheriff in town, and it describes the ability to watch an entire show within 24 hours of its release. Netflix is the proponent of this new fad, and people really seem to enjoy it – according to new data released by the video streaming company, 8.4 million subscribers fall into this demographic. And it’s a figure that’s growing. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of people who have completed a series on the day of its released increased 20 times over. As Brian Wright, Netflix’s Vice President of Original Series put very neatly in Netflix’s press release,
TV is their passion and Binge Racing is their sport.
To be honest, I’m not really sure who “they” is, and I don’t think I want to know…
There’s a unique satisfaction that comes from being the first to finish a story – whether it’s the final page of a book or the last, climactic moments of your favorite TV show.
So, which one are you? A binge-watcher or binge-racer?