Binge-watching has blasted into our cultural scene, turning the way we devour screens upside down and inside out. We’ve all been there: relaxing in front of the TV or with our trusty laptop, getting lost in the thrill of binge-watching a show we can’t get enough of, whether it’s a new hit or the latest season of a favorite series. The urge to click “next episode” becomes our constant companion, even when our responsible side reminds us it’s time to shut it off. It’s like a magnetic pull keeping us glued to the screen, tempting us with exciting stories that are hard to resist. Well, that’s the true art of binge-watching.
It’s got that irresistible charm – binge-watching is like the ultimate entertainment package deal, bundled with engagement, immersion, and a dash of escapism for good measure. You’re emotionally hooked, and the thrill of discovering where those storylines twist and turn keeps you on the edge of your seat, episode after episode.
Why we crave binge-watching
Back in the day TV shows followed a fixed schedule, with episodes released weekly. But with the rise of online streaming, these time constraints have gone out the window. Streaming platforms offer entire seasons of TV series, granting viewers the freedom to watch at their convenience. This newfound flexibility has given birth to binge-watching, where individuals indulge in watching multiple episodes back-to-back.
In fact, a recent survey confirmed this notable shift in the way people consume television. Streaming took center stage, accounting for 38.7% of the total TV viewership, with popular platforms like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu leading the way.
So why do we crave binge-watching? Our love for it is actually wired into our brains’ pleasure system. When we dive into a show, our brain goes all out, releasing a bunch of dopamine – that happy chemical that’s all about pleasure and excitement. This dopamine rush is the same kind of buzz you get from addictive stuff like certain drugs. Your brain starts to crave more, and as long as you keep hitting “play next,” your brain keeps dishing out the dopamine. So it’s not surprising that 73% of individuals polled by Netflix shared that binge-watching leaves them with a positive vibe.
“Our behaviors and thoughts, when repeated over time, can become actual neural patterns and habits that are hard to break or change,” explains Northwestern Medicine Psychiatrist Danesh A. Alam, MD. Similar to how other habits with addictive traits work, binge-watching has the potential to foster a pseudo-addiction to the show.
Navigating the binge-watching healthscape
In 2022, adults across the United States were devoting an average of 60 minutes every day to savor their dose of Netflix. Yes, you read that correctly – a complete hour of high-quality screen time. As binge-watching seamlessly integrates into the daily routines of many, emerging evidence draws attention to the potential link between this viewing habit and various health concerns—both physical and mental.
Lounging with Netflix or Hulu queued up might just be the ultimate sedentary adventure you never knew you signed up for. As researchers at Michigan University explain “binge watching is associated with detrimental health behaviors such as foregoing sleep in order to continue watching, selecting unhealthy meals, unhealthy snacking and sedentary behavior (i.e., sitting too long, less exercise).” Moreover, frequent binge-watching might disrupt circadian rhythms, leading to sleep disturbances. So, while you embark on your Netflix odyssey from the comfort of your couch, just remember, it’s not only a ticket to endless entertainment but also an unintended path towards a rendezvous with late-night cravings, disrupted sleep, and some serious couch-potato accolades.
Once you’ve breezed through three consecutive episodes of a TV show, without so much as a nudge on the remote control, or after you’ve immersed yourself in 90 minutes of uninterrupted Netflix goodness, a friendly query appears: “Are you still watching?” According to Netflix, it’s all about holding your place and being mindful of your internet usage when you’ve momentarily stepped away from the screen. But let’s be real here – it’s a subtle way of saying, “Yep, you’re officially on a binge-watching spree.” Plus, it can also serve as a gentle reminder to take a breather for the sake of your mental and physical well-being.
The binge-watching lock-down
The pandemic gave humanity a perfect excuse for hours-long show binge-watching sessions. Folks had fewer ways to address their psychological needs each day, and binge-watching became a choice. According to a global survey, 55% of Gen Z video streaming fans hopped onto the binge-watching bandwagon during the second quarter of 2021. The reason? Blame it on COVID-19 and the whole staying-at-home vibe that had everyone reaching for their screens.
With traditional forms of entertainment like movie theaters and live events being put on hold, people turned to streaming platforms for solace and entertainment. The uncertainty and stress of the pandemic drove many to seek comfort in familiar TV series, explore new shows, and immerse themselves in captivating narratives. Additionally, the shared experience of binge-watching became a way for people to connect virtually, bridging the physical distance imposed by the pandemic.
Who were the ultimate pandemic binge-watchers?
Let’s take a stroll through a survey conducted in the U.S. back in 2020, and trust me, the results are quite the eye-opener. 60% of teenagers aged 13 to 17 are no strangers to binge-watching TV shows or series in one uninterrupted stretch. And that’s not all – the trend continued to shine among adults aged 18 to 29, with a solid 69% nodding their heads to the same habit. But here’s the juicy part: when it comes to being true binge-viewing champions, the spotlight shifted to the 30 to 44 age group, where 70% percent owned up to indulging in the joy of watching shows and films back-to-back. It just goes to show, age is no match for the thrill of a good binge-watch session!
But there was one particular show that stood out to binge-watchers of all ages: Squid Game. In 2021 the Korean survival thriller, shattered records with 1.65 billion hours devoured by viewers within 28 days after its premiere, securing its throne as the ultimate Netflix binge-watched sensation.
In the grand scheme of things, COVID-19 reshaped content consumption, transforming binge-watching from a pastime into a coping mechanism and a way to stay connected through tough times. This shift in behavior was met with enthusiasm by Netflix aficionados who introduced “The Bingeclock,” a clever platform that not only unveils a TV series’ total runtime but boldly lays out the days, hours, and minutes required for a monumental binge-watching adventure.
Crafting a positive binge-watching experience
Binge-watching can offer a multitude of benefits that extend beyond instant laughter and enjoyment. It can be a comforting companion during moments of solitude, aid in unwinding after a taxing workday, and transport you into another person’s world, broadening your outlook. Yet, akin to various scenarios in life, establishing limits holds significant importance.
Want to make binge-watching healthier and fun? First, set some chill time limits – pick when you’ll watch so things don’t go overboard. And when you’re in the zone, take little breaks between episodes – stretch, maybe take a stroll, drink some water, and recharge. Now, for the shows – go for ones that tick your boxes, stuff you’re into. Spice up your downtime by mixing in other cool stuff like reading or whatever floats your boat.
Remember, balance is key – don’t let the binge take over everything. And when the screen is off, take a breather or try a little mindfulness. Oh, and for the night owls, try daytime viewing for better sleep vibes.