I love binge watching. In our home we choose not to have cablevision, so if Maurice and I decide to follow a series we have to watch it on Netflix. If we find we like a show we begin binge watching. For those of you who have not heard of binge watching, it is viewing multiple episodes of a television show, either in one sitting or over a short period of time. How long the binge lasts depends on how long the series has run. Over the years I’ve binge watched Eureka, Queer as Folk, Lost, The Walking Dead, Will & Grace, Better off Ted, Chuck, Battlestar Gallactica and Fringe. There’s probably a few more that I have forgotten.
Why have people around the world begun binge watching? Well, because they can. In the past, the only way to watch older episodes of a television series was to wait until they showed up on reruns. In the afternoons, kids would watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Around dinner time, adults would watch reruns of Dragnet or Bonanza. That’s all that was offered and we enjoyed them. However, in today’s fast paced, instant gratification society, an episode a day just won’t do. With the advent of shows sold in box sets, and online viewing via Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, people can watch an entire series in just a few weeks or even days.
Now, a study conducted by the University of Texas at Austin shows what may appear to be harmless, may not be okay after all.
Researchers Yoon Hi Sung, Eun Yeon Kang and Wei-Na Lee conducted a survey on 316 18- to 29-year-olds on how often they watched TV; how often they had feelings of loneliness, depression and self-regulation deficiency; and finally on how often they binge watched TV. They found that the more lonely and depressed the study participants were, the more likely they were to binge watch TV, using this activity to move away from negative feelings.
The findings also showed that those who lacked the ability to control themselves were more likely to binge watch. These viewers were unable to stop clicking “Next” even when they were aware that they had other tasks to complete.
Little research has been done on binge watching since it is such a new behavior. Psychological factors such as loneliness, depression, and self-regulation deficiency have been known as important indicators of binge behavior in general. For example, people engage in addictive behaviors to temporarily forget the reality that involves loneliness and depression. Also, an individual’s lack of self-regulation is likely to influence the level of his or her addictive behavior. Therefore, this study tried to understand binge watching behavior from this set of known factors. Researcher Sung said,
Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge watching should no longer be viewed this way. Physical fatigue and problems such as obesity and other health problems are related to binge watching and they are a cause for concern. When binge watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others. Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously. Our research is a step toward exploring binge watching as an important media and social phenomenon.
As for me, I think binge watching makes me more likely to isolate and it most definitely affects other aspects of my life. Things just don’t seem to get done once I latch onto a series and continue the ride until I reach the end. Should I change my behavior? Probably. Will I change my behavior? I already have. By focusing on writing more, I’ve greatly reduced the amount of television I watch. However, I think I’m far away from ending my binge watching all together. After all, I just learned today that one of my all-time favorite shows, St. Elsewhere, is now available on Hulu. Unfortunately…or maybe fortunately, they are currently offering only the first season.
Do you binge watch? If so, I’m curious what series’ you have watched and would you recommend them.