How Much Binge-watching Is Good For You?

Binge-watching can affect your psychological and mental health. With early signs like depression and anxiety, find out how to watch TV responsibly.

Have you been watching a show for more than 3-5 hours a day? Are you in love with that strong character who makes the bold move? Do you feel sad when a character dies in the fictional series you’ve been watching for a very long time? If you answered yes to these questions, you are showing signs of addiction to binge-watching. Getting involved in the lives of a fictional show and sticking to it for long hours can affect your mental health leading to anxiety and depression.

Effects of binge-watching
Photo by Victoria Heath / Binge-watching late in the night also has an effect due to the blue rays of the electronic device

What is binge-watching?

When you decide to watch two episodes at first but 5 hours later you realize that you’ve almost crushed the entire series.

Binge-watching means ‘watching back-to-back episodes of a TV Series in a single sitting’.

You may find yourself guilty of staying up all night to find out the tragic ending of the show. But it also gives us a sense of accomplishment to finish the whole series at one shot. It happens to most of us. All thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Disney+ and many more who are encouraging the audience to watch new shows with the concept of binge-watching. 

As per a survey by Netflix, 61% of its users’ binge-watch a TV show from time to time. It has become a normative way to consume TV Series. Though the concept of movie marathons or watching multiple episodes in one session was practiced, it wasn’t popular until Netflix introduced the term ‘Binge-Watching’ to users across the world by releasing the entire TV Series on the same day.

Successful market research studies conducted by Deloitte digital democracy survey over the past few years reported a tremendous increase in binge-watchers where 68 percent of consumers practice this activity. Among them, 31 percent watch at least once a week, whereas 34 percent prefer binge-watching at least once a month.

Motivations for binge-watching:

  • The motivation for binge-watching can be theorized comprehensively. As per perceived psychology, this behavior is generally defined as the consumption of an item in an excessive amount over a short period. Ideal reasons are to escape from reality and to elicit psychological comfort. It does not suggest a negative connotation. However, binge-watching is a more socially acceptable behavior than addiction to watching television. From the technological perspective, the advancement of new technology fulfills the users’ hedonic consumption accompanied by pleasure and entertainment.

  • According to research published on Research Gate conducted by Hongjin Shim and Ki Joon Kim, by analyzing data and survey of binge-watchers, enjoyment, excitement, the recommendation of others, perceived control and fandom are the key motivations for binge-watching. This is found especially among young individuals with a higher need for cognition and sensation-seeking. These sensation seekers are attracted to binge-watching because they do this to avoid boredom or they do not want to miss out on the discussions in social spaces. Therefore, the motivation of enjoyment driven by the desire of entertainment leads to positivity with sensation-seeking which promotes the behavior of continuous binge-watching.

  • On the other hand, a shocking study published in 2012 by the Journal of Consumer Research, revealed that repeatedly watching your favorite shows proved good for mental health. Unlike the survival motives of evolutionary psychology, we find that consumers who chose to repeat hedonic experiences even just once are expressing and affirming their individual experience and its special meanings to them," the study authors wrote in their paper's conclusion.

Binge watching affects your brain:

As much as you ‘feel good’ about watching your favorite show for hours, this can lead to serious mental health issues pulling you away from your social life. When a person spends more number of hours watching a fictional life, they may not follow their daily routine.

People wouldn’t watch any show if they didn’t like it. For example, a TV Show like ‘This Is Us’ deals with the lives of a couple and their children dealing with their career and relationships. Such shows may feel good to watch but it may also leave us emotionally unstable. The amount of drama in the show that takes place makes us over-think situations in real life.

It gives you the ‘high’:

Do you wonder why 73 percent of people surveyed by Netflix reported having positive feelings when they binge-watch?

There are various studies on why we feel good about watching shows. A clinical psychologist shares that the ‘feeling good’ is because our brain releases a chemical called dopamine - our body’s pleasure chemical. This happens when we are involved in enjoyable activities like binge-watching which gives a similar drug-like ‘high’.

Studies say, while watching new shows on OTT platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, etc. without waiting for an episode every week sounds interesting, it can lead to premature death.

As Marketcast says, 56% of binge-watchers prefer watching alone and 98% want to watch their show at home. This leads to a lack of social life and increased isolation. Continuously watching one show can have adverse effects on your brain. There can be psychological effects the areas of the brain activate to the same situation as when experiencing a live event. You tend to get drawn into the storylines, become attached, and truly care about the characters and their outcomes of conflicts.

The emptiness when it’s over:

We usually feel sad and empty after watching an entire series. This feeling is called ‘situational depression’ where you finish a series and tend to mourn a loss. The brain stimulation is lowered causing depression for a short span period. Therefore, it is recommended to socialize and talk to people. Through this, you can avoid isolating and get over the temporary situation easily.

Netflix and chill
Image Source: Nicolas-AdobeStock

How to binge-watch healthily?

  • When you plan to watch a TV series, it is understood that you will be sitting on your couch for long hours. This means sitting comfortably, sticking your eyes to a screen for more than 3-5 hours. You may also forget to hydrate and eat. Such issues can harm your body muscles and affect your other systems. A sedentary life can trigger a decrease in circulation and metabolism, making you feel lethargic.
  • According to Neilsen ratings, watching shows like The Good Wife or How I Met Your Mother could take three days to finish. Given the times and situation of staying at home, many have accomplished this goal of watching a TV Series in a short period. For example, I finished top-rated and long-running American TV Shows like Suits and Grey’s Anatomy in forty days. As crazy as it sounds, my love for watching movies and TV shows has never ended. Though I watched these shows while I was quarantined in my house for a very long time, I managed to stay responsible by taking regular breaks, working, and helping in house chores.
  • To watch shows in one go, you need to keep the health factors in mind. Such as taking breaks at regular intervals is the most important. Set a fixed time of taking a break (for example, take a break after each episode and complete your other required tasks) and take a significant time-out from the screen to give your eyes some rest.
  • Do not forget to hydrate yourself. Keep a bottle of water with you, preferably a sipper so that you can sip water at regular intervals even while watching your favorite show. Watching a TV Series can also mean mindless snacking which should be avoided. Hence, taking breaks is necessary. It is also recommended to watch series and movies with your friends or family. This helps you stay closer to them and you can also discuss the show simultaneously.
  • If you love watching shows so much, why not make the best use of it? Though your main intention to watch any TV Series is to fulfill your desires for entertainment and enjoyment, you can also learn.

    For instance, you want to improve your English speaking skills, turn on the subtitles, listen, and read the dialogues. This is an effective way of learning a language. There are facts which say, watching a show or movie in different languages helps to improve your command over that language. For me too, this exercise has helped a lot to enhance my skills in languages.
  • If you feel like you resonate with any character from a TV Series, don’t fall into the assumptions and care too much about the character. Take the good things out of it. Learn about the good qualities and find out ways you improve your life. For someone who loves watching would relate to characters easily, but staying unattached can make you feel confident.

Binge-watch responsibly:

  • Also, to avoid addiction to any TV Series without getting attached to the characters and getting overly emotional about the storyline, try to set limited goals. Even if you don’t like it, try to achieve those goals. Many may say, "the episode ended on such a high note, I couldn’t resist watching the next one. I wanted to know what happened next.” Well, to tackle this, researchers have said that, watch the first of the new episode and leave it. The new episodes generally answer the questions of the previous episode in the first half. This is the best exercise you can follow.
  • If you can’t stop telling yourself, “10 Minutes more!” decide the number of episodes you want to watch and stop in the middle of the next episode to have psychological closure which will help you turn off your TV easily. A convenient solution to this can be, ‘set a timer on your TV or Laptop to limit your watching time’. This will help you in controlling your screen-time.
  • Try to make a balance between binge-watching and socializing. After binge-watching, spend time with your family, go out with friends, or do whatever you love other than staring at the screen. Also, do some physical exercise to stimulate your body. Through this, you can give yourself good health and long-term experience of enjoyment and entertainment.

Now that you know the steps for responsible binge-watching, how do you plan to watch your new favorite TV Series?

A writer who loves watching movie-marathons. Otherwise, you'll find her walking around the city, cafe-hopping & trying the best food around.

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