Binge-watch: To watch at least four episodes of a television program, typically a drama, in one sitting (bathroom breaks and quick kitchen snack runs excepted) through an on-demand service or DVDs, often at the expense of other perceived responsibilities in a way that can cause guilt. (Defined by Nolan Feeney)
Are you a binge watcher? Do you sometimes measure time in episodes rather than minutes? If so, welcome friend. As I’ve grown up in a technologically fluent generation, the idea of binge watching tv is completely normal and something I’ve personally grown quite fond of. I have spent countless hours and days invested in the fictional lives of others and experienced the soul crushing hopelessness and withdrawals when you reach the end. In fact, I’d guesstimate that the vast majority of my university peers have experienced similar feelings; mind numbing emptiness with no direction in life and just trying to fill the void that those TV characters left.
So when I was asked to analyse an article, I thought why not look into something close to my heart?
Written by Sophie Kleeman, graduate of New York University, this article aims to outline and comment on a new study conducted by Yoon Hi Sung, Eun Yeon Kang and Wei-Na Lee from University of Texas. This research found that the more lonely and depressed you are, the more likely you are to binge-watch. This was done by conducting a survey on 316 18 to 29-year-olds on how often they watched TV, how often they had feelings of loneliness and self-regulation deficiency, and how often they binge watched TV. They discovered that the more lonely and depressed the participants were, the most likely they were to use TV binging to mask negative feelings. The findings also showed correlation between lack of self control and binge watching (because lets be honest, once you click “next” your not getting anything done for another 45 minutes).
As binge watching is such a new and emerging pattern of behaviour very little research has been conducted around it. So far, it has been viewed as harmless even though “binging” holds negative connotations and binging behaviours (e.g eating and drinking) are most commonly associated with psychological factors such as loneliness, depression, and self-regulation deficiency. Professor Sung reinforces that binge watching should no longer be viewed as a harmless addiction not only due to emotional factors but also “physical fatigue and problems such as obesity”. “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.”
A recent Netflix study found that 61% (3,078 participants 18-years-old and older) binge watch regularly (2-3 episodes of a single TV series in one setting), and that 73% viewed binge watching as positive. Which, as discovered, is something to reconsider.
This article emphasises that this research only points out a connection between the two, it doesn’t mean that if you binge watch you will become depressed or lonely. Correlation, not causation. But it is something to keep in mind next time you settle in for an all night catch up session of The Walking Dead.
“A Bad Habit for Your Health? An Exploration of Psychological Factors for Binge-Watching Behavior,” by Yoon Hi Sung, Eun Yeon Kang and Wei-Na Lee was presented at the 65th Annual International Communication Association Conference, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 21-25 May 2015.