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Mental Health

The Effects of Binge-Watching and How to Watch Responsibly.

What was the last TV show you watched? Was it season three of You on Netflix? Or maybe you rewatched all of The Office. How long did it take you to finish the show? Did you binge it all in a few days or did you elect to take it slow and steady? 

If you used a streaming service and chose to take it slow and steady, then you are in the minority. On average, most Netflix members will finish an entire season of a show in only one week, choosing to binge-watch their way through a series. Binge-watching is not a new phenomenon but it is much more prominent with the rapid growth of streaming services. Our generation’s need for instant gratification is changing how we consume media while simultaneously changing how that media is created. 

Think about what streaming services you use. Try and count them all up. The average person can only count on one hand the number of platforms they go to, however this number is increasing every year and streaming services are starting to battle it out for certain shows. 

This is leading many streaming services to create original content to keep up with their competitors. In 2019, Netflix spent approximately $15 billion on creating original content. What was once a streaming service is transformed into a full-blown production company. 

Pumping out new series and releasing new seasons on these sites all at one time has given the audience a new experience of having to race to finish a show. When the second season of Stranger Things was released on Netflix, 361,000 people watched all nine episodes on the first day it was released. If you didn’t finish the show within a week, then you were missing out on the conversation and could potentially be subjected to spoilers online. How many times have you been scrolling on social media and had to quickly scroll past a post because it had spoilers for whatever show you were watching? Not a fun experience. 

Companies like Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu are rushing to keep up with the pace at which their viewers consume their media. So what? I bet you’re wondering why you should care. Well, here’s something you should know about binge watching:

Binge-watching isn’t all bad. It can come with many positives, such as bringing stress relief to the viewer and can even teach life lessons (if you have a favorite character that acts as a role model for you). However, according to Dr. Renee Carr, a clinical psychologist, binge watching your favorite show is like taking a drug. As you watch, your brain is continually producing dopamine. This gives you a “high” of sorts, and you then develop a pseudo-addiction to the show. You start craving more. So you keep watching and keep watching and suddenly it’s five in the morning, you have school in three hours, and you’ve finally finished season two Outer Banks. According to Dr. Carr, finishing a show often comes with a sort of withdrawal for the viewer. The companies are picking up on this behavior. They are changing the way they produce and create content to keep up with binge-watching behavior. They won’t stop, so it’s up to the viewer to binge-watch responsibly. 

So how can you binge-watch in a healthy way? Well, first pay attention to your habits. If you’re choosing to watch your show over hanging out with your friends or family, or doing simple things like taking care of yourself, then you may need to step back and reevaluate. 

Then, try to slow the binge. You can do this by setting yourself a certain time limit. You could tell yourself: “I’ll only watch this show for two hours” or even set an alarm for an allotted amount of time. If that doesn’t work for you, you can always give yourself a certain number of episodes to watch. Telling yourself you can watch two episodes of the show gives you a clear stopping point and won’t leave room for you to convince yourself to only watch a few more minutes. 

After your binge, go do something fun. If you choose to go out with your friends or go for a walk outside or do something else that you enjoy, you will be creating an additional source of pleasure. Your brain will be less likely to associate the dopamine it’s producing with only the show you’re watching and then you will be less likely to become addicted.

Taking care of yourself is the most important thing overall. Your favorite show will always be waiting for you at the end of the day.

Hi! I'm Caroline. I'm a second year student at Elon University, currently studying English (Creative Writing) and Communications (Cinema and TV Arts). I'm originally from Columbus, Ohio. I love writing, obviously, but I'm also passionate about video editing, mental health and the outdoors. I'm super extroverted and always have a lot to say, so writing is one of my favorite ways to get my ideas out into the world!
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