I remember when the word “binge” was associated with drinking and eating. It usually referred to signs of stupidity, depression, are just a lack of care about one’s self. But now these days the word neutrally associated with watching multiple episodes or even seasons of a tv show in one sitting. A few years back, before Netflix allowed you to stream movies and shows, I remember running to the nearest Target or Walmart and buying the next season of 24. My family and I would spend a designated weekend engrossed in Jack Bauer’s latest adventure. These days, I can save my $20-$40 for a season of a show and watch almost any anything I want for around $8 a month. Now it is a nightly ritual for most people to fall asleep not to their tv, but to a few episodes of Netflix. Find an episode especially thrilling or left with a cliffhanger and you can keep on going until you look at the time and find it is almost 3am and you’ve got work in the morning.
At most coffee meet-ups or meals with friends we spend a good portion of the time talking about the latest binge-sessions we each have had. And recommendations we have for the next binge-viewing session. “Have you seen Bloodline, Daredevil and The West Wing? I watched them all this past month!” Ok, maybe past-month is an exaggeration, more like past two weeks. Netflix, Amazon and HBOGo all allow users to watch their favorite shows all together with new seasons of shows being released at once and not over a consecutive time period. Because of this, people tend to see a relaxing weekend being one that involves watching a whole season of a show. Think about it, newer and more popular shows are starting to have less episodes (an average of 13) but more content packed in each episode. This allows a person to choose watching these shorter seasons as a weekend getaway retreat.
We have access to shows that were not easily possible before, such as HBO on Amazon Prime and BBC and other foreign shows that could only be shown on a special region DVD player. Now, we can access the shows even our parents would not let us watch. The skin-flix and profanity-laced dark shows like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and The Wire. With a growing collection of things to watch, these companies promise you that you will never be bored again. Had a horrible day? Just struggle a few more hours of work and you can run home with your to-go dinner and watch the newest season of House of Cards till you fall asleep.
There are so many statistics out now on how many people are binge-watching TV. In an article by Huffington Post a survey showed that 60% admitted to binge-watching 2-3 episodes of a TV show at least once a month, whereas half of Millennials admitted to binge watching daily or weekly (source). Not all statistics are good either, we may feel relaxed emotionally, but our bodies are slowly breaking down. Doctors and researchers are worried that there could be an increase in diabetes (source) and cancer (source) due to the amount of time people spend sitting and watching TV. Some studies even say binge-watching may be a sign of loneliness or depression (source). Relationships also might be suffering as many people are binge-watching alone. Many people choose to forego time spent with family and friends and have a night to themselves and their screen.
My question for you, the reader, and for all of us who are Netflix and Amazon Prime subscribers is are we choosing to binge-watch over quality time with friends, family and our signficant other? How many hours are you spending watching shows or movies? What could you be filling up these hours with instead? Is binge-watching something to be proud of? Looking back, will you see your years defined by how many shows you watched or how many missed oppprtunities you had? Sound off in the comments below. There is much more I hope to discuss in the future on this topic.