Yes, I’m seriously still watching. And so are the 70 million other Netflix subscribers who aren’t paying monthly fees to be judged. We’ve all been there: our friend recommends a “life-changing” series on Netflix, we give it a shot, and watch it for what feels like 10 minutes until this little question pops up and we realize we’ve slabbed away the entire day and have been watching Netflix for 15+ hours. What is it about this website that sucks our souls in and basically turns us into mindless streaming zombie slaves? In other words, why do we binge-watch? This newly coined term stems from the recent availability of our favorite TV shows and movies at the palm of our hands… literally. The easy access we have nowadays to unlimited streaming through our phones, laptops, and TVs is scary and exhilarating. Although it’s a safe source of entertainment and can be used for beneficial purposes (like watching documentaries or educating yourself through certain shows), it can just as easily be detrimental to one’s lifestyle.
Binge-watching refers to the action of going prolonged amounts of time doing nothing but watching series on streaming services. Typically, watching 3+ episodes in a row in one sitting is considered binge-watching. These services make it extremely easy to binge-watch, seeing as they often have all the episodes and seasons of people’s favorite TV shows. Not only this, but the website layouts make it easy for users to lose track of time and stay glued to their screens all day. Features such as automatically playing the next episode of a show and the 15-second time span to click the “continue watching” button facilitate user experience and lead them to adopt a lazy attitude and bask in the comfort of their couch or bed. It’s easy to get swept up in the glory of unlimited streaming and ignore responsibilities. Furthermore, not only does excessive binge-watching lead to mental problems, but it can potentially lead to physical problems as well.
Logically, the extent of your slow but steady mental and physical deterioration depends on what kind of person you are. An article in The New York Times categorized binge-watchers into 3 distinct groups: The Very Fast Binger, The Fairly Quick Binger, and the Slightly More Relaxed Binger. I consider myself to be in between a sporadical Fairly Quick Binger and a Slightly More Relaxed Binger. Meaning I can go long periods of time without watching Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go, but as soon as I watch one episode of a good series, I’m latched and can’t stop watching until I’ve finished the entire season. However, I asked my friend which category she considered herself to be a part of, she said she identified with The Very Fast Binger group because she preferred TV shows with short running times and few episodes.
Many shows and movies speed our hearts up, trigger dopamine releases, and cause all sorts of physical responses on our bodies. Binge-watching can also be tied to procrastination, seeing as we prioritize things according to time constraints. For example, during my senior year in high school on Sunday nights, I would rather refresh the HBO Go homepage waiting for the newest episode of Game of Thrones to go live than do my third-period homework due the next day. Streaming services know this and make a profit out of it. They study our watching habits and tailor our accounts to match them, making us more likely to become addicted to something that is personalized. All in all, we binge-watch because, not only have streaming services have made it easy to, but we subconsciously take pleasure in the stimulating nature of watching shows and movies.