When you can stop you don’t want to, and when you want to, you can’t
- Luke Davies
“Just one more episode….I NEED to know if Jon Snow will betray the wildlings, then I will get back to my work”. “Oh, Chandler is so funny! I will watch just a couple more episodes for a quick laugh and then go to bed”. “Oh my God, I did not realize it’s 3 in the morning already!” Raise your hand if these sound familiar to you (yes, my hand’s already raised).
The Internet has facilitated people to catch up with the shows they’ve missed due to busy schedules. The idea of watching all the episodes together without any interruption of advertisements is lucrative to people. This kind of ‘binge watching’ of shows becomes a part of weekly routine for many. Sung et al. (2015), in their study on binge watching, defined binging as watching two or more episodes in one sitting.
Having access to a variety of shows in one place is tempting enough for people to watch more and more, thereby investing themselves emotionally in different shows. The curiosity to know more about the characters’ stories gets the better of them. Further encouraging this trend are popular websites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, which are specifically aimed at facilitating binge watching. Netflix has taken a step further by even coming up with its own shows, which are released in the format of an entire season at once. This is further encouragement for people to finish watching a whole season in one or two days.
Most people would agree that binge watching TV shows is a very fun and pleasant activity. How can there possibly be anything wrong with watching your favourite show for 12 hours straight (unless your favourite show is Sherlock; then I feel truly sorry for you). In an annual survey conducted by TiVo Inc. in 2013, about 53% people viewed binge watching as a negative activity, however, the figure has reduced to 31% in 2015. A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Netflix in 2013 even claimed that ‘binge watching is the new normal’ based on the fact that 61 percent of their respondents claimed to binge-watch Netflix regularly. However, has binging ever been associated with anything good? Binging on something essentially means indulging in excess of something, and too much of anything is seldom good.
The general behavioural pattern associated with binge watching is that of addictions and obsessive behaviours. Sung et al. (2015) made some interesting discoveries in their study on binge watching. They found that people who indulged in binge watching were more likely to report feelings of depression. In fact, three-quarters of the people who responded to the Netflix survey (2013) reported having positive feelings about the behavior, which may be indicative of some gloomy feelings before. It is not uncommon for binge watchers to have feelings of attachment towards the characters of the show and feel anxious when there are more episodes of the show left to be watched. This kind of attachment with the show is associated with ritualistic motives to watch the shows which is a form addiction.
Studies have also shown that people turn to their favourite TV shows when feeling lonely. People who are inclined to closeness in relationships, have a fear of abandonment or a tendency towards depression report higher frequency of binge watching behaviours. It has also been exhibited that parasocial relationships formed with the TV shows fulfil people’s belongingness needs.
Does this mean that the activity that is deemed so enjoyable by many is actually indicative of such psychological factors that are unpleasant in the first place? More research needs to be done to examine these associations further. The activity that people so dearly enjoy, if done excessively, may be an indication for them to evaluate themselves and try to steer away from a possibly impending e-problem.