Binge-watching refers to the behaviour of viewing entertainment or informational contents for a prolonged period of time, usually a single television show or program. In this two to six episodes of a TV show are watched in one sitting. This relatively new trend gained popularity among young people since 2013 as a result of the development of multiple on-demand streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, Apple TV, etc. This is because we live in an on-demand world with the expectation to have everything readily available to us at all times.
FOUR MOTIVATORS / FACTORS OF THE BINGE-WATCHING BEHAVIOR
Information Attainment– People show this behavior to gain new information and skills, they binge-watch and return to their regular lives by gaining new insights into how to improve their own lives, help them broaden their mindset, acquire different viewpoints and novel perspectives. Sometimes people binge-watch to gain knowledge faster, because of the fear that if they leave a gap between one session and another, they might forget details.
Cultural Inclusion: Viewers watch shows so that they can be part of group discussions, be able to share it within their social network like peer groups, office gatherings, etc. The motive is to experience a sense of belonging, being valued and important to their social group.
Entertainment– Since online streaming services provide viewers a sense of control over their entertainment, so it is obvious that people have shifted their preference from television and cinema theatres to digital platforms to binge-watch and gain all sorts of entertainment. It helps them in relaxing, falling to sleep and good background music or score of the series helps in multitasking. The quality of entertainment like good narratives and audio visual contents which are enhanced for viewers with passing time satisfies their entertainment needs. They are further provided with personal recommendations to keep the behavior intact.
Companionship– Binge-watchers identify themselves with on screen characters and talk about them with their friends and online communities, engage with the content at both emotional and cognitive levels and form a meaningful bond with them. It helps them to relieve loneliness like missing their companions. In alone times, the series acts as a friend
Escape/Mood management– This behavior is an avoidance tactic to get away from reality, escape from struggles, problems, to control their mood and relax, acts as a way to restore their spirits after a long day. This behavior is common in people with high level of escape motivation because it acts as a means to manage their negative emotions. It provides them an imaginative world which helps them to form a Para-social bond. Para-social bond are one-sided relationships, where one party extends emotional energy, interest and time; and the other party (persona) is completely unaware of other’s existence. This is mostly in case of celebrities. Thus, it compliments their need for mood management.
High sensation-seeking tendency in individuals makes them engage in this behaviour because they have greater acceptance and preference towards thrilling stimuli to achieve optimum level of arousal in comparison to people with low sensation-seeking tendency.
High need for cognition i.e. need to engage in elaborate thinking makes them more likely to find pleasure in solving problems. That’s why in this case also; episodes end with cliff-hangers with the argument and belief that these people would be challenged to predict the show’s future and the show will remain more exciting for them.
Fulfillment of Social needs: Binge-watching fulfills social needs of people either directly or indirectly. This occurs when people binge watch with their friends, families, etc and discuss the content with each other as it offers them a topic of discussion, enables them to keep up with others, sharing and participating in giving impressions and reactions.
Other factors are enjoyment, efficiency, recommendation of others, fandom, engagement, relaxation, passing time, perceived control, avoid boredom, relieve stress, etc that further increases the binge-watching behavior.
Covid-19 Global Pandemic: In the lock-down period, people went through emotional breakdown, anxiety and isolation. This provided an ideal condition to indulge in online activities since the source of recreation was limited up to home setting with internet availability, so it resulted in increased amount of binge-watching.
IMPACT OF BINGE-WATCHING ON HEALTH
- Can lead to increased addiction towards video-games, unhealthy social media use because the highly immersive nature of the behavior provides immediate gratification; thus it leads to lack of self-control and further engages the person to keep watching the show more than they expected. This addictive and compulsory nature of binge-watching behavior interferes with routine activities, causes conflicts and interpersonal tensions.
- Distraction from academic activities, uncertainty in routine activities, etc and due to this some miss classes or lectures, leads to reduced social activities like spending time with friends
- Sedentary lifestyle is linked to negligence and procrastination of work and social relationship.
- It causes mood disturbances, loneliness, depression, lack of self-control, deficient self-regulation
- Sedentary behavior has link with lack of sleep and bedtime procrastination, obesity, rise in unhealthy food intake, overweight, decreased physical activity, etc in young people. .
- This behavior makes viewers lazy, they are no more physically active, prefer to stay indoors and watch video-contents in television or internet. According to studies, watching television for a significant amount of time increases the risk of obesity by 23%. The reason behind increasing weight is binge-watching for long hours and consuming unhealthy food alongside especially the junk food that is rich in fat and carbohydrates. This increases the risk of type-2 diabetes, fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease.
- There is correlation between increasing binge-watching frequency and reduced sleep time, fatigue, insomnia, poor sleep quality. There is also a negative correlation between balanced diet and overall binge-watching. These are the most significant causes of heart failure and stroke.
- This behavior stimulates the brain and interferes with sleep. The negative health effects are depression, lack of oxygen and physical activity, spinal problems, back problems, larger waistline.
- Binge-watching has become a safety net, a source of protection, and a hidden companion which can be called when things gets overwhelming.
- The episodic shows or series work as short term emptiness repellents when individuals feel a void within them and fill up this gap so that people will not feel like missing something within. Because facing void is a bit scary and binge-watching acts as an easier alternative.
- It adds meaning and purpose. People are in search for elements that will provide peace and happiness to them. For this, the path is long and unpredictable which can cause impatience. Thus, the easy option is to resort to binge-watching. Ex- ‘Netflix and chill’- this moves people away from their pain by providing momentary meaning to their life. However, the more it is used as a defence it doesn’t let one find meaningful relationships, hobbies, work, etc.
- It isolates people because due to availability of multiple streaming accounts, it becomes easy for people to retreat to corner of the house and zone out for hours at a time.
REMEDIES TO MANAGE BINGE-WATCHING:-
- Setting a time limit for own self by deciding how much time one will spend watching each night. Using a timer to keep you informed and accountable.
- Combining TV watching with other hobbies like doing exercise, visiting friends, reading or learning a new skill, opting for another hobby, etc.
- Keeping the lights on in the watching area and house to avoid losing track of time.
- Make binge-watching a social activity by inviting a friend/ mate, partner/spouse, or children to join you. Discussing about the characters, story-line and cliff-hangers with other viewers or fans.
- Limit binge-watching to a certain number of episodes at a time like- two or three episodes. Switching off the TV or the viewing platform and do something else when one has reached his/her limit.
- To keep binge-watching in control and protect viewers from addiction, streaming platforms can come with features like- sending notification to users to take a break from watching, arranging screen timers while watching to alarm the viewers about the time spent by them, a limitation on how many videos a viewer can watch in a single session.
Binge-watching is the practice of watching any sort of video content for a long period of time which provides instant gratification and satisfaction, helps them to immerse themselves in it fully, in getting away from their problems and makes them feel good and relaxed. So, it became a behavior trend as it acted as fair enough substitute of companion, medium of enjoyment, knowledge attainment and mood improper. Although these provided temporary relief to the viewers, it affected their physical, mental, emotional and social health as mentioned above. Due to risky results of this behavior we need to follow certain tips in order to be able to watch our favorite content and at the same time not compromise with our health requirements because at the very end without the later in a good condition we wouldn’t be able to do the former.
BY- ADITI CHOUDHURY
Masters in Psychology, 1st Division