The Cambridge Dictionary definition of binge-watching: to watch several episodes (= separate parts) of a television series or programme, one after another.
I’ll be the first to admit I love a bit of a binge-watching session. Well, let’s get real, it’s not even a session — it’ll be a full blown day.
When I know I’ll have a full evening or day to myself, I rub my hands together with glee at the thought of watching multiple episodes of my latest favourite TV show, and I don’t even feel ashamed about it. I revel in it.
I’ll be honest — I’m a little jealous of my friends who are furloughed from work, who can binge-watch all day every day, whilst I countdown to the weekend to get my fix.
I’m already back to watching the likes of One Tree Hill, The O.C. and Gossip Girl - which I once binge-watched as a teenage girl - and am getting even more joy out of them being a nearly 30-year-old woman. I’m owning it.
It’s like a guilty pleasure I just can’t get enough of.
But why do we do it?
“TV viewers are no longer zoning out as a way to forget about their day, they are tuning in, on their own schedule, to a different world. Getting immersed in multiple episodes or even multiple seasons of a show over a few weeks is a new kind of escapism that is especially welcomed today.” says Cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken.
To put it simply, it makes us feel good.
In a time when we just want to escape the current world for a few hours, binge-watching relieves our day-to-day stresses and anxieties, helping us to relax. It’s the same feeling we get from staying up all night to finish a really good book. We love being immersed in another world, different to our reality.
And it gives us something to talk about.
How many times have you messaged your best friend to ask them if they’ve watched the latest episode of something trending on Netflix or Amazon Prime? And if they’ve watched it before you, you panic and quickly type, “I’ve not seen it yet — don’t tell me what happens!”
Binge-watching makes us feel part of a community with those that have also watched the same show and we feel left out if we don’t know what’s going on.
It becomes something we need to do.
It’s not just the TV show
It’s the getting snuggled up into bed or pulling a blanket over you on the couch, wearing your pyjamas or comfy clothes, eating a bowl of popcorn or stuffing your face with chocolate, and the blissful feeling of not having to be anywhere else in that moment — it all goes hand-in-hand with the whole notion of binge-watching.
It’s the entire experience we crave. My version of Netflix and chill really is exactly what it says — fluffy socks and all.
Is it an addiction?
So, apparently, binge-watching is like a drug. Uh oh.
“All this dopamine gets released in your reward system and it generates a feeling of euphoria or pleasure and that’s why it becomes so enticing.” ~ Gayani Desilva, MD
Then, when we’ve stayed up past midnight watching the last 5 episodes of the series, we’re totally spent. And we feel sad that it’s over. We’ve invested all this time into one thing, and before we know it, it’s gone. I’m getting sad just thinking about it.
The good news is, there is such a thing as ‘binge-watching responsibly’ (I feel like this could also be a TV advert).
The experts say we should set a time-limit — a predetermined end time for the binge — and stick to it. Or, as Dr. Renee Carr, Psy. D, suggests, “watch only the first half of the episode you have designated as your stopping point. Usually, questions from the previous episode will be answered by this half-way mark and you will have enough psychological closure to feel comfortable turning off the TV.”
Bring on the binge.