The guilty pleasures of being a part of the Binge-watching culture

by Pooja Mukherjee
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I am writing this blog after finishing Tiger King on Netflix in two days, while Peaky Blinders has already been added to my list for my next Netflix binge-watch session. Being a member of the binge-watch culture, I have often wondered whether my intent to watch successive episodes of a single season is healthy or not. Thanks to the 2013 Harris Interactive Netflix study, I can be assured that I am not the only one out there who finished Money Heist season 4 in a day.

The research focused on the reasons behind our generation’s obsession with binge-watching and highlighted the fact that for most people, binge-watching was intentional and controlled and not addictive problematic viewing. While most researchers slam binge-watching as a sedentary activity, the Harris Interactive study associated binge-watching to a higher level of consciousness and emotional aspect. 
So, what is binge-watching? According to the Oxford definition, (yes, it has an Oxford definition), binge-watching is “the practice of watching multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.” Well, the more colloquial definition would be watching the entire season of Game of Thrones in a day.

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With more exposure to online streaming services, binge-watching has become the new norm of watching entertainment shows, and some psychologists believe it as a sort of addiction. However, a study on the effects of binge-watching on mental health by Michigan State University observed that watching multiple episodes together is not emotionally detrimental in nature; choosing to binge-watching a series showcases the sense of control, and people usually do not get on to the next series immediately but take out time to enjoy a different series later. 

The study further stated that binge-watching shouldn’t be confused with problematic television watching, as though the former has a set goal (the completion of the season), the latter is an uncontrollable behavior with no positive outcome. 
Contrary to popular belief, binge-watching does have positive impacts on an individual. Why does binge-watching feel so good? Let’s find out.

We feel a part of a bigger cause.

Keeping the social benefits of binge-watching in mind, connecting with friends and acquaintances over your favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime has never felt so fulfilling. Newly-released shows trend all over social media platforms, and they normally become the talk of the town.

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Exempting oneself from the collective frenzy of an impactful series seems like a lost opportunity. 51% of Internet users prefer to watch their favorite shows with their friends or people with whom they can share the experience with. 

Apart from watching classics on streaming platforms, our generation is watching shows which are loved by one and all. It creates a sense of belonging, and one feels comfortable sharing their thoughts over a phenomenon that apparently everyone is talking about at a certain point in time. 

Creating a bond with the influential characters

Modern shows are not based on whims or fantasies. Online streaming platforms take the liberty of showcasing true stories with a vivid imagination and realistic emotions. 

Several Netflix shows make us feel empathetic towards the main characters of the shows while feeling equally distraught or happy by following the storyline. People are indulging more in the character dissertation of the stories, which they binge-watch in a couple of hours. Continuous streaming creates an undisturbed bond between the viewer and the story-teller.

Binge-watching and Escapism

Escapism is the psychological tendency to escape from uncomfortable aspects of reality and indulge in a fantastical world of entertainment and imagination. 

Most people belonging to the binge-watching culture take up the chance of watching multiple episodes of a season in one go to escape from their problems and to invest their time into something which seems enjoyable to them for the moment. 

A whopping 76% of Netflix users defined binge-watching as a form of refuge from their busy lives. The phenomenon is Escapism has become more relevant now with the easy availability of shows on streaming platforms, which cater to different genres of entertainment.

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Your show, your choice.

A major difference between watching TV-shows and binge-watching on online streaming platforms is the availability of variations and episodes. Binge-watching gives us the perfect opportunity to watch our favorite shows at our own pace. 

Unlike TV, all the episodes of a particular season are released at once by digital platforms. It is a great way to plan ahead and watch episodes at our own pace. 37% of Internet users said that they “save TV series or seasons” to watch at a later date, as per their convenience. 

It creates an overall sense of control over one’s choices, without missing out on any of the trending shows.

I hope you do not feel guilty now during your next session of binge-watching. Being a proud member of the binge-watching culture, I can safely say that the binge-watching phenomenon is here to stay. Well, that rhymed.

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