Hey, old people, remember when you had to wait a week or more to watch the next episode of a show you were following? The good ol’ days. Now you can stream an entire season in a weekend, the entire series inside a week. Hello binge-watching, goodbye delayed gratification. Here are the pros and cons of binge-watching (aka binge-viewing aka marathon viewing) tv shows.
Pros of binge-watching shows
One of the attractions of binge-watching is the fact that it allows you to get through shows fast. No more waiting for days or weeks for new episodes. Some people even believe that getting through a show fast minimizes the damage to your hygiene, social life and productivity.
Research shows that watching your favourite shows releases dopamine in the brain which neutralizes excess cortisol which is the hormone primarily responsible for stress. Binge-watching means spending extended periods doing something you enjoy, releasing more feel-good hormones. It’s also relaxing and helps you wind down from a long day or the general stresses of life.
May strengthen relationships
If you’re watching it with your family and friends whether together or separately, it creates a shared cultural space. Binge-watching gives you something to talk about and discuss at length which could strengthen your bonds and intimacy as you share your thoughts and discuss on-screen events.
The full immersion into the fictional world that is offered by binge-watching is incredibly fulfilling. The viewer feels the joy of being in the zone, in the world. It is far more fulfilling than it would otherwise be when taking breaks between episodes. Binge-watching also makes one more attentive and able to follow the perplexing storylines, complex connections and multi-dimensional characters.
The cons of binge-watching shows
The hormone dopamine that is produced when you’re engaging in an activity you enjoy is produced when you’re binge-watching. It promotes feelings of pleasure, excitement, and happiness and results in a high similar to one induced by drugs and other substances with addictive qualities. Psychiatrists say repeating this behaviour can result in difficult to break habits and create a pseudo addiction to the show.
If you continually increase the time spent binge-watching shows you can become defensive, irritable or unreasonable when asked to stop and may go as far as lying to cover up your binging.
Negative effects on physical and mental health
Binge-watching interferes with sleep quality and patterns. You may be so hooked that you keep saying one last episode, sleeping later and later. This leaves you tired and drained the next day. Sleep deprivation is a common side-effect. This singular focus on just finishing or watching the next episode can also lead people to neglect their priorities which can lead to stress when important duties are neglected.
Research has also found that people who binge-watch are lonelier and more depressed than those who don’t. Sitting for extended periods of time and a sedentary lifestyle are also linked to back problems and respiratory problems. It increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, blood clots and deep vein thrombosis and type 2 diabetes.
Powering through a show really fast denies you the chance to think about what you’ve just seen. Before binge-watching was possible, you spent the tie waiting for the next episode going over what happened in the previous one. When you move between episodes so quickly, the highs and lows don’t hit as hard because you spend no time processing what has happened in the previous episode.
Binge-watching also means you miss out on the joys of anticipation and waiting for the next episode. Cliff-hangers become meaningless which takes something away from the narrative build-up. This can make the show less fulfilling.