Netflix, the patriarch of the binge-watching generation, is now available in nearly every country on Earth and has firmly entrenched itself in the social strata of the modern age.
In other words, Netflix is here to stay, which most pundits argue signals the downfall of network television. But it also means that binge-watching is here to stay. In 2013, Netflix reported 61 percent of their viewers binge watched shows at least every few weeks, and 73 percent said they had positive feelings toward binge watching. Yet the Optimist Editorial Board is concerned about the downsides of binge-watching culture.
But first, one must acknowledge that there are certainly upsides to binge watching some shows. Dr. Robert Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University, highlighted the benefits of binge watching.
“You can appreciate so much more, you can catch so much more, you can understand the inner workings of these stories if you view them in more concentrated chunks than you can if you watch them as they come out.”
The constant stream of content experienced through a binge session offers a tremendous opportunity to fully appreciate the artistic scope, Thompson said. Other researchers also highlight the impressive ability of the viewers to track multiple story lines and their hearty attention spans.
But on the other hand, recent studies and anecdotal evidence points to negative, addictive-like aspects of Netflix binge sessions.
An exploratory study from the University of Texas discovered a surprising connection between loneliness, depression and binge watching. The study did not indicate that binging caused depression or loneliness, but that it was simply a symptom.
“People talk about this like it’s a harmless addiction, but if you think about it, any sort of binging behavior is generally negative,” said researcher Wei-Na Lee. “The word binge is not a positive word, so we wondered if binge-watching could be related to some of the factors that have been identified with other binge behaviors.”
Another aspect of binge watching to consider is the feelings of withdrawal after one finishes all the available episodes. Researchers highlighted this as a notable indication of the addictive tendencies of Netflix.
The researchers concluded that although binge watching isn’t bad in moderation, it is important to recognize that, like binge drinking or binge eating, it should be taken seriously.
The Editorial Board recognizes that as college students, the notion that Netflix binge sessions are the same as binge drinking or eating seems absurd. But we do acknowledge that college is the pathway into adulthood and responsibility. Therefore, we urge students to consider the recent research regarding binge watching and ask themselves whether their habits are indicative of underlying problems.
Netflix and binge watching is here to stay, but the use of binge watching as a Band-Aid for depression and loneliness shouldn’t, and only you can do something about that.