When was the last time you were glued to your television screen, laptop or mobile binge-watching your favourite series online? Today, yesterday or last week? Most of our answers would be within these three options and not go anytime backward. What starts as one episode of ‘Suits’ or ‘House of Cards’ becomes nothing less than 6-8 episodes. People have started calling in sick to work, college and schools just to complete the entire season at one go! Netflix and Amazon have completely transformed our viewing routines. What started as a weekly series in our televisions decades back are fed into our smartphones altogether in a jiffy. Times when all of us used to gather around the television to have a glimpse of our favourite TV actors every Friday or Monday has become a nostalgic memory. Such streaming services have in fact taken away the surprise elements offered to us. In fact, research even shows that binge watching episodes decreases satisfaction levels compared to viewing them at a normal pace! Alas, teens and millennials have glorified this phenomenon of binge-watching that those who don’t do it as seen as aliens from the outside world.
Friends with Benefits
Binge-watching is nothing but the act of watching multiple episodes back-to-back. A 2014 Netflix survey reported that 61% users were habituated to binge-watching television regularly-anywhere between 2-6 episodes in one sitting but our friends have surpassed these numbers long back. The time has come when weekends are planned around our favourite online series, partying with friends is missed quoting several awkward reasons and negligible time is devoted to family members. Teens and youngsters walk like strangers in their own house with ear plugs constantly put on and their tiny little smartphones playing havoc with their lives. Some do it out of self-interest while most do it out of peer pressure-the fear of being left out in discussions and to stay updated in a WhatsApp chat about the latest updates in the series and comment on all others’ views. These people feel charmed and excited about staying up all night or all day (even without giving a loo break) watching online episodes contribute active participation in any discussion (https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/bangalore/bengaluru-significant-rise-in-binge-watching-has-medical-experts-worried-6029963/)! Friends even hang out at each other’s place to enjoy watching together with live comments and applauds.
A Tornado on Health
What has been glorified by TV fans has become worrisome to health experts across the globe as there are a greater number of binge-watching cases registered at hospitals bringing in various kinds of side effects after gaming and social media addiction. We have not one or two but too many reasons to stop this crazy act.
People are awestruck by the array of content available online that the hours dedicated to fitness, socializing and sleeping have been replaced by continuous hours of binge-watching. As more and more cases of binge-watching have been reported only recently research on it is still in infancy stage but the limited proofs available constantly report poor sleep quality, tiredness, decreased concentration, increased fatigue and insomnia. Adults who watch more than three hours of television content doubled the risk of premature death compared to those who watched less. Sitting continuously for longer hours increases your risk of numerous diseases.
Smoking and drinking are an addiction and so is binge-watching. We start with one episode in mind but don’t stop until we have watched 5-6 episodes. During such long viewing hours, we try to squeeze in snacks, lunch or even dinner and end up overeating. We become isolated from the outside world creating our own synchrony with life. What starts as an escape route from problems lands us with even greater problems. Once the binge-watching session has completed the viewer is left feeling anxious, empty and depressed. Studies show that binge-watching is linked to loneliness, affects mental health, prevents self-control and paves way for depression (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/04/binge-watching-mental-health-effects-research).
In a sleep-deprived world the act of watching episode after episode of TV series causes more sleeplessness. We have evolved to do best on a near 24-hour sleep cycle and a shift to a later cycle can cause difficulty in falling asleep, waking up and bring about a feeling of sleep deprivation (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/how-binge-watching-is-hazardous-to-your-health/2019/05/31/03b0d70a-8220-11e9-bce7-40b4105f7ca0_story.html). Many have this bad habit of watching an episode right before sleeping and this is a bad idea completely. According to psychologists, binge-watching increases arousal, not sexual but cognitive arousal (the constant feeling of being wired and ready to do more). Frequent binge-watching was linked to poorer sleep quality and more daytime fatigue. Moreover, electronic devices emit blue light that affect the brain regions handling circadian rhythm by delaying melatonin secretion. This keeps us awake prompting is to click on ‘next episode’ without thinking twice resetting circadian rhythm to a delayed schedule. Its also been observed that people sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and start watching something in their devices once again as they are unable to go back to sleep.
Above all, it’s the strain to the eyes, neck, shoulders and hands that cause panic among health experts. Films have become secondary options and many have even cancelled their cable subscriptions to accommodate more viewing time for multiple episodes of their favourite series. So, the concept of watching together as a family has almost disappeared. The advent of gadgets has made each of us glued to our very own virtual world which has stopped our dinner discussions on our favourite movie stars, fights over the debates happening in the television or siding against each other and supporting one and other thereby bringing in more integrity making each other close-knitted.
Tackling the Tricky Situation
Television is a treat to our eyes and an escape into the virtual world where all seems happy and fine. There is nothing wrong with viewing it once in a while or even daily for a limited period. Don’t pause to hit the stop button when you are done with an episode; take breaks in between to stretch your hands and legs; finish off pending work or go for a walk. Also, try to eat healthy foods while watching by keeping them ready even before you sit down to watch. Also, instead of watching it alone try to do it with family or friends as you start discussing about your favourite episodes, what you disliked about the series and the discussions revolve around other things too in course of time establishing connectivity with others, bringing in happiness and socializing at the same time. Otherwise, all of us would become introverts who start giving lame excuses for missing out on social meetings and parties for the sake of binge-watching!
How Unhealthy is Binge Watching? https://www.rd.com/culture/binge-watching-unhealthy/
How Binge-watching is Hazardous to your Health? https://www.rd.com/culture/binge-watching-unhealthy/
Binge-watching is Changing the Way we View Stories: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danidiplacido/2017/09/07/binge-watching-is-changing-the-way-we-view-stories/#77c7019d6155
Binge-watching TV is Linked to Poorer Sleep & Insomnia: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/08/18/binge-watching-tv-linked-to-poorer-sleep-quality-and-insomnia/#3bb715ef25ee
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