Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you’d hoped I had.Frank Underwood, House of Cards
I’m sure many of you reading can relate, but thanks to modern technology and the accessibility of streaming video services, millions of Americans fall into the category of binge watchers and find themselves hours deep into a great series and they just can’t pull away. They shut themselves off from the outside world and keep pull away. While this isn’t necessarily a dangerous habit, research has shown there to be unhealthy connections to this subject.
For me, binge watching was a beautiful escape from the monotony of everyday life.This once started as a means to take the edge off when I would get home after a long day at work, but it gradually progressed.
Day in day out, the itch grew and grew. I never truly knew what a show hole was until I started Game of Thrones. I got a late start (2 years) on watching it and I knew I had to catch up. Started with watching one episode a night, then two, then three, then next thing I knew, I was using every minute of spare time I to had to finish up. I found myself molding the rest of my life around my binge watching habit. It was just so traumatizing and twisted, that I couldn’t look away.Binge watching is a huge time commitment and it should be enjoyed responsibly.
But once the season was over, I’m left in the show hole. I would have to wait another year before I could watch any new episodes. I felt a loss of purpose… a feeling of emptiness. While this is merely peanuts compared to when I gave up drinking, I felt the strong urge to refeed. I was like a vampire at night, hawking down another host from which I could survive. I needed to find another show to fill me up and make me whole again. This process will likely take a few hours. I could spend hours just looking for shows to watch. I tend to be picky because after all, I know that whatever show I choose, It will become my prime mover in my life for the next month (depending on how many seasons there are).
There is also kind of ritualistic sense to binge watching that takes place as well for me. First I make sure everything is situated, because the last thing I want to do is have to deal with any kind of issue whatsoever when I am in my zone. I fill up the e-cig (this is a no judgement zone), turn off the lights and get cracking. Once it’s on, I refrain from any and all human interactions or distractions. I become an impenetrable human fortress of apathy. I don’t care what the rest of the world is doing. I don’t care if you love me. I don’t care about your feelings. If anyone wants to call me, they’re much better off talking to my voicemail, because it will likely have a lot more personality than me at this time.
IS BINGE-WATCHING UNHEALTHY?
Netflix conducted a survey that found that 61 percent of streaming TV users engage in binge watching regularly. This was defined as viewing between two to six episodes of a show at a time, in a sitting. While they found that the majority of the participants felt positively about their viewing consumption, some experts don’t believe binge watching to be such a healthy habit.
Some research has even found there to be a link between binge watching and multiple health problems. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that adults who watch over three hours of TV a day doubled their risk for premature death (YOLO). Sitting for prolonged periods increases the risk for diabetes, cancer and heart disease. If you must, it might just be a better idea to take some mini breaks in between.
Findings from a recent study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, suggest that people who engage in binge-watching are more likely to demonstrate behaviors associated with loneliness and depression. While the study doesn’t show that binge watching will make you depressed, it does suggest a connection between the finding would most likely mirror that of those who abuse drugs and engage in other addictive behavior. Subjects who engaged in binge watching often used this behavior to avoid dealing with negative emotions, which is was also favored by those who engage in binge-drinking and over-eating. We engage in this type of behavior that take ourselves away from our surroundings and we’ll sometimes find ourselves so sucked into it, that it takes away from other aspects of our lives, much like with drugs and drinking.
DOES IT MAKE ME ANTISOCIAL?
Like with drug addiction, binge-watching is very much a private behavior, unless you’re doing with a significant other. A study conducted by an entertainment research firm, Marketcast, found that 56 percent of binge-watchers prefer to watch their shows alone and 98 percent watch at home. Anytime you spend binge-watching by yourself, you’re taking some time away from spending with others who’re important to you. While a few hours here there is likely no big deal, spending four hours a night binge-watching can be very counterproductive and would likely take away a significant amount of time away from forming healthy relationships and/or participating in hobbies that interest you. To put it simply, if you’re spending the vast majority of your free time binge watching TV and withholding from interacting with other people in your life and engaging in hobbies outside of work, then there might be a problem.
HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT REALLY TAKE AWAY?
If you did the math on your last bender, it might be alarming. For example if you decide to start up on the hit series Dexter, there are 96 episodes total, each running for approximately one hour each. That’s almost four full days worth of shows. Now let’s say you work 40 days a week and sleep like a normal human being, give or take a few hours a sleep. That leaves you with possibly 6-8 hours of actual free time out of work. Now take into consideration the amount of time you require just to care of some simple obligations like cooking, cleaning, driving, socializing, exercising or spending time with friends and family. That probably gives you just around fours hours of some kind of real free time. That means it would take you around a month to watch all of it, if you really went hard at it. If this type of thing takes you just a week, I recommend you take a definite step back. It’s much better to treat this type of thing like a marathon, not a sprint. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time and finding some other productive ways to occupy your time.
BUT HOW DO I EVEN DEAL?!!!
Most of the battle with not overdoing it on the binge watching is just simply trying to monitor your viewing habits. Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach going cold turkey on this one, because that would be just plain unfair, cruel and torturous. If you’re having a bad day and need some relief, then by all means, watch some TV. There are a few tips you can follow help prevent you from getting so consumed by your binge watching habits that it takes away from the other simple pleasures of life:
- Take care of business: Make sure to do some errands in between episodes whether it be laundry, reading a book or a reading book. This obviously means don’t let binge watching make you lazy and incapable of taking care of your own life.
- Don’t Sit for So Long: Recent data has shown that getting up every 30 minutes or so can keep your metabolism moving steady. I’m not saying to start a workout, but just something to keep in mind. There’s no reason you can’t allow yourself to be mobile, even if you’re stuck in a show hole.
- Relax on the snacking:Do not let this become a free-for-all with the eating. This is an easy trap to over-eat. If you’re going to eat while you binge watch, I’d recommend not bringing an entire box of Twinkies with you.
- Have a hobbie: I know what you’re thinking and no, I am not being a smart ass. If you’re going to binge watch at night, have it be after you engage in other activities, whether it exercising, doing artwork or anything that brings you enjoyment and gives you some kind of fulfillment. If you’re going home immediately after work and diving head first into a show hole, you’re honestly sucking up the next six hours of your life, when you could at least contribute half of that time to something constructive.
- Set an alarm to go to bed: Like many of us, I have fallen into the trap of telling myself “just one more episode”. If the clock strikes 12:00am and you have to be up at 6:00am, by all means, allow yourself the privilege of getting a good six hours of sleep before you have a long day at work tomorrow.
While binge watching is essentially a harmless addiction, research has found there to be definite link between it and other issues. If you are one to binge watch regularly it is important to note that while it may be somewhat harmless, there’s always other things to consider if you do choose to spend a large amount of your time in front of a TV. Anything done is excess, rarely yields any promising results, so by all means, don’t let binge watching run your life.
Morningside Recovery is a leader in the field of addiction treatment and offers a variety of treatment options for patients struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and in need of help, please do not hesitate to call. You may reach us anytime at (844) 825-7925. Our treatment specialists will answer any questions you may have and are will help you find the right treatment option for you.