Most of us would define binge watching as a guilty pleasure. Whether we spend an hour a day watching our favorite Netflix show or stay up for hours watching all five seasons of that same show at night, many of us have experienced binge watching in one way or another. Even though the summer of 2019 had an endless list of new seasons of shows and movies premiering on Netflix, binge-watching the whole season or watching three movies in one sitting may not serve as the best way for us to spend our lives. Here’s why.
It distracts us from “real life”
An obvious point would be that binge-watching television can distract us from “real life” experiences; rather than spending time with friends or family, walking our dogs, going to the beach or even doing chores, binge watching limits us, letting us zone out and become completely captivated in front of a television or laptop screen for hours. I have fallen victim to this unhealthy habit of binge-watching multiple times by either skipping out on plans or procrastinating my work in order to watch one last episode of my favorite season of “The Office.” Binge-watching tends to be very isolating and anti-social as well. According to a study by Marketcast, 56% of bingers prefer to watch alone and 98% watch at home.
It can make us forget about our stressors
Binge-watching can also make us forget about the stressors in our lives (and possibly contribute to their build up). At first, forgetting about stress in our lives may sound like a benefit, alleviating anxiety and calming ourselves down. However, if we try to forget about our stress by immersing ourselves in a television show and pushing those stressors to the back of our mind, we will become even more overwhelmed in the long run due to our unhealthy stress build up. According to Cleveland Clinic, “Some people will use [binge-watching] to cope with stress, anxiety and depression. It can become almost like a medication. This is OK as a temporary escape, but we all need to eventually address the real problems in our lives,” as psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD said.
It can lead to health problems
Binge watching can also lead to other health problems not having to do with sleep. According to Chelsea Stone from Reader’s Digest, “Adults who watched more than three hours of TV a day doubled their risk of premature death compared to those who watched less. The article expands on the topic of heart health stating that “Sitting for long stretches of time increases your risk of health issues (including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer).”
It can ruin a healthy sleep schedule
Because teens such as ourselves are usually busy during the day working, hanging out with friends or participating in different activities or chores, most of us binge-watch television and check our social media at night. If binging shows end up leading us into the late hours of the night, it may reduce our sleep, mess up our sleep schedule and even cause other sleep-related problems such as fatigue and insomnia. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine explained that about 80.6% of their 423 test subjects identified themselves as binge-watchers and 32.6% of those people had an insufficient quality of sleep due to binge watching. It was concluded by the study that “New viewing styles such as binge viewing are increasingly prevalent and may pose a threat to sleep. Increased cognitive arousal functions as the mechanism explaining these effects.”
Although binge-watching will most likely stay as a common activity for teens, there are ways to reduce the risks that binge watching can have on us. We can always reduce the amount of time we spend watching episodes, for example, by trying not to go over a certain number of episodes a day, or even “choose to stop halfway through an episode before the cliffhanger so you don’t feel compelled to keep going,” Dr. Bea said.
So, rather than staying in our rooms catching up on the new seasons of our favorite television show, we could think about spending time with friends and family, working, exercising or even getting a head start on some hard upcoming classes for this next school year.