The Dark Side of Binge-Watching
Contrary to your Nan’s beliefs, binge-watching T.V will not give you square eyes, though that is not to say that there are not any negative effects associate with binge-watching T.V. With the rise of streaming services and overall quality of T.V, binge-watching has become an international phenomenon and epidemic, aided by streaming services releasing entire boxsets and seasons of shows at once. A survey by Deloitte suggests that 70% of U.S Citizens with a Netflix account binge-watch T.V, meaning that 70% of U.S Citizens have the potential to suffer from the negative implications of binge-watching T.V.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Let’s start with some of the positives: binge-watching can be a hell of a lot of fun. Just picture it: Jason Derulo is supposedly coming to perform at your SU after not showing the first time around, but you don’t trust him to actually show this time. You don’t want to waste £20. How should you spend your Friday night? Well, Amazon Prime have just released a new season of Man in the High Castle that can be consumed in 10 hours. Start at 5pm and finish at 3am. Why not crack open a few cold ones with the boys and watch it? Have a laugh whilst viewing a morbid look at an alternate future where the Germans and Japanese won WWII? When you wake up the next day, you’ll even remember the highlights of the new season and… well, very little else. And not due to the alcohol.
Because that is how our brains work; we will never remember everything. One of the many reasons why sleep is so important is that it is linked to memory storage, especially a stage of sleep called R.E.M (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, in which our brain is the most active part of our bodies, storing memories from that day. The 10 hours of entertainment, combined with everything else you experienced that day, are not all going to be remembered. It is like revision: little and often in the weeks leading up to your exam with regular breaks to rest your brain and let it store the information is the best strategy. If you revise a little before bed, you are more likely to remember that information. Cram everything in the night before, however, and that exam is going to slap you.
Do you know what else may slap you if you spend of a lot of time binge-watching T.V? Your health. The odd day sat doing nothing is very unlikely to hurt you, but ask yourself a question: how often do you binge-watch T.V? Sitting down for too long can lead to blood clots in your body, as well as Type 2 Diabetes and, quite obviously, obesity. Furthermore, if you are too busy binge-watching T.V to make a healthy meal, you are more likely to just throw something in the oven- which is never particularly healthy. That is not to say that everybody is like this. On a day off you might like to binge-watch T.V, but you might also like to break it up by going to the Gym and later cooking a healthy meal. And you know what? Good for you.
Binge-watching is also not-so-swell for your mental well-being. People who Binge-watch shows often are more likely to report feeling anxious, depressed and stressed, with a link to loneliness and isolation being established. Of course, T.V, like any other medium, does act as a form of escapism from this bleak dystopian future in which clowns are put in charge, but is there a chance that a part of your personal problems is that you spend a little too much time escaping them?
Of course, I don’t know you, the reader, individually. Similarly, I don’t blame you for binge-watching. People on the internet care not if they spoil the end of the latest season of Orange is the New Black, and the quality of T.V is often excelling that of Film. Where a film has, on average, two hours to tell a three act story that must contain character arcs and development, juggled with excitement, comedy and fan service, a T.V show has as much time as the networks are willing to give it. Enormous, ambitious stories, such as a season of Game of Thrones, could not be told in one film. Each episode of most T.V shows used to act upon the very same three act structure that most films use, making them similar to bite-sized movies connecting to tell a larger story. That, however, is starting to change.
Networks and streaming services are beginning to become aware that binge-watching is now embedded into our culture. Slowly, T.V is becoming less episodic in its approach and is, instead, creating extended movies. Season 5 of Orange is the New Black takes this approach, stretching 13 hours of entertainment over a few days in the show. Episodes, for the most part, abandon the three act structure and events just happen. That three act structure is applied to the entire season, and so each episode leads on from the next perfectly. As an audience, we don’t feel like we’ve reached the end of a story by the end of an episode, and we keep watching. Shows like Game of Thrones and House of Cards are like this also, though the week-by-week release schedule of Game of Thrones forces us to wait for and crave the next episode, all whilst taking in the brilliance of the last episode. That is, however, if you watch it when it airs, and not afterwards.
We live in a society where, in regards to T.V and Film we vote with our wallets and time. After years of sequels being released in cinema, the industry is starting to see more creative and individual films emerge. Last year’s Alice Through the Looking Glass made only $299,455,833 on a $100,000,000 budget at the global box office, which is very little next to the first instalment, 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, global box office of over $1,000,000,000. This is allowing smaller budget, original films that cash in on quality over name recognition, such as Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed Get Out, to be made and take home $252,434,250 on a $5,000,000 budget. The message here? Don’t binge-watch shows upon the day of release, but take them slowly. Tell Netflix and the other streaming services- whom are monitoring your views- that you want shows to be structured episodically again or released weekly. Take control of your health, wellbeing, and ability to enjoy T.V for the quality it presents instead of how much of it you can consume at once.
There is nothing wrong with the consumption of T.V and Film. In fact, there is a lot to learn from T.V and Film. However, like most good things, they should be enjoyed in small doses. An addiction to binge-watching has the potential to be as serious as an addiction to alcohol. I mean, have you ever seen WALL.E? Before you know it half of us will be sat in Binge-Watchers Anonymous in hover chairs, unable to stand and wondering why on earth we started binge-watching The Wombles. Step aside, Black Mirror, this is the dystopian reality we should all be fearing.