This is Part 3 of my To Binge or Not to Binge series. You can find the other parts here: Part 1 & Part 2. Part 1 was an introduction to the idea of binge-watching, and Part 2 listed some points for binge-watching, and Part 3 will address some points against binge-watching.
Not to Binge: As much as I love binge-watching shows, I know that there are some drawbacks to this kind of viewing. So, I will attempt to address a few of the issues that I see.
1. Though watching multiple episodes in a row helps me immerse myself in the world of the show, it can definitely have its downsides. I find that after having a show consume my life for any period of time, my brain automatically connects everything I see or hear to that show. This really limits my ability to carry on a normal conversation with anyone who isn’t also immersed in that show. After binge-watching a show, I have nothing but show trivia in my head. I am useless in a normal conversation, because all I can think about is how I realized that Matt Smith’s bow tie is always blue when they are in the past and red if they are in the present or the future. No one cares about that! Not in a professional conversation. So I have to keep my mouth shut to prevent any geekery from spouting out. Also, I definitely find myself talking to myself in a certain accent, using certain phrases/words, or copying a character’s weird sense of humor. This only happens when I talk to myself, which I do quite frequently, not when I have “normal” conversations.
2. With immersion, comes withdrawal. After having been immersed in a show, you are invested in the characters and their lives. I pretty much go through withdrawal after every single show. In Slate’s article “Stop Binge-Watching TV”, Jim Pagel states several reasons why binge-watching ruins the art of television. Number 4 really caught my attention and actually had me laughing out loud: “TV characters should be a regular part of our lives, not someone we hang out with 24/7 for a few days and then never see again.” Though I usually rewatch shows (my favorites) and don’t discard the characters after one viewing, I think it is very true that these characters are with me 24/7. Some shows are worse than others. When I was watching The West Wing for the first time, I could not wait to get out of work and go home. I thought about it all day. That doesn’t happen all the time, so usually I can stay focused on my work throughout the day and just be really excited to be home so I can get comfortable and watch some more. After I have finished a show, it is really hard. The withdrawal doesn’t usually last too long, but I have a sudden urge to watch anything else that the actors have been in. I sometimes even have the urge to go back to season one and rewatch a couple of the first episodes. I like to be reminded of what the characters were like before the events of the show – see how much they have changed. If that isn’t obsession, then I don’t know what is.
3. This obsession prevents me from getting the recommended number of hours that I need. Time flies when you are binge-watching. Especially when Netflix automatically starts the next episode. The other day, it was about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, I had decided to check out a show that kept popping up in the “Recommended For You” list. It doesn’t usually take me too long to figure out if I am going to like a show or not, and if I like it I usually just keep going. With this particular show, before I knew it, it was 2am and I had finished the whole first season. I had to be up in 4 hours, so I knew I was going to regret it, but honestly I couldn’t help myself. It took two days for it to really dawn on me that I had watched 13 episodes in a row! I myself couldn’t even process the information nevermind expect anyone else to understand. I don’t know what it is about certain shows, maybe some of them have a more powerful overall storyline rather than others, but I have a really hard time stopping. This definitely effects my sleep, and my ability to get up on time, which then effects the rest of the day.
4. It also makes me late to work. Along with cutting in on my beauty rest, it also slows me down when I am getting ready in the morning. Watching TV while I get ready in the morning is a very bad habit. I do it more out of habit than the need to watch another episode. I used to listen to music when I was getting ready, and that was fine, but since I got the iPad I have gotten used to having something on pretty much all the time. As much as I try to focus on getting ready, I constantly find myself pausing to watch certain scenes. My full attention is not on either thing. I have forgotten to put on mascara before, and I miss a lot of details of the show. This is why in the morning I usually try to watch a show that I have seen before several times. Though I do still find myself pausing to catch a favorite scene.
5. Binge-watching can definitely have an effect on your judgment. I tend to watch shows that I probably wouldn’t watch if I had to wait a whole week to see the next episode. I put this in the “bad” section because I end up watching stupid shows. Most of the time, I am watching some really good shows that make you think, but there have definitely been a few times where I got sucked into a show I know I wouldn’t have watched if it wasn’t all available. When you have a week to process information, your brain has a chance to tell you that this show is pointless and you shouldn’t be watching it – it is not worth your time. I can think of one show off the top of my head – The Lying Game – that is not at all what I would normally choose to watch, yet I binge-watched the whole first season.
6. You don’t get the joy of taking time to figure out what might happen. Though I like the fact that there is no waiting time – you don’t have to wonder what will happen or stay in suspense for a whole week – I think sometimes it is good to just think about what happened, how it connects with what you have seen before, and how it effects what might come later. Your brain does not get to absorb and process the information. This causes a lot of problems for me. Most of the time I just say that if it is a good enough show, I will be watching it again, so if I missed anything I can pick it up the next time around. But I definitely miss that week of conversing with my friends about what we thought was going to happen and how it was going to effect the storyline.
7. You remember short term as you go from one episode to another, but it is the long-term memory that fades when you binge-watch. Do you really catch all the storyline when you binge? I think it is the same when you binge eat. Are you really savoring all the flavors of the food? No. Can you remember everything that you ate? No. Binge-watching tv is the same. You miss pieces of the storyline or you forget them more quickly because you haven’t had time to process. You don’t get to really enjoy all the aspects of the show because you are moving so quickly on to the next piece. But the one thing I have noticed that happens to me the most is that I can’t remember the characters’ names. It is on the tip of my tongue, but I just can’t remember them. This happened to me just yesterday. I was explaining the plot of Cedar Cove to my grandmother, and I could not remember the main character’s name. I had watched the entire first season the night before, but I could not think of his name! This is proof that your brain has not had time to absorb the information because you force-fed it 9 hours of new information! Also, I used to know what happened in each individual episode. Now I don’t even know the episode title nevermind what happened in a specific episode. It feels more like a movie than episodes. This is especially bad when a friend is watching the show at a “normal” pace and they don’t want spoilers. I have no idea what I can talk about or not, even if they tell me which episode they are on – I can’t think what was in that episode. They all run together.
Will all of this make me stop binge-watching? Definitely not. But it has made me think that maybe I should be spending all my free time doing it. I have a lot of hobbies that are being neglected because of my television addiction. So though I won’t stop binge-watching television, I will be making more time for other things that I love to do.