Binge Watching; Beneficial or Harmful?

Ava Compagnoni,

You sit yourself down in front of your television after a long, stressful week in your semester, your weekend is completely free, and you make the conscious decision to start watching the new show everyone on campus has been buzzing about. After hours of watching and the ever-so-mocking “Are you still watching?” the time reads three in the morning, and you have gone through more than half of a season. The temptation draws on you to power through and finish this first season, even though it may tamper with your sleep schedule. Thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, we viewers are granted access to several hundred show options that we can watch all in one sitting.

To quote most of our parents, “watching television is not what it used to be,” for which we can all give thanks to streaming services. With hundreds of shows now accessible at the touch of a button and a monthly subscription, rarely does anyone watch a series on regular cable or programming. Back when, people watched television when the episode aired once a week, and somehow survived the span of seven days to find out what was going to happen in the next episode. During that time, viewers generally discussed the episode with friends and family, dissected the episode, and genuinely reflected on it. Week after week for a full season, these thoughts and feelings built up. The tension between episodes has declined significantly due to having the option to play the next episode seconds after finishing the previous one. Does the brevity between episodes lessen our emotions and reactions towards the series? Spending weeks, months, or even years with characters can create a strong emotional connection to them; seeing something happen with a character you’ve been watching for a long time could have a bigger emotional impact than seeing it happen to a character you’ve only known a short time. Instead of taking the time to really focus on the characters and the world, binge watching takes away the most valuable parts of what makes TV so great. The acting, writing, and storylines all become muted. The emotional impact of what happens to characters is lessened when the buildup is removed.

Despite the negative aspects of binge watching, there are also some positives to cramming shows all at once. For me, bingeing TV can be a nice escape from the mundane, everyday slog of life, especially during this difficult year. Binge watching can also encourage deeper relationships with other viewers, giving people something new to connect over. People who watch the same shows always have something to talk about, which can foster better relationships. While this works for shows that come on weekly, bingeing is beneficial for streaming titles that are open for viewing an entire series all at once. If the entire show has been watched, then everyone is on the same page and can discuss it openly.

All of this isn’t to say that binge watching shows is bad; like the saying goes, everything in moderation. Bingeing a new show every day can be toxic if performed consistently, but never something to stray away from once in a while.