When_I_Grow _Up_Trueblue_Magazine_ Food For Thought

Binge Watching: Fleeting Fad or Cause for Concern?

It’s safe to say that North Americans are binge watching a lot of television.

According to a 2012 Nielsen survey, the average American over the age of 2 watches about 34 hours of TV per week. Not too far north, the Canadian neighbour–according to BBM Canada–on average, watches roughly 30.

It could seem that television watching is a full-time job in its own right. If you take a minute to do the math, some interesting conclusions can be drawn. With sleep, work, school, work, meals and of course, MORE work in the form of LIFE, where exactly does one fit this huge chunk of time devoted to the silver screen?

I wonder.

Which then leads me to question how many of those hours are actually spent sitting in front of a television screen? Interestingly enough, “watching TV” has become so much more than just sitting on the couch watching your favourite storylines unravel on a television screen. So much more! With that being said, how many hours do you think viewers spend watching TV shows sitting in front of a computer screen?A surprising (or, not so surprising) number are binge-watching. Thanks to enterprises such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.

And this brings us to the newest, coolest, everyone’s-doing-it thing:

Binge-watching. Yup. It’s actually a word. The Macmillan Online Dictionary defines it as “the activity of watching TV for an extended period of time, e.g. several episodes of a series”. Usually, when the word binge is associated with actions, it tends to evoke a certain negative connotation. For example, neither binge-eating nor binge-drinking are recommended practices and if not kept in check, may be succeeded by outcomes hazardous to health.

Okay, so having said that, what do we make of binge-watching?
Looking more closely at viewership and time spent watching shows, the average Netflix viewer will watch 2.3 episodes in one sitting–meaning no trips to the bathroom and definitely no kitchen snack runs. But, really, does it come as that much of a shock?

Somewhere, there is also a record of individuals whose episode count for one sitting soars into the double digits. But I don’t judge. God knows I’m not one to be preaching about restraint when it comes to Netflix.


Huge wastes of time.

Now, a cause for concern? As someone who is guilty of binge-watching and I mean binge-watching (that Sunday when it rained all day, 2.3 episodes per sitting? Pssht, more like 7!), I feel that timing is important. Like Facebook, these alternatives to TV can be great, but they can also snowball into something unhealthy and wholly unproductive.

Like the night before an anatomy final, when I decided to take a break and sat down to watch 1 episode of Breaking Bad. I’ll have you know that 1 turned into 2. And then, 2 was raised to the power of itself, resulting in 4 episodes. There I was – eyelids drooping, neck sore, hazy images of hamstring fairies and quadriceps dancing around in my head – watching the low battery sign on my laptop, the only thing that stopped me from turning 4 into 5.

In retrospect, my laptop–though usually my kryptonite–at that moment, was my saving grace.

I was lying on my bed–in a zombie-like state–and there was absolutely no way I was getting up and taking the 10 or 12 steps needed to plug in my charger. Not even Mr. White could inspire me to apply myself. It has happened in the past–more than I care to admit–that I have sacrificed an hour’s sleep to watch “one more episode” and then of course another to watch, “just one more”.

I’m glad to say that I did very well on that final, But that was entirely because I had started studying DAYS in advance!

So, a fleeting fad?

Definitely not. I think it has become–it is–the new norm and will likely stay that way indefinitely, or at least until whatever comes next. It’s convenient; I mean all your shows in one place, just a click away. But would I give up my cable? Umm, I don’t think so!

Netflix has many pros, but it’s got cons as well. Being a Canadian subscriber, our selection is not at all as comprehensive as that of our American counterparts. And, for obvious reasons, Netflix is not as current as cable television. Sometimes my DVR is just slightly more appealing. I mean what else will record my Jeopardy episodes for me every single night?

And as strange as this may sound, sometimes nothing beats sitting on the couch, flipping aimlessly through channels, and just when you think all hope is lost, you land on an episode of Seinfeld or Law & Order that you haven’t seen in years and you’ll be sucked back in. Commercials are difficult to sit through, but they’re everywhere–even on YouTube. Sometimes, the three minute break can be a welcome respite–if only to allow a trip to the bathroom or time for microwaving your dinner.

The upside? Leave your plate in the microwave until the next commercial break and let it cool off. Good-bye tongue burn. I am a firm believer that books are irreplaceable. Likewise, we’re not ready to let go of TV just yet. A cause for concern, then?

As with anything, there is the good and the bad. It’s important to remember that there won’t always be a ‘battery low’ sign to save us. Learning to curb our hunger for more, if someone could find a solution for that, wouldn’t it be wonderful? Though the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2013 was “selfie”, the likes of “twerk” (God help us) and “binge-watch” were not far behind, having made the shortlist. I’m glad to announce that it is a new year and that 2014 is looking good for binge-watch. It’s something worth binge-watching out for!

Everyone’s doing it. Are you?

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