Why do people binge-watch?

Students of Applied Psychology & Technology teamed up past semester (2022-2023) to write blog posts. You can read the three best posts here: on virtual reality and pain reduction, social media and alcohol abuse among adolescents, and binge-watching.

By Muriel Graf & Emma Scheers

Have you ever started watching only one single episode of your favorite series and ending with it after #14hours? Is #bingewatching the new addiction of #generationnetflix? How does #neftlixaddiction influence our body and health…?

What is binge-watching?

Binge-watching is a word that you have probably already heard of. In 2015 it was voted the British ‘word of the year ’(Susan Wright, 2015). But what does one mean by the word binge-watching?

Although there is no agreement about the exact definition of binge-watching, several authors have suggested that binge-watching can be defined as consecutively and intensely watching at least two to six episodes of a television series in one setting (Starosta & Izydorczyk, 2020).

How users consume media has shifted dramatically. Before the arrival of the dvd-box and online streaming, people had to wait a full week until they could watch the next episode of their show. Now people can ‘binge-watch’ the episodes or their favorite show, they can watch as many as they like (Susan Wright, 2015).

Why do people binge-watch?

There are several reasons for binge-watching (Starosta & Izydorczyk, 2020). Watching a series can help to avoid reality, and can be a way to cope with negative emotions and deal with loneliness. People tend to binge-watch because of the transportation into a fictional world, which is related to high emotional and cognitive engagement. Another reason can be FOMO, which means Fear of Missing out. Motivation for watching hours and hours from one series can also be that people want to feel able to join conversations. Beside all these reasons, binge-watching is a simple way to satisfy our needs. For example, it gives us the feeling of gratification (Rubenking & Bracken, 2021). Factors driving us even more to binge watch can be our family or friends or simply the need for entertainment or a way to procrastinate (Gangadharbatla et al., 2019).

Is binge-watching bad for us?

One of the most mentioned risks of binge-watching is addictive behavior. Symptoms of addictive behavior can be loss of self-control, feelings of urgency and regret, no longer following one’s duties and negative social and health consequences. There can also be symptoms like anxiety, nervousness, rage, and concentration difficulties, in case of the lack of possibility to do the additional behavior (Maèva Flayelle et al., 2019).

Using binge-watching to have an instant feeling of gratification and regulate one’s negative emotions is found to be a dysfunctional way of coping (Maèva Flayelle et al., 2019). Scientists also found relations between binge-watching and other mental disorders, for example depression, anxiety or sleeping problems (Starosta & Izydorczyk, 2020).

Beside addictive behavior there are many other consequences which can come up with binge watching. Some of them you might have experienced by yourself already. For example, missing school or work or physical outcomes like headache, exhaustion or feeling lethargic and lazy (Gangadharbatla et al., 2019).

On the other hand science says that binge-watching can also be just entertainment or a way to relax and spend our free time. So, whether it’s bad for us or not depends on the personal traits and the amount of binge watching (Starosta & Izydorczyk, 2020).

Can I continue to binge watch?

As you just read above, there are multiple reasons for binge-watching. Binge-watching can be a relaxing and entertaining activity on one hand, and on the other it can lead to an addiction, if it starts to be obsessive and compensatory. So, if you do binge watching, you should ask yourself: Why am I doing it, how do I feel after it? And if you answer this question with many of the symptoms from excessive binge watching which are described above, then you should maybe get some help. If not, relax and press play.

References

Gangadharbatla, H., Ackerman, C., & Bamford, A. (2019). Antecedents and consequences of binge-watching for college students. First Monday. https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v24i12.9667

Maèva Flayelle, , Pierre Maurage, , Laurent Karila, , Claus Vögele, & , and Joël Billieux. (2019). Overcoming the unitary exploration of binge-watching: A cluster analytical approach Journal of Behavioral Addictions Volume 8 Issue 3 (2019). https://akjournals.com/view/journals/2006/8/3/article-p586.xml

Rubenking, B., & Bracken, C. C. (2021). Binge watching and serial viewing: Comparing new media viewing habits in 2015 and 2020. Addictive Behaviors Reports, 14, 100356. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abrep.2021.100356

Starosta, J. A., & Izydorczyk, B. (2020). Understanding the Phenomenon of Binge-Watching—A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(12), Art. 12. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124469

Susan Wright. (2015, November 5). Etymology Corner—’Binge-Watch’. Collins Dictionary Language Blog. https://blog.collinsdictionary.com/language-lovers/etymology-corner-binge-watch/

Video Reference:

AsapSCIENCE. (2017, 8 juni). Is Binge Watching Bad For You? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJRzgl0FuMA

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