The Unknown Dangers of Netflix Binge-Watching

by Sandra on October 21

Netflix bingeWe’ve all done it. Sat our asses down on the couch, opened a bag of chips, pressed play and “woke up” almost an entire season later…
There is something very satisfying about being able to just continue watching, not having to wait until next week—or next year—to know what will happen.
And in theory, if you have the time, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a Netflix binge. It’s convenient, fun, and even legal, so why not?
Well, there might be some very compelling reasons why you may want to hold off on too much binge-watching.

It is Addictive

There’s nothing wrong with one night of just watching TV, if that is all it would be. Everybody has a need to wind down, not think, and do whatever they want and indulge themselves for an evening.

But with most shows lasting more than 5 seasons, one night is not nearly enough.

Addictions change our priorities, oftentimes without us even realizing. Someone who is addicted to cigarettes finds lighting their next one more important than the possibility of lung cancer. That’s the nature of addictions. When you don’t have it, your priorities shift in a big way.

Which is why, when the series is finally finished, you might suddenly find you haven’t seen your friends in weeks, cannot remember the last time you went to the gym, or that have an unfinished book still lying around.

But no worries, there is always a next series waiting on your To-Watch-List.

Do we Choose to Watch or Not Choose to Not Watch?

Choosing to watch, or not-choosing to not-watch might seem like they are the same thing, but there is a huge difference.

Think about eating a chocolate cake. When you don’t have it, you could choose to go to the store, buy one, or make one, and eat some.

When it is just sitting there in the fridge anyway, the choice suddenly becomes completely different, and you have to actively choose to not to eat it.

It is the same with binge-watching. It is always there. There is no waiting for next week. No waiting till next season comes out. There not even shaking yourself out of the trance and getting out of the fake world you are sucked in by having to get up and change a disk..

It is always there, and Netflix even saves you the bother of having to choose if you want to watch the next episode. They just assume you do before you have even thought about looking for the remote, or thought about pressing stop (instead of pausing for a bathroom/snack break). Being aware of this dynamic can help you make a more conscious choice to watch, instead of automatically having the TV on before you even realize it.

It Can and Will Affect Your State of Mind

Very well written Netflix series make you live alongside the characters, feel their pain, and celebrate their joy. Is there anyone who didn’t feel a sense of happiness when Ross and Rachel finally got together? Or frustration when they were “on a break”?

It is exactly this strong emotional engagement that makes us enjoy watching the series so much. The joy, sadness, pain, and happiness of the fake characters becomes something real to us for a while. We cry, laugh, and hurt alongside them. Although we know that the series aren’t real and the people aren’t real, the emotions we feel are real.

Shows like Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, and Downton Abbey are the ones that are most binge-watched, according to a Forbes survey. The one thing they all have in common? They are not exactly feel-good shows.

Watching one show a week, or even just one a day and then getting back to your normal regular life won’t make much of a difference. However, watching something depressing, seeing people you care for hurt or even die, for days in a row, hours and hours each evening, will have an effect on how you feel in your daily life as well.

It Can Give You a False Sense of Accomplishment

Just as we are affected by the negative things that happen in “our” shows, we also celebrate the highlights. We see characters overcome something very difficult, or finally reach a distant destination. When they kill off their main antagonist, we feel shocked and an adrenaline rush.
We can keep eating our chips, and never see the characters gain weight. They do things—reach their goals, make things happen for themselves—and we live that right alongside with them. Their accomplishments become our accomplishments. Their achievements our own…until the moment the episode is over and we “wake up” sitting on the same couch, having done nothing for weeks. We may even feel a sense of longing, quite possible even motivation to actually do something. For about 15 seconds, and then we are lost again.
Binge-watching gives us something we never had before. We get to experience things otherwise out of our reach and live a different life for a few days, weeks, or even months. We get instant gratification, an escape from our normal, boring regular lives. We go on birthdays, holidays, win Grammies, and get married, all from the comfort of our own home.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Except, when you come to think of it, is feeling second hand emotions really a substitute for first hand, real life, experiences?

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Sandra

Sandra is a 33 year old mother, wife, life coach. As a Dutch national living in Mexico she is trying to find ways to make most out of life. She’s passionate about simplifying life, yet loves her luxuries and non-minimalistic lifestyle.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kahnie October 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Interesting post, I don’t watch much tv myself on a daily basis so when I do every few weeks or so I’ll catch up on any episodes I may have missed. You’re so right though there’s no gratification after doing so for a long period of time, I always feel as if I’ve wasted so much time and feel drained afterward.

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Sandra October 29, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Exactly. And if you do it once every now and then, it’s no big deal. The problem happens when you start a new series and suddenly you are 3 weeks non-stop watching and you forget what other things you could be doing…

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Tim Arendse October 29, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Sandra,

I definitely identify with the false sense of accomplishment. Numerous years ago, I broke my arm and wasn’t able to do much of anything. It became my mission to burn through as much Survivor as possible. I went through about 8 seasons in three weeks.

Sometimes it’s fun but it’s definitely not an accomplishment.

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Sandra October 30, 2015 at 12:44 am

For things like when you are ill or have broken an arm, Netflix is amazing. I don’t know how i would have gotten through the first few weeks of constantly breastfeeding without it….

You just have to be careful not to let it get in the way of real life…

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ScrewtheSystemJoe October 30, 2015 at 10:02 am

This is an interesting new take. I really like the originality of the article.
I think the most I’ve ever binged is 2 episodes in an evening. I like to spread mine out as it gives me something to look forward to each night – I even exercise discipline in my tv viewing.
I would guess you don’t enjoy it as much if you fit them all in one go.

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Sandra December 2, 2015 at 7:20 pm

There are some shows that I purposefully set aside a few evenings a week for.. Like House of Cards. Somehow I always seem to be weak and go “oh, ok, just one more then….”

But I make sure that it is time I have set aside for it, so it won’t spiral out of control!

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Sheena November 2, 2015 at 2:06 am

i have been there before and have cut down my consumption of binge watching on netflix. thanks

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Sandra December 2, 2015 at 7:21 pm

It’s the same with anything else.. 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day are great. If you are on your 15th, you might have a problem… 🙂

As long as you are conscious of what you are doing, it should be ok.

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Noel Rosos December 2, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Very true Sandra. I’m a self-confessed movie and tv show addict myself and if you can’t control it, you won’t be as productive as you should be. I used to binge every day before I started blogging but I have toned it down because let’s admit, we gain more from reading a book or listening to motivational material than seeing the Flash speed by his enemies or Rick Grimes butchering a bunch of zombies. It’s okay to binge from time to time but don’t make it a daily habit.

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Sandra December 2, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Thanks! I agree, it is nice from time to time, but I usually set aside a special day or week for it, so I can really enjoy it. I see it as a mini holiday, to recharge. And after I can go back to working again 🙂

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