Feeds Uncovered- Binging

Just a few years back, holidays meant unlimited time playing football, reading adventure books, and envisioning a different world through Minecraft. As technology becomes a more integral part of our lives, we find that our free time is spent more frequently on screens, with our consumption of shows, movies, music, and games never reaching a rational end. With lockdowns in place for the past year and for the near future, the only respite we find is in the laugh track of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the constant build-up in Money Heist, the dreamy eyes of Gojo Satoru, and the constant beats of the Lo-Fi music playlist.

Covering the different human techniques to cope with boredom would be a rather lengthy topic, so instead, we look to cover a habit that is so common, it may even be universal – binging.  

Note: Different people have unique limits of what they consider as excessive binging. Hence, for the purpose of this article, binging shall be defined as watching a minimum of three episodes of forty-minute duration in a single sitting.[1] 

We now attempt to classify the kinds of binge watchers most of us are familiar with:

To start off, we have the casual bingers. These people typically binge shows during their free time. They primarily stick to highly rated and popular shows as the amount of content they sit through daily is comparatively less. 

Next up, we have the one-season-a-day type. The people in this category are generally proud of their binging speed and make it known that they indeed finish at least one season per day. They are typically associated the most with the term binging. 

And last but not least, we have the lunatics. These folks have lost their way in the void; binge has become their way of life (maybe a form of over-dramatization). All activities take a back seat to binging; deadlines fall apart, human interactions beyond placative greetings or discussions about said content drop to a low, lunch becomes the only reason for them to move from their place (or maybe not). To these people, the advice is simple —get out before you burn out.

There are many reasons why people binge-watch. One can assume that people driven by hedonistic and obsessive motivations would seek instant gratification and would prefer to binge-watch as soon as the means become available. 

People start binge-watching in an attempt to become part of a conversation or the fandom, to feel accepted by their ‘peers’. Studies show that people tend to have more motivation to binge-watch a TV series if it is recommended by others.[2]

This highly immersive habit provides immediate satisfaction, and thus it may lead to the loss of self-control and spending more time on watching TV series than the person originally intended. Research also correlates this type of sedentary activity with negligence of work or social relationships, lack of sleep, bedtime procrastination, and an increase in unhealthy food consumption.[2]

Adolescents may seek digital distraction due to rising anxiety or distress, creating reinforced behavioral patterns as a means to avoid emotional experiences. Regulating emotions is an important skill that is developed in childhood and adolescence because individuals learn to handle and cope with strong and new emotions by experiencing them and developing internal regulatory processes.


It is generally assumed that people who display high impulsivity, urgency and sensation-seeking behaviour; may be more prone to the addictive nature of TV series binge-watching. [3]


Heavy binge-watching can be associated with low academic performance, increase in procrastination, duty avoidance and failure to cope with stress by avoiding it altogether.[3] Multiple studies show that using binge-watching to obtain instant gratification and to regulate emotions is a maladaptive coping strategy characteristic of behavioural addictions such as problematic internet/computer use, gambling, and social media addiction.

There are other concerns with binge-watching in terms of one’s day-to-day health. A continued sedentary lifestyle eventually leads to reduced energy reserves and fitness. There’s also a concern that watching TV can prevent one from getting a good night’s sleep. These troubles with sleep stem from the mental stimulation that comes from an extended time of watching the TV (or any blue light for that matter). 

Binging in a post-quarantine world
Due to the imposition of quarantine and the ever-present feeling of boredom, binging presents itself as an escape from reality. This activity is not just restricted to TV shows or anime series, but covers a wider range of content like video podcasts, YouTube videos, documentaries, and livestreams. 

Recently, there has been a shift in the content consumption scene due to a multitude of factors. One part of the binging demographic has stopped consuming as much content as they’ve done initially due to content fatigue, or content overdose. 

There exists more content than ever before, yet somehow, a vast majority of the content appears dull and uninteresting.

The lesser demographic has fallen into the hell-hole of continuous media consumption and are unable to free themselves from its shackles.

“If you feel like you’re drowning, it’s because you are.”

When you’re engaged in an activity that you enjoy, your brain produces dopamine, a chemical that promotes feelings of pleasure, excitement and happiness. The release of dopamine helps us feel good, and it results in a “high” similar to those induced by drugs and other substances.

Your brain craves more and more, and as long as you continue to binge, your brain produces dopamine. And that is pseudo-addiction.

With the sheer overflow of new things to consume or keep track of, many binge-watchers have become insensitive to the general secretion of dopamine, and are seeking wider, more exciting kinds of content, be it longform Video-on-Demand of 7-hour streams from Twitch, or the frequent rewatching of highly nostalgic TV shows.

Binging during quarantine has given rise to feelings of restlessness and anxiety among watchers. While it can show different levels of intensity in people, it affects everyone. The sudden lack of patience to put up with a rather slowly paced show, mouse hovering over the skip button, or the mind wandering onto the phone’s notification screen in search of more stimulation are just some of the many ways it presents itself.

Binging presents itself as an enigma. Even now we are yet to have a complete understanding of the negative effects of binging, and yet it’s safe to assume that the effects discovered might be worse than the current findings. So binge, but with a limit, or try to avoid it altogether when consuming any form of media. Consider the consequences before you find yourself spiralling out of control. 


On that note,
To B[ing]e or not to B[ing]e, is up to you.

This article was penned by Bavesh Rajaraman, Jacob Thomas, and Aravindan.

References:

[1 ]Connected to TV series: Quantifying series watching engagement. Tóth-Király I, Bőthe B, Tóth-Fáber E, Hága G, Orosz G, J Behav Addict. 2017 Dec 1; 6(4):472-489.

[2]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), 4469. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124469

[3]Govaert H. How is the Concept of “Binge-Watching” of TV Shows by Customers Going to Impact Traditional Marketing Approaches in Entertainment Sector? (Master Dissertation). Univeriteit Gent. [(accessed on 14 March 2020)];2014 Available online: https://lib.ugent.be/fulltxt/RUG01/002/165/307/RUG01-002165307_2014_0001_AC.pdf.

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