Binge watching: definition, advantages, disadvantages?

Binge watching: definition, advantages, disadvantages?

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After “binge drinking” and “binge eating”, it’s time for “binge watching”, which consists of wolfing down all the episodes of a series in a row. A practice which has become widely democratized since the advent of online streaming platforms.

Are you unable to settle for just one episode of Games of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy? You are probably a fan of binge watching. Johanna Rozenblum, clinical psychologist, sheds light on this phenomenon.

Definition and translation: what is binge watching or binge viewing?

The days of having to wait until the following week to watch a new episode of our favorite television series are well and truly over. Like “binge-drinking” and “binge-eating” (compulsive eating), “binge watching” consists of watching all the episodes of the same television series, most often on an online streaming platform (Netflix, Prime video, etc.) without stopping. Although the “binge watching” phenomenon, also called “binge-viewing” or “marathon-viewing”, is not recent, it has grown considerably in recent decades. And for good reason, having an entire season naturally encourages you to want to watch the episodes back to back.

How to translate binge watching into French?

The term “binge watching” or “marathon-viewing” can be translated as “binge viewing” or “excessive viewing”. This American expression comes from “binge drinking” which consists of consuming alcohol in large quantities, until reaching intoxication.

How has binge-watching transformed television?

The practice of “binge watching” has profoundly changed our traditional modes of television consumption. Already in 2013, according to a study conducted by Netflix, 73% of viewers admitted “watch between two and six episodes of the same television show in one sitting”1. The Covid-19 pandemic and successive lockdowns have also contributed to reinforcing this phenomenon since the number of subscribers increased during this period. Certain series such as Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy or even Games of Thrones are particularly conducive to binge watching.

What are the benefits of binge watching?

The major advantage of binge watching is being able to watch an entire series without stopping. The viewer no longer has to wait until the following week to find out what happens next, he has the freedom to watch a series at his own pace. And this, especially since the series remain permanently available on streaming platforms (Netflix, Prime video). Another significant advantage of binge watching is that it allows you to disconnect from everyday life by offering yourself a break in another universe. Ideal when going through a period of stress, for example. Not to mention that binge watching makes disappear the frustration of having to wait a few days or even a few weeks before knowing the rest of the series.

What are the disadvantages of binge watching?

Watching series in one go, sometimes even accelerated to see as much as possible (“speed watching”), reveals addictive behavior. “A bit like a craving person who needs their fix, the binge-watcher needs to consume visuals. Sometimes, we watch an entire series in the space of 24 hours, even if it means to isolate oneself, to cut oneself off from social ties and traditional activities. In this behavior, there is first of all a fashion phenomenon: we watch an entire series very quickly and then we debrief on social networks or with our friends, which creates a sort of emulation, group excitement . The other side of the coin is that it creates isolation, screen addiction and fatigue“, explains Johanna Rozenblum. In other words, in the long term, it is a behavior that can be harmful and very unsuitable for the typical social life of an adolescent, because it is especially young people who are fond of it.

What are the consequences of binge watching?

Binge watching can cause harmful health consequences. The risk for these vulnerable people is to perceive binge watching as a solution to a problem., for example agoraphobia, school phobia, anxiety, and developing this behavior under the pretext of wanting to watch a series. In reality, binge watching is a defense mechanisma way to cut yourself off from the world, to isolate yourself and sometimes to escape from a reality that is too difficult to live with.”notes the clinical psychologist.

Beyond the addiction and social isolation it causes, binge watching can promote the occurrence of health problems such as:

  • Sleeping troubles,
  • significant fatigue,
  • Weight gain,
  • Depression ;
  • Poor blood circulation.

Shows, cartoons, Netflix…How to fight against binge-watching and series addiction?

In a study published in The Conversation on December 3, 2021, addiction behavior specialist Mark Griffiths reveals some ideas to help binge-watchers regulate their addiction2 :

  • Set a limit for the number of episodes per day that you must not exceed;
  • Only start watching a series when you have completed all the other tasks you need to do;
  • Stop watching the series by cutting it off in the middle of an episode, to avoid the suspense at the end which makes you want to watch the rest.

You can also find more enriching activities to do instead: reading, writing, drawing, playing sports… in short, anything that can take away the desire to binge watch.