I wanted to write a piece on the topic of binge-watching, as it’s something that I have a few thoughts on, rattling around inside my head. While searching the internet for some background flavour to sprinkle on my musings, I came across the news that Binge-watch is apparently the Collins English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2015. This news story passed me by when it first came out in November but the article certainly served to show how often the term is used.
The definition as given is “to watch a large number of television programmes (especially all the shows from one series) in succession”, just in case there is anyone reading who only happened to land on this planet a few weeks ago. Various streaming services are often credited with the rise in binge-watching, the ease of use and accessibility of whole TV series available at the touch of a button removing many barriers to the viewer’s watching habits. Physical box-sets are still a thing, but even with these, getting to the end of a disc, at the least, gives a pause that just might make the watcher decide that they’ve had enough for a while.
I’m not going to be all down and snooty on binge-watching. If you work or have other stuff going on and you want to spend any free time immersed in your show of choice, that’s entirely up to you. What does get up my nose though are companies and other bodies using the idea as part of their advertising schemes. A few months ago I was in a supermarket that was selling some classic English comedy box set or other, Rising Damp or something I think, with a sticker on saying something along the lines of “Ideal for Binge-Watching”. Really? I bet that same supermarket wouldn’t dare to put something similar on its range of chocolate cakes or alcohol. “Ideal for binge-drinking!” There’d be an outcry!
I don’t mean to equate the health risks of being sedentary with the risk of alcohol poisoning but I hope you get my point. It just seems distasteful to me to use the B word in that way. There have been adverts on TV as well, depicting a group of friends who have apparently spent the whole weekend watching every episode of a TV series that consists of a good many seasons. Yes, people may do it, but I just find that advertising that uses the concept to sell people things leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The idea probably came from the same bullish mindset that sees us inundated with adverts for banks that try to convince us that they are our best friends and have always been there for us, while in the background feverishly hoping we soon forget the still felt consequences of their greed that bit them, and us, in 2008. Sorry, rant over.
Recent years have been a golden age for geeks and the ease of access the internet has brought them in being able to watch their TV shows and films of choice. We now even have the streaming providers giving us exclusive shows, such as the fantastic Jessica Jones on Netflix, and Amazon’s The Man in The High Castle. Quality content does grab the attention and create that “just one more episode” mindset but as intelligent, self-aware geeks, we need to be mindful of what we are doing. If you are using binge-watching to distract yourself from other problems or issues in your life, don’t put these things on the back-shelf forever. Temporary distraction can be just the ticket sometimes, but it’s very rarely the route to solving anything.
It also helps to be mindful of the effects that hours spent in front of the TV (or tablet, smartphone, PC etc.) can have on you, be it possibly in struggling to get to sleep at night or making your mind sluggish and slow. As a writer, I know that too much TV seems to dull my mind, maybe keeping it in media consumption mode for too long and giving me difficulty in switching it to the creative and more active side. That might just be me however. Pay attention to yourself as you watch TV and see if you notice anything like this going on. At the least, this knowledge can help you decide when to watch something to excess, without giving you possible issues the next day if something important is happening. Remembering to get periods of exercise into your routine will also offset some of the “flabby-belly syndrome” that too much sedentary binge-watching may cause. I’m sure your heart will probably thank you too.
Binge-watching is more than likely here to stay, but as long as it’s done on our own terms, for our own benefit or enjoyment, we are still in control of our entertainment and relaxation choices. This seems to be the healthiest way to approach the subject, especially in a time in which entertainment companies seem to want us to consume more and more and more, with subscriptions and “Must See” adverts popping up in our viewing lists, adding pressure to what should be something far more pleasurable. Watch what you fancy in the way that you wish, but just be aware of the potential costs in other areas of your life if taken to excess. If you start to feel the strain or realise that it is beginning to feel more like work than pleasure, it might be time to re-assess your viewing habits and try mindful binge-watching.
I would crack a joke about being off to watch some more Netflix as a close to this article but at the moment, I’ve had my fill, so I’m practising what I preach. Thanks for reading and happy watching.
Title image from Clockwork Orange © Copyright Warner Bros. Netflix image © Copyright Netflix. Jessica Jones Image © Copyright Marvel and The Man in The High Castle image © Copyright Amazon Studios.
GS Blogger: Casey Douglass