It’s 7 pm, the bus screeches to a stop, and as I walk home my mind is focused on certain matters. What happens next? Will Nora divorce Dean for infidelity? Who does Jeffery Dahmer lay eyes on as his next prey? And will the Good Nurse unearth her co-worker’s cruel intentions? So many questions!
If this scenario sounds familiar, then you are a fellow binge watcher and streaming aficionado. It is common nowadays to spend hours at a time in front of a glowing screen at home, often after having done the same at work as well. It is not a new phenomenon – TV dinners were an invention born directly from viewing habits. But things are more heightened now.
More than ever before, our daily unwind revolves around binge-watching. But there’s more to this pattern than just streaming your day’s fatigue away. Did you know there was a darker side to it?
Am I Streaming or Getting “High”?
Binge viewing is a behavior in which you watch two to six episodes of a TV show all in one go. Watching one or two episodes a day is healthy and fun. However, too much of anything is harmful. So, tonight, before curling up for your next binge, remember this:
Repercussions of Excessive Binge-Watching
Your brain produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that encourages sensations of pleasure while you’re doing something you enjoy doing. Dopamine release makes us feel good and produces a similar “high” supposedly produced by drugs. And naturally, there is a desire for pleasure and avoidance of pain in humans.
This means as long as you binge, your brain continues to create dopamine, increasing your need for more. Moral of the story? Marathon watching can also lead to a pseudo-addiction, just like other addictive habits.
This compromises your relationship commitments, aspirations, and even emotions. Suppose your spouse asks you to choose between her and this clingy third person- say, Stranger Things- between you. The odds are you might even lose out on the love of your life!
In fact, when urged to stop, you can react defensively, angrily, or irrationally. You might even start lying to hide your binging. Quick question: would that come under cheating?
Away and Into the Escape Zone
The flip side of the coin is that you connect from the streaming world but disconnect from the real one- the one where your forsaken loved ones live.
Partying with friends no longer gives you the satisfaction of watching a rerun of “Friends.” Talking to your parents while having dinner feels like a waste of time you would rather spend streaming the next-best movie on Netflix. Like a lonesome co-dependent streaming addict, you can’t help but get stuck in this never-ending cycle of helplessness.
The results? You become a neglectful parent, a terrible employee, a failing student. You may develop into an emotionally unavailable, incompetent conversation-holder with zero interpersonal communications skills.
So when holding out conversations becomes too much to ask for, and it’s easier to retreat to either your man cave, streaming nest, or whatever you call it, you know you’ve been taken in by this said compulsion/addiction.
A Self-Destructive Night Owl
According to research, binge-watching may stimulate your brain and impair your ability to fall asleep. We never know when “just one more” results in pulling an all-nighter, leaving you feeling exhausted the next day. Here are some of its consequences:
Anxiety and Depression. According to research, persons who reported feeling lonely and unhappy were more prone to binge-watch television.
Back Pains and Breathing Issues. A crucial aspect of spine health is posture. Your spine may become weak or bent as a result of bad posture, which can result in musculoskeletal problems and even respiratory issues.
Fatal Diseases. Because you spend more time sitting on the sofa than exercising, your chance of developing a heart disease stacks up.
How Do I Make it Okay?
It’s never too late, you can still get out. I mean, look at me, I did- and here’s how:
Set a limit and a timer for yourself. Take it down to two or three episodes at one time and then turn off the TV to move on to something else, preferably sleep.
Decide on a deadline and set a timer. Choose how long you will watch TV each night, and to ensure accountability, set an alarm.
Don’t limit streaming to just streaming: Combine watching TV with other activities like working out, visiting friends, and reading.
Keep the lights on. Not the last, but very important. Turn on the lights in your room, so you keep track of time. You have no idea how much this one actually helped me!
Make isolated streaming a social activity. Invite a friend, your partner, or your children, and socialize while you’re at it. Discuss characters, stories, and cliffhangers with them, and have twice the fun!
Rest assured, nothing harms you if it’s not excessive. If you want to forget a tough day at work, who’s to say you can’t? It’s the best way to do so, and we do it often.
Binge watching has become a part of the routines of millions of people around the world. It is a cost-effective way to unwind after a long day of work or study, to put your mind off the stresses of daily life, or just as a habit without any underlying escapism to it.
But any activity done in excess brings with it side effects that we did not sign up for. It is difficult to identify these negative outcomes and sometimes we neglect them in favor of the instant gratification we receive from being entertained as we sit in silence in front of a glowing screen.
That’s why establishing healthy streaming habits is crucial. If you do it to keep the world at bay, be honest with yourself, identify and acknowledge your reasons, and deal with them.