Binge-Watching: A Matter of Concern?

The definition of viewing television has undergone a significant change over the last decade. Traditional television schedules made their audiences comply with television broadcast schedules, expose them to advertisements/breaks, and made them wait days or weeks to watch their favourite shows and movies. With the advent of technology and, more importantly, the rise of internet video platforms, there is an extensive reshaping of conventional broadcasting theory. Any broadcast can be activated from ‘kickoff to climax’ with just one button – ‘anytime and anywhere! “Such watching can happen in living room television sets, computer screens, laptops, smartphones, or smartwatches — in simple terms,” it’s all television!

Because watching TV series has never been so easy, a new behavioural trend has emerged. It is making “binge-watch” viewers, that is, viewing multiple episodes of the same TV series in a single sitting. In simpler terms, this is an option to spend a night or a weekend glued to the screen, absorbed in multiple episodes, or even a whole season of television shows in the air. 

Binge Watching A Matter of Concern

Many binge-critical journalists compare the ‘binge-worthy’ show to the potato chips – delicious for sure, difficult to avoid snacking, completely lacking in intellectual interest.

 And, after the binge, likely to make audiences feel a little sick and eventually displeased, which will lead to more binge. As a consequence, the audience can be upset if they miss some due to something unintentional[4]. 

Current statistics suggest that binge-watching is on the rise, and the study found that at least three out of four respondents self-reported as “binge-watchers. “Besides, when all episodes of the season concurrently broadcast via online streaming, it prompted widespread” marathon-viewing.

 “sessions among the 18–34 year-olds who initially viewed binge-watching and later did so. 

Nonetheless, one can predict whether binge-watching will turn into anything like a behavioural addiction. Nor is there any systematic effort to describe binge-watching or to measure its frequency or impact on mental health? While infrequent media reports on binge-watching certainly discuss its effects on mental health.

And highlight it as just another evolving psychiatric condition, is it time to qualify or accept behavioural addictions? 

Existing research offers some insight into this new trend, and studies indicate that binge-watching can affect mental health. As of now, it has something to do with features such as exhaustion, poor sleep quality, insomnia, and some mood disturbance. Many researchers even suggest a potential link with depression, loneliness, and lack of self-regulation. Exelmans and Van den Bulck also discuss pre-sleep arousal following binge-watching. Interestingly, based on such facts, some online viewing platforms have already begun to alert audiences when several consecutive episodes have observed. Nevertheless, none of these studies has established that binge-watching shares the characteristics of other identified behavioural addictions (e.g. watching longer than intended; ineffective attempts to monitor, minimize or eliminate surveillance; 

Ironically, binge-watching often tends to ‘catch-up’ previous episodes of a series and watch new shows as soon as they premiered. Fear of missing out ( FOMO) is a recurrent concern that others might have rewarding interactions (in this case, online series) from which one is absent/missing.This fear or anxiety of losing an up-to-date episode can also cause binge-watchers to track Internet-enabled devices continuously. 

Before now, little  understood about the psychological mechanisms underlying binge-watching. Recent research aimed at a thorough understanding of this phenomenon utilizing a qualitative examination of various phenomenological characteristics. The content review identified binge-watching habits across three dimensions – viewing motivations.

i.e. binging a show, like any hobby or leisure activity, mainly satisfies the “need for entertainment” and thus helps to improve the output of a product. Many people clustered in this aspect experience a lack of control over their binge-watching behaviours.

  the structural characteristics of the series: that is, the watch is primarily motivated by the availability, form and content of the narratives and characters involved in the series. 

Empirical evidence has shown that the social features of video gaming play a significant role in the initiation and persistence of addictive behaviours. It is,  therefore, appropriate to concentrate on behavioural analysis and to use more systematic testing approaches to analyze the proposed actions and to deduce the reasons for these “behavioural excess.” 

With new trends, affordability and accessibility of high-speed Internet .

in India, and the power of social media and devoted leisure time, some individuals have “hooked” to online streaming services. Currently, the characteristics of online television series are very similar to those defined in the Triple-A model of online sexual activity, that is, affordability, accessibility and anonymity. 

Finally, are binge-watchers more vulnerable to other mental health conditions? Are we trying to pathologize typical actions or “leisure” activity? Is there a need to develop or describe a binge-watching model? The answers to these questions are not straightforward, and the theory has yet to explain in depth. However, systematic introspection, binge-watching may undoubtedly seem to be a “behavioural disorder” and a matter of concern!