Binge-Watching and Happiness

A lot has been said and written recently about binge-watching, what it is and means, who does it, and whether it will contribute to TV muscling movies out of business. I’ll leave analyses and predictions to those more business-savvy and would like to propose a more philosophical angle: is there a correlation between binge-viewing and happiness?

I used to be an occasional binge-watcher. Sometimes I get hooked by the story, such as Broadchurch. Sometimes I binge-watch because of the characters, as in Case Histories. But I would describe my bingeing as moderate, usually two episodes in one go, rarely more than three, and rarely more than two evenings a week and then a break (until I discover a new series).

At the moment, however, I spend almost every evening consuming three episodes of Once Upon a Time. And last night I realized that my motivation is different this time. Sure, I like the story and the characters, but not nearly as much as in the examples I cited above. Also, I find it is going on for too long – 22 episodes in the first season? That’s at least 12 too many. So why do I keep watching it?

Bingeing has a strong addictive element, and I think that often people develop addictions in order to fill a void. It’s comfort eating gone out of control. It’s numbing the brain with alcohol because you feel empty.

Emotional void, for me, translates into unhappiness.

I’m unhappy in my current family and job situations, for various health-related reasons. I feel useless and empty. Twenty-two episodes of fairy tales fill this void nicely, or otherwise put: if I were happier, I would not feel the urge to watch this every night. If I had a job, I’d be busy doing the stuff I couldn’t do during the day. Hey, I might even go out to the movies with friends!

I’m not saying I would not succumb anyway. But I’m pretty sure my unhappiness prepared the ground for my current binge-watching.

How about you? Do you binge – how and why?

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Binge-Watching and Happiness

  1. Yes, I have and the drinking analogy is apt. I don’t drink often, maybe a drink or two every other month. Occasionally I drink a few in a single evening. If my husband weren’t convinced the universe would implode if he were near a TV and he did not turn it on, I’d go days without turning it on. But I watch DVDs (Shakespeare–regularly) and netflix occasionally. I’ve done _Parks and Recreation_, and _Arrested Development_ binges. I’ve also done documentary marathons. It’s kind of satisfying–the dull headache and stiffening limbs as I awaken from the TV-coma and realize I’ve squandered another day of my waning life.

    • Check out “Playing Shakespeare”, RSC / John Barton master classes. The creme de la creme of Shakespeare acting. And I’ve just persuaded our library to get The Tempest with Helen Mirren. 🙂

      Is it possible to binge on Shakespeare? I will happily do so!

  2. It’s funny that you mention Once Upon a Time, I’m currently binge watching season two and I can’t stop. I’m not even that in love with the show, in fact it drives me nuts most of the time, but I can’t stop watching. It’s hard for me to watch regular TV now because of the commercials and I don’t want to have to wait another week for the next episode.

    And you’re right, at night I get pretty bored and binge watching is a way to fill that void. Hmmm…

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