We’re all guilty of doing it: the binge watch. When one episode ends, a little countdown ticks away leading you into the next episode. If you just wanted to watch one episode before you fall asleep you could easily stay up till 3am because you watched one more and then one more until you finish the season. Binging screen time can release dopamine and make us happy but at what cost? It is a false happiness and a false sense of accomplishment we get from binging.
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Don’t get me wrong, I love TV and movies and I think they can be valuable resources to learn about different experiences and help us connect with each other. However, is binging even a good way to consume media? Mary Williams posits in this Salon article that binging is detrimental not only to your health by leading to cognitive or verbal declines but also because it does not allow you to fully comprehend the story. This leads to binging a series or even a season and then a week later being fuzzy on the details.
Nielson, the company that puts out ratings and tracks TV watching, said in 2018 the average American between the ages of 18 and 34 spend 43% of their day consuming media. That is over a third of the day meaning the day is spent ⅓ sleeping, ⅓ at work, and ⅓ consuming media. It’s almost like consuming media has become a second job. Finishing a season can even give the same feeling of accomplishment as completing a task at work.
Maybe, however, you’re not sure if you have a binging problem. While discussing how to determine if your child is consuming too much television Anya Kamenetz in Vulture shares helpful questions to ask from researcher Domoff: “Are they preoccupied with it? Are they always scheming to get more TV time? Does it interfere with friendships, family time, or schoolwork? When my child has a bad day, is screen media the only thing that seems to help?” These questions are not only good for children. They can be used by everyone to determine if they are watching too much or if they have an unhealthy relationship with media.
To balance screen time this year you do not have to cut the cord. I am not suggesting a media cleanse or even going a day or a week without media. We all should, however, just check in with ourselves from time to time and determine if we have an unhealthy attachment to our screen time. We should also make sure to remember why we consume media: to enjoy it, not just to check off the box that watched it.