It is past midnight and the light from your phone, tablet, or computer illuminates your dark room. The TV episode you are watching ends and the internal struggle begins: should you continue to watch another episode? We have all been there.
TV seems to be the literature of our generation. Both critics and viewers alike agree that we are living in a golden age of television. As a result, a new social phenomenon has emerged: binge watching.
Oxford Dictionary defines binge watching as the act of watching multiple episodes of a television series in one sitting. In other words, laying down, head phones plugged in, to watch a whole season of Game of Thrones, knowing that this venture will inevitably lead to a severe lack of sleep for school in the morning.
A poll conducted by Netflix, a movie and TV streaming service, concluded that 61 percent of viewers regularly binge watch their favorite TV shows.
What exactly is driving this phenomenon? Binging of any kind can have serious causes. Anxiety, stress, and depression are the most usual drivers of binge activity. Binging is a release from unpleasant experiences and emotions.
Most of the time when people binge, whether by eating, drinking, shopping, or watching television, they are seeking to escape negative emotions.
Another reason is chemical. Binging causes the brain to release the chemical dopamine, often associated with pleasure and addiction.
This secretion of dopamine associated with binge activity fuels the desire to recreate this chemical high. Recurrent binge activity in search of this feeling can lead to chemical and physical addiction.
The combination of these circumstances explains why binge watching is increasingly common among high school students.
As teens seek to escape educational or socially induced stress or anxiety, they are more likely to find comfort in binge watching.
Another reason binging is so popular among teens is that at that stage of social and brain development, they have not completely mastered how to contain compulsive behavior and how to do deal with stresses like those associated with high school, including standardized tests and college applications.
The rise of binging as a cultural phenomenon can explain why more people partake in the activity. Binge watching has become a sort of cultural norm, and people trying to fit in during everyday conversation see this as a way to do so.
It is important to remember that binging on anything is not healthy.
Psychologists have found links between increased time in front of the TV screen and depression.
The more time spent sitting down with Netflix the less time spent in physical activity, which can lead to health issues.
With screen writers pitching their next show idea to Netflix and other streaming services, it appears that binge watching is here to stay.