We’ve all been there. It’s 1am, the episode of Breaking Bad has come to an end and you have 15 seconds to decide whether you’re going to get 5 or 6 hours’ sleep before the dreaded 9am. You should get up, exit Netflix, shut your laptop and go to bed like a good little student. But once again Netflix’s ability to play the next episode without you having to lift a finger gets the better of you, and you settle down for another hour of binge-watching. Just one more hour though. You swear.
Binge watching doesn’t do any harm though, right? Right?
To watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital stream – Oxford English Dictionary 2013
It all started when shows were brought out on DVD box sets, something which has obviously been happening for years. You’d wait a few months after the arduous episode-per-week stage for your new favourite show to be released in a box set so you could take it home and have a big marathon sesh whenever you felt like it. Then came Netflix, and the binge-watching game changed.
The likes of Netflix is now synonymous with the image of a student curled up in bed, in an increasingly untidy bedroom, pizza at their side, probably nursing a hangover, and watching episode after episode of the new show they’d just discovered. And since it came around and people started to notice people’s obsession with being able to watch a whole series at once, other networks began to catch on.
Since then it has ballooned, with shows like Orange Is The New Black being made solely for streaming services, while others, like Ripper Street, got picked up by these services after being dropped from broadcast television channels. It’s a new age, and it’s here to stay.
Most of us would say it’s not doing any harm, that it’s a nice way to relax in the evenings, that we only do it when we’re bored or on our own. However scientists have raised concerns that that’s just it: those of us who binge-watch are “more likely to be depressed and lonely”. This might seem like an overexaggeration, but after cross-referencing the frequency with which 316 18-29 year-olds binge-watch with how often they feel isolated and depressed, it was found that maybe they’re onto something.
The clue’s in the name. “Binge-watching.” “Obsessed”. “Addicted”. They’re words we use to describe our favourite shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Suits, as we devour the series from start to finish, sometimes in the space of 24 hours (don’t deny it, we’ve all done it). But these words are remarkably close to how we talk about binge-drinking, something else for which students are infamous. Maybe binge-watching is the newest way students are collectively lowering their attendance levels and IQs, and thus the expectations of society. Student life is jam packed with excitement, fun and opportunity, but we all have those off days, where all we want to do is stay in bed and watch TV, but it seems this might be just another excuse to put off that revision you’ve been meaning to do, or that lecture you really ought to go to.
However, this is one of a long list of things proclaimed to adversely affect our health. The perpetual headlines claiming things like ‘drinking too much orange juice believed to increase a love of Justin Bieber’ are no more likely to convince us not to drink orange juice, so maybe this is just society fear-mongering and encouraging us to “get out of bed”, “do exercise” and “get some fresh air”, whatever these alien concepts mean. As Netflix itself has confessed, “binge-watching is the new normal”. It’s fun, it’s not doing anyone any harm, and it’s sort of cheap. Would we rather spend money on a Netflix subscription than vegetables? Yes. Is it easier to watch Sherlock running around than to actually get up and, like, move? Yes. Like takeaway, Xbox and clubbing, it’s basically a student’s dream.
So go forth, binge-watch to your heart’s content, and remember, just one more episode…