The binge-watching epidemic


You may have only heard of “binge-watching” in the past year or two, but it has been around for a while. In the 1980s, people got together to watch marathons of their favorite shows on television. Now, watching hours of your favorite shows is much more easily accessible with streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and many more websites and apps.

Binge watching became an “epidemic” in recent years and most people blame it on Netflix.

Netflix is the most used streaming service with over 61.4 million subscribers worldwide. You can watch unlimited amounts of television at once, which many people prefer.

Netflix puts up entire seasons of shows at once, giving people the opportunity to watch the show of their choice for hours on end. The general definition of binge-watching is “viewing the same television show for two or more episodes in a row.”

It is difficult to measure exactly how long you have to view a show for it to be considered a “problem.” Many shows run on television in slots of 30 minutes, but with commercial-free streaming, they are shortened to about 22 minutes. There are hour-long programs that run for about 44 minutes on Netflix, and then there are shows like BBC’s “Sherlock,” with a running time of about 89 minutes per episode. So if you watch two episodes of “Parks and Recreation” and your friend watches one episode of “Sherlock,” then by definition that would mean you are the one with the problem.

Amazon Studios, however, plans to release their original content a little at a time. Their reasoning for this is to avoid spoilers for shows because people will watch the entire seasons at once, and so that they can have an active social media buzz week to week like regular television. Most viewers prefer watching television shows after they have aired so they can watch them back to back and not have to wait an entire week in agony to find out what happens after the cliffhanger.

For April Fool’s day, Netflix created a series of videos called “Binge Responsibly” and one would auto-play between episodes if you binge watched. The videos were actors from Netflix original shows with messages such as “Go outside,” “Take a shower,” and “Call your mom.”

Binging is a brief period of excessive indulgence, so this is why phrases like “binge drinking” and “binge eating” exist, which have negative connotations. Research is being done to try and link things such as depression to people who binge-watch television. Because the definition of binge watching is so unspecific, it is difficult to measure accurately and get an answer.

The research is interesting because of the addiction symptoms that are present in these individuals. They have no self-control to stop letting Netflix auto play the next episode, or to get up and do something productive.

There are people avidly against binge watching television because they believe it ruins the program. Jim Pagels, a writer for, says that episodes lose their integrity when watched all at once. He believes that shows take time to digest, that each story arc needs to be mulled over. Pagels believes that the connection you make with the characters and shows should last more than the two weeks it took you to finish the show. Cliffhangers and suspense are an important part of the show. Pagels suggests viewing or joining an online community about the show itself, where viewers will provide their own insight and analysis, make predictions and just talk about the show.

However, others see binge watchers as very intelligent people with a healthy brain. They are smart because they can focus on the many different arcs of the show and continue to watch episode after episode and understand what is going on. They have a good attention span and react to the multiple storylines. Also, people don’t always binge watch alone! They throw viewing parties or watch with a friend, marathoning a show just like years ago before streaming.

If you Google search “binge watching,” articles come up on “how to binge watch” whatever show and “top shows to binge watch” This behavior is being encouraged.