Opinion: Confessions of a Binge-Watcher

Netflix and Hulu. (Photo credits: http://www.technobuffalo.com/2014/02/28/hulu-selling-japanese-operation-to-nippon-tv/ http://appledeafnews.com/Netflix+update+brings+HD+video+support+)

Have you ever promised yourself that you would watch only one episode of your favorite T.V. show on streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu? Were you able to rally together enough willpower to do this? Or, hours later, did you find yourself in a vegetative state still watching episode after episode of that same show?

If you are one of those people with enough restraint to stop yourself after one episode, then good for you. I envy your self-control.

Now let’s say you identify with the vegetative state scenario. Why did you choose to continue watching? Was it because you had nothing better to do? Or maybe the suspense of the show was too high to stop? Whatever the reason may have been, you are not alone in this obsessive television show viewing. The practice of watching multiple episodes back-to-back of a television series, or “binge-watching,” is growing in popularity.

I used to be a normal television show viewer. I used to tune in each week to watch my favorite shows, eagerly anticipating what was going to happen next. When the episode was over, I was already anticipating what would happen in the next one–seven long days away. This cycle of anticipation, contentedness, and then more anticipation continued on. That is, until I discovered the big red screen we have all come to associate with Netflix.

Online streaming became available through Netflix in 2007. Since then, the company has accumulated 40 million members globally. I am one of those members, and I take full advantage of the numerous television series offered.

As many of you know, when you begin to watch a series on Netflix, or any service that makes full seasons of shows available, you can’t stop. The first show I experienced this addiction with was Friday Night Lights. The first episode conveniently ended in a cliff-hanger, which then forced me to watch the next episode. And then the next one. And then five seasons.

When watching a good show, it’s hard not to get sucked in. After watching several episodes, you begin to feel a connection with characters, and as the viewer, become invested in their lives and the stories being told. You continue to watch because you want to see what happens next, and you want to continue on that journey because you care what happens to your favorite character. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Downton Abbey were shows I intended to pace myself on, but ended up devouring.

Yes, binge-watching is addictive, but I don’t think that this addiction is necessarily bad. From my experience rapidly watching series of shows, I find that I become more invested in the plot than I would watching a show at a normal speed. I used to forget what had happened in shows after the week-long wait was over. Now, thanks to websites that make binge-watching possible, I no longer forget details or plot lines.

Online streaming has changed the way people watch television, and created a club of binge-watchers. If you are considering joining this movement, leave plenty of open space in your schedule (Spring Break would be preferable), and keep in mind the warning of Kate Pulles ’14: “When it’s easy access to a whole season, it’s addicting.”