We have all done it. Sat down on the sofa with some crisps or a cup of tea and pressed play with the intention of watching an episode of a new series your friend recommended on Netflix. Next thing you know, it is 5am and almost an entire season later. Do you have any regrets? Absolutely not. There is something very satisfying about being able to continue watching and not having to wait until next week to see what happens. In October 2017, Netflix recorded 109.25 million subscribers, which is no doubt growing.
In theory, if you have the time (or are willing to give up a night’s sleep), there is nothing actually wrong with enjoying a Netflix binge is there? I mean, it’s fun, convenient and even legal, so why not? I think if you keep on reading you will hopefully see some of the downsides of Netflix binging…
It is highly addictive. That may sound strange as Netflix is not often associated with addiction.
In 2013, Netflix hired the anthropologist Grant McCracken to research how people watch TV, given the rise of on-demand streaming services. McCracken found that 61% of people who stream regularly said they binge-watch. A new study from the University of Toledo calls binge-watching “a growing public health concern”. Of 408 people surveyed, 77% watched two or more hours of TV a day. Researchers also found that binge-watching had a positive correlation with poor mental and physical wellbeing.
You may think there is nothing wrong with an episode or three a night of ‘Stranger Things’, but only the most disciplined can switch off when Netflix’s auto play promises the next episode in 13 seconds.
Like any addiction, the harm ultimately lies in what it’s taking you away from. A lot of these shows stop you living in the moment.
Some Netflix shows are so short, it’s easy to convince yourself that just one more episode won’t hurt. With other shows, it is the plot that tests your strength to step away. I can vividly remember the moment I finished all 6 seasons of Gossip Girl. I felt like I didn’t know what to do with myself now that my relationships with Blair and Serena were officially over. No I am not a crazy person with no life…I know for a fact that there are SO many girls out there who felt the same way!
The video streaming giant Netflix even recognised these dangers and jumped on the ‘bingeing’ bandwagon by introducing a light-hearted PR campaign for April Fool’s in 2013 with the message of, ‘Binge Responsibly’. If you watched more than 2 episodes consecutively, a video suddenly appeared, and an actress or actor from one of the company’s original shows warned the watcher against the perils of binge-watching.
Like many people, I can struggle to sleep at night. This can often be the reason why I sign into Netflix at 2am, with the hope that it will help me nod off. Of course, this is never really the case. Well my friends, let me introduce you to Napflix – the Netflix for people who need to sleep, and it is a genius PR strategy! Napflix is a Spanish video platform which helps people get to sleep whilst also satisfying our Netflix habits. The platform finds you ‘the most silent and sleepy content selection to relax your brain and easily fall asleep’. There’s a menu that offers you videos about anything from religion to sports to music and is believed to help you into a deep slumber.
Here is a rather alarming statement; I calculated the approximate hours I have spent watching Netflix series, (excluding movies which I couldn’t even begin to go through), since September. The combination of watching Stranger Things, Beyond Stranger Things, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Riverdale and Gossip Girl (2 seasons) has totalled to 76.8 hours. For the entire year, I have calculated that approximately 335.15 hours of my 2017 has been spent watching a series on Netflix. That equates to nearly 14 days. Keeping in mind, this excludes movies and series not on Netflix such as Game of Thrones. If that isn’t a wake-up call I don’t know what is. It’s so easily done, and I would not have said that I had that much spare time on my hands this year (especially with the amount of complaining I did about how busy I was).
The worst of it is, I don’t even watch that much compared to a lot of people I know. When I do watch it, it is often on in the background whilst I go about my day. However, it will still slow me down as I progressively get engrossed in an episode and its characters. If you are also an avid Netflix watcher, I recommend you sit down and use ‘Binge Clock’ to do the same, I guarantee you will be surprised at the figure and will make you view your use of time with a whole new perspective!
Wait…you mean to say… no Netflix binge? What on earth would one do with their spare time? Here are a few crazy, out-of-the-box ideas;
- Read a book about a subject you have always been interested in, but ‘never had the time’ to start – you never know what you’ll learn.
- Spend more time with family.
- Get ahead on university work which will lessen the future dissertation stress.
- Go to the gym or for a walk, you will feel better after!
- For those midnight Netflix burners, have some will power and try not to watch the next episode. Believe it or not – sleep is important.
As 2018 dawned, my New Year’s resolution was to Netflix binge responsibly, I can definitely think of ways I can put the potential extra fortnight saved to good use in final year of university…and so can you!
Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/