Screentime was a concern for people over the last few months, but this time, it has become a lifeline—particularly those who have the luxury to stay indoors or have been forced into social isolation, stated Ri Pierce-Grove of USA Today, an American middle-market newspaper. Condemning screen time is a big no, allowing us the opportunity to distinguish between “good” and “bad” screentime.
“Good” screentime involves stimulation, comfort, and connection while its counterpart is defined as staying up at night feeling miserable and anxious. The definition of binge-watching varies from individual to individual ranging from listening to bedtime routines or relaxing kitchen sounds on YouTube or watching two or three episodes of a program every night with their partner.
An Exploratory Study On Netflix Viewing and Binge-Watching (2019)
Deborah Castro and colleagues of Sage Journals, the world’s leading independent academic publisher, conducted a survey on a Portuguese island involving 13 participants, who were recruited through mailing lists, social media, and word of mouth.
98 viewing sessions were logged from the participants, with the researchers identifying 66 valid sessions from 11 participants. Of the 66 viewing sessions, 40 were qualified as binge-watching sessions—which is defined as watching at least two episodes of the same show from start to finish in one sitting. The authors found that the number of binge-watching sessions was higher during weekdays (60%) than during the weekends (40%).
The respondents appeared to have some control over the time they spent watching. The authors found that 52.5% of the 40 sessions watched “as much as they intended in the beginning.” With regard to their awareness of the time they spent watching, participants were “completely aware” of it in 19% of the sessions. In 9.5% of sessions, the respondents were “considerably aware” and they were “moderately aware” in 47.6% of sessions. Meanwhile, participants were “slightly aware” in 23.8% of the sessions.
The participants also performed other tasks while watching in 32.5% of the 40 sessions. They also used other devices while watching Netflix in 57.5% of the 40 sessions. Using a second screen for reasons not related to the show they were watching was reported in 37.5% of the cases and in 10% of the sessions, the participants used a second screen to search for information related to the show.
When asked what motivated them to start watching, the respondents cited “relaxation,” “boredom relief,” and “escapism.” In sessions where “relaxation” was a source of motivation (47.8% of cases), participants watched a drama. They also watched a sci-fi show in 21.7% in cases, followed by a comedy show (17.4%) and an action program (8.7%).
In sessions where “boredom” was a driving force in watching shows, participants watched a comedy in six of the sessions, five on drama, four on sci-fi, and one on action. On the other hand, drama was the most consumed in 46.7% of cases in which escapism was a source of motivation. This was followed by sci-fi (20%) and comedy (13.3%).
While Castro and colleagues’ only involved a small sample size, they concluded that participants often binge-watched alone on weekday evenings and nights, with most watching in their living rooms or bedrooms. Despite binge sessions lasting just over two hours on average, it did not increase the participants’ feelings of guilt. Further, their own perceptions and definitions of binge-watching vary.
How to Make Binge-Watching Sessions More Fun and Engaging
1. Plan and Take Responsibility
What is joy’s worst enemy? Guilt. It is recommended to plan as you are more likely to choose shows or movies that cater to your rationale for watching, which can include relaxing comedies, heart-pounding dramas, and more. Planning improves your engagement and leads to positive emotional outcomes, as said by Emil Steiner of Rowan University and Matthew Pittman of the University of Tennessee to Pierce-Grove.
Of course, you also have to be self-aware of what is motivating you to binge-watch to ensure that it does not take over your real life, reminded Liz Keen of ABC News, a public news service in Australia. “Take personal responsibility for the behaviour and ask 'Why am I watching this, what am I excluding in my life? What are the plusses I get out of it?'" stated James Donnelly, a lecturer in psychology at Southern Cross University.
2. Use Binge-Watching As An Opportunity to Learn About Yourself
He added that you can use your watching habits as a way to learn more about yourself. Further, it’s okay to be drawn to characters that you want to learn from, but it is also important to seek qualified help from mental health support or business training, Dr. Donnelly recommended.
University of Michigan professor Jan Van den Bulck told Pierce-Grove, “Figure out what relaxes, amuses, or excites you. If an action thriller helps you switch your worries off, go ahead. Escapism can be a wonderful boon.”
3. Be Cognizant of Your Triggers
Brad Ridout, deputy chair of the Cyber Psychology Research Group at the University of Sydney, warned viewers to be mindful of what they are watching. Depending on the individual, some people might get anxious around certain content or scenes in shows, which can have an impact on their overall viewing experience.
To exercise mindfulness, Dr. Ridout suggested setting a limit on how many episodes you are going to watch for the day or night. You can also set an alarm on your phone to signal that you need to stretch and stand up every 30 minutes. Binge-watch in moderation and avoid replacing screentime with being active and social.
4. Include More People (If Possible)
You can watch a show with your loved ones, but you can also stream the same show online with your friend. Both of you can use apps like Netflix Party to allow you to stream and chat simultaneously. Some individuals save a “good” TV program to watch with their significant other. If binge-watching aids in fostering social interaction, that would be a better alternative than letting it replace your life.
5. Go to Sleep
Binge-watching a show is exciting, but you should not lose sleep because of it. Dedicate a block of time for sleep by setting an alarm. Don’t forget to turn off the screen or brush your teeth.
Binge-watching can be a form of escapism from the pandemic, but it does not mean it should be a substitute for daily functioning. Viewers should not forget to eat, sleep, and stand up. If they exercise enough self-awareness, binge-watching will become a healthier activity.