This Is Why You Should Stop Binge-Watching TV Shows

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With the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, it’s all too tempting to get carried away on an epic binge-watching session. 

Your pyjamas are on and your weekend is conveniently plan-less (yet again), so there doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to resist the urge to spend an entire 48 hours in bed with the blinds drawn going to town, not on yourself, but on seasons 1-5 of Game of Thrones. 

It’s anti-social and really quite sad, but these days it doesn’t feel like a wasted day-off to spend the majority of your time holed-up in some quasi-home cinema, suffering through the emotional trauma that shows such as 13 Reasons Why evoke, all the while messaging the group chat about how you’re “too swamped” – a.k.a. you’ve been horizontal for so long that you’re no longer sure your legs work – to go out for drinks tonight.

Lying in order to binge-watch may be shameful, but it all too easily can become a way of life.

With all the content readily available thanks to online streaming services – that may or may not be paid for by other family members – the ability to give yourself square eyes and a pounding screen-headache is really too enticing.

However, despite the luring promise of being able devour the entire ten series of U.S. sitcom Friends in mere hours (what a great January treat that was), I would argue that binge-watching is not only the wrong way to enjoy TV but that it’s actually detrimental to the show that you’re hooked on.

If we truly want to appreciate the myriad of critically acclaimed shows that are floating around in the so-called ‘Golden Age of TV’ then we need to click off ‘yes, I’m still watching’, put down our laptop, and exercise some self-restraint.

Here are five reasons to give your binge-watching habit the kick:

No anticipation

Watching tv and using remote control

Cliff-hangers are cliff-hangers for a reason; they gear you up for the next episode and make the wait in between each instalment all the more excruciating. While they’re often frustrating for viewers, cliff-hangers are key devices that keep you hooked on the show.

Finding out in a mere 30 seconds or however long the intro credits take (unless you’re on Netflix, in which case skip that intro, baby) kind of defeats the purpose of even having a cliff-hanger in the first place.

Exercising self-restraint in this respect is undoubtedly tough, but just think about the perks. Not only will the waiting time give you a bit of breathing space to mull over what you want to happen – should Rachel and Ross get back together (not just yet), is the loss of Barb still going to be felt in episodes to come (yes), and will Jaime make it out of the lake alive (surprisingly, he managed it despite his heavy armour) – but the anticipation also helps to provide a camaraderie with your friends and work colleagues, as you bond and bicker over how you felt the episode should have ended / what should happen next.

The back-end of Summer 2017 was definitely a fruitful one at work, as we lively debated each episode of GoT as it got released. All this was possibly purely because there wasn’t the option for people to race ahead (until the penultimate episode got leaked a week early, damn you HBO Spain). In this way, taking a show week by week is a great equaliser; no one has watched any more than the other and everyone is privy to the same info about the show.

You miss out on key plot points

Closeup side view of a mid 20's happy couple watching tv in bed on lazy weekend morning. They are just being lazy and enjoying this Sunday morning, even though it's almost noon.

All too often I’ve been having a discussion with my friend about a TV show and they’ve mentioned a crucial bit of info about said programme (you know, like Daenerys and Jon are related) and I’ve been at a loss. When did that happen?? Was I on my phone? Asleep? In a Domino’s induced comatose state? And then comes the creeping realisation that none of the aforementioned reasons are to blame, it’s simply that I was consuming each episode at such a record speed that I barely paid attention to the plot.

If you think about it, watching episodes back-to-back kind of leaves you numb to the more subtle points of the programme. After six or so hours watching the same TV show, listening to the same soundtrack, and becoming depressingly familiar with the episode structure, you become oblivious to all but the loud bangs and most dramatic scenes. Sure you’re going to notice if someone dies (unless your Netflix sesh is the ‘Netflix and chill’ kind) but some of the more understated aspects end up going over your head.

When you’ve only got one episode to focus on, however, and you know that this will have to be your weekly fix no matter what, you’re going to hone in all your attention and really make the most of the 45 minutes to an hour available to you.

Becoming a little too immersed in the show

Young businessman sitting at table and looking aside dreamily while leaning his head on hand. Front view with big window and blurry green view outside in background.

After a particularly intense binge-watch I sometimes emerge from my room in a trance-like state, clearly still preoccupied and lost in either Westeros, Hawkins, or Monica’s penthouse apartment.

Whether I’m chopping onions, having a shower, or on my daily commute, all I can think about is the show. While I’ll still be a fully functioning adult, capable of washing myself, making decisions and going about day-to-day life, I will also spend a good proportion of my time contemplating how my favourite character would have handled imaginary situations or absorbing and mimicking some of their most unique personality traits. Needless to say, my friends grew tired of my inflammatory and know-it-all impression of Hugh Laurie’s character ‘House’ pretty fast.

This practice is weird, unnatural, and just the kind of thing our great grandparents must have been sceptical about when they were first confronted with square-shaped boxes called televisions.

Quantity over Quality

People getting food off a buffet line

When faced with the choice between an all-you-can-eat buffet and a Michelin starred meal, the temptation to go for quantity not quality can be extreme. Now this situation is the same as binge-watching a show compared to taking it piece by piece. While you could eat every single spring-roll you lay your eyes on and gorge yourself into a food-coma so intense that even the prospect of a purge seems incapable of saving you from an early death, it would actually be much more appropriate to go for the Michelin starred meal (presuming, of course, that both options are somehow free).

Yes the portions are smaller and the waiters have a snooty-attitude, but the meal will be much more enjoyable without the greedy panic of having to eat everything in sight just because you can, and your experience on the whole will be much better quality.

Just as you’ll be able to truly appreciate the subtle way the flavours of each course complement each other, the same goes for taking a series one episode at the time. Give yourself a bit of space to really appreciate everything that the creators have put in front of you, instead of trying your best to race to the finish line. Too much of anything – whether it be tempura prawns or House of Cards – will make you sick.

Have some self-respect

"Alpharetta, GA, USA - September 29, 2012 - Amazon.com's Kindle fire with Netflix's streamable movie page loaded on the tablet."

Anyone with access to a streaming service, a box-set, or with the know-how to source these programmes illegally has the capability to gorge on entire series one after another. You don’t need to be special or clever to watch 72 hours of drama back-to-back (though you will admittedly need some type of cream to prevent bed-sores).

Why not try and differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack and take a different approach. Be the person that exercises self-restraint and really savours each episode as it comes, because you might just find that you enjoy your TV time a whole lot better because of it.

Slow and steady wins the race, after all.

Images via GIPHY / iStock 

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