|LETTERS TO EDITOR
|Year : 2019 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 182-184
Binge-watching: A matter of concern?
S Umesh, Swarnali Bose
Department of Clinical Psychology, School of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication||4-Mar-2019|
Dr. Swarnali Bose
Department of Clinical Psychology, School of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal - 576 104, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Umesh S, Bose S. Binge-watching: A matter of concern?. Indian J Psychol Med 2019;41:182-4
Since the last decade, the concept of watching television has taken a major transition. Traditional television scheduling made their viewers abide by the television broadcast timings, subjected them to advertisements/breaks, and made them wait for days or weeks to watch their favorite serials and/or movies. With the advancement of technology, and more specifically the emergence of online streaming services, there is a tremendous reshaping of traditional broadcasting logics. Any broadcast may be unlocked from 'kickoff to climax' with just a click – “anytime and anywhere!” Such viewing may happen in living room television sets, computer screens, tablets, smartphones, or smartwatches — in simple terms, “it's all television!”
As watching television series has never been so easy, a new behavioral phenomenon has arisen and is making subscribers to “binge-watch,” that is, view multiple episodes of the same television series in a single sitting. In simpler terms, this is a choice to spend an evening or a weekend glued to the screen, immersed in consuming multiple episodes or even an entire season of television shows in a single sitting.
Some binge-critique journalists compare “binge-worthy” series to potato chips – tasty for sure, impossible to stop snacking, utterly lacking intellectual value, and after bingeing likely to make viewers feel a bit ill and ultimately feel displeased, which engender to binge more. Moreover, some series are created in such a fashion that they intentionally force viewers to consciously focus on the intricacies of the episodes. A viewer may hence get distressed if they miss any due to something inadvertent.
The current data indicate that binge-watching is increasing, and a study found that at least three of four respondents self-reported as a “binge-watcher.” Furthermore, when all episodes of a season were released simultaneously by an online streaming service, it inspired widespread “marathon-viewing” sessions among the 18–34 years age group who initially binge-watched and later took themselves to social media to post their (seemingly positive) reviews of such series. Some binge-watchers also report that watching a series on one go has “social value” as they can participate in social media conversations with their virtual friends, which create a “sense of belongingness.” Are they hooked also to the social media, waiting for a response on their binge-watching from the virtual world?
As of now, only a little is known about the consequences of watching series that may reach “binge” or maybe “addiction” levels. However, one may anticipate whether binge watching could upturn into something like another behavioral addiction. But is there any robust attempt to define binge-watching or to assess its severity or its effects on mental health? Although infrequent media reports on binge-watching definitely mention its effects on mental health and highlight it as yet another emerging clinical condition, has the time really come to qualify or consider such behaviors under the rubric of behavioral addictions?
The existing literature provides some insights into this emerging phenomenon, and findings suggest that binge-watching may affect mental health. As of now, it is more related to features such as fatigability, poor quality of sleep, insomnia, and some mood disturbance.,, Some researchers also assert a possible association with depression, loneliness, and deficient self-regulation. Exelmans and Van den Bulck also mention about presleep arousal following binge-watching. Seemingly, based on such evidence, some online streaming services have already started alerting viewers when a number of consecutive episodes have been watched. However, none of these studies has confirmed that binge-watching shares characteristics of other defined behavioral addictions (e.g., watching longer than intended; unsuccessful attempts to control, reduce, or cut down watching; displacement of other activities).
Interestingly, binge-watching also occur to “catch-up”' existing episodes of a series and watch new episodes as soon as they are premiered. Fear of missing out (FoMo) is a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences (in this case, online series) from which one is absent/missing. Such a fear or anxiety of losing an updated episode may also compel binge-watchers to check Internet-enabled devices constantly.
Until date, only little is known about the psychological processes underlying binge-watching. A recent study aimed toward a comprehensive understanding of this behavior using qualitative analysis of different phenomenological characteristics. A content analysis identified binge-watching behaviors across three dimensions – (1) watching motivations: that is, bingeing a series, like any hobby or leisure activity, primarily satisfies the “need for entertainment” and hence serves to enhance or maintain positive emotions; (2) watching engagement: that is, who watch series regularly and integrate the activity with their other daily routine. Some people grouped in this dimension do sense a loss of control to their binge-watching behaviors; (3) structural characteristics of series: that is, watching is mainly driven by availability, type, and quality of the narratives and characters involved in the series.
Empirical research has suggested that the structural characteristics of video gaming have an influential role in the initiation and maintenance of addictive behaviors. Therefore, it is always necessary to focus on behavioral analysis and use more qualitative research methods to examine the proposed behavior and deduce reasons for such a “behavioral excess.” Nonetheless, giving binge-watching a systematic labeling of behavioral addiction would be premature and may result in adding one more behavioral phenomenon to the unlimited list of new behavioral addictions.
With the emerging trends, affordability and accessibility to high-speed Internet in India and the influence of social media and dedicated leisure time have “hooked” some individuals to online streaming services. Currently, the characteristics of online television series are highly analogous to those described in the “Triple-A” model regarding online sexual activities, that is, affordability, accessibility, and anonymity.,
Finally, are binge-watchers becoming vulnerable to some mental health conditions? Are we trying to pathologize common behaviors or “leisure activity”? Is there a need to formulate or define a model for binge-watching? The answers to such questions are not clear, and the phenomenon is yet to be elucidated in detail. But introspecting holistically, binge-watching may definitely seem a “behavioral excess” and a matter of concern!
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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