We're all doing it. Binge-watching shows, that is. And there are lots of benefits that come along with binge-watching, from making us feel more relaxed to improving our 'cognitive empathy.' Good Morning Britain’s resident behavioural psychologist, Jo Hemmings, tells us why we binge and what we need to be careful of...
One thing we know for sure? We can’t get enough of our favourite TV series or jam-packed streaming sessions.
But why? What possesses us to miss social events, go behind our partner’s backs by watching shows ahead and even makes us forget to eat meals on occasion? Even Radio 1’s Ali Plumb enjoys a good Go Binge session, so we had to get a pro’s view on why we binge. And why we’ll keep doing it…
This is what Good Morning Britain’s resident behavioural psychologist, Jo Hemmings had to tell us…
Why do you think bingeing has become such a ‘thing’?
Well, clearly the more content that there is and the more platforms we have to watch it on, is going to be one obvious influencer of binge-watching. There’s more we want to watch, more to catch up on and more accessible ways of watching it. And many streaming services, like Netflix, will put a 20 second countdown to the next episode after the one you’ve just watched, so it will automatically screen it for you. It’s deliberate temptation and often requires more restraint to turn your device off than it does to watch the next episode, presented for your immediate viewing pleasure.
But is it all about tempting tech and more shows being available?
It also has to do with our primarily sedentary lifestyle. It’s easier to watch shows when you’re less active. And research has shown that we enjoy binge-watching for many different reasons. We find it fun, engaging and rewarding. 53% of those surveyed in the Binge Files reported that binge-watching helps them relax and de-stress. Some people binge-watch on auto-pilot, they don’t necessarily intend to binge-watch, but get drawn into a series and find that they either can’t wait for the next episode or that they are willing to give up time doing other activities to keep up with the story. While others intentionally binge-watch, they set aside a period of time, with some anticipation – maybe a rainy Sunday afternoon or a Bank Holiday weekend – to work through an entire series in one or two sittings.
The Binge Files has revealed that 25% of us admit to binge-watching all of our favourite TV shows, with 10% feeling that binge-watching positively benefits their social life by providing topics of conversations and shared experiences. So, is bingeing on TV shows a good thing?
We live in a world full of instant online gratification whether that’s shopping, social media or even dating; so it’s no surprise that TV shows have taken a slice of this instant gratification. In fact, we need this stimulation so much, we’re now pretty much wired to binge-watch! Previous generations had to wait patiently for the next episode of their favourite show to be broadcast, their gratification was delayed and subsequently their impulse control was also stronger.
However, with our weakened impulse control, we enjoy binge-watching. It can be both thrilling and relaxing.
What do you make of the feelings people have at the end of a show? Netflix reports a three-day cooling off period, and our findings show a real sense of loss following a final episode.
We’re lucky to have those opportunities denied of previous generations, but it does mean that we often feel a real sense of loss when our favourite series has come to an end – a whopping 44% of those surveyed reported this. Other than this sense of loss, the other downside is if you binge-watch to defer/avoid thinking or doing anything about important aspects of your life – such as revising, working, paying bills, or socialising IRL. And 13% of respondents say they had fallen out with their partner watching a show before them! That’s not so good, for obvious reasons. But binge-watching is one of the most rewarding of ‘guilty pleasures’.
Five ways to Binge responsibly
1. Don’t let yourself become a couch potato or a channel surfer – decide what you want to watch and how long you’re going to watch it for.
2. Binge-watching has been shown to increase ‘cognitive empathy’ – we learn to identify with others’ feelings through the characters we are so engaged in.
3. Bingeing is a welcome refuge from our busy lives; just don’t let it become something else on your hectic ‘to do’ list!
4. Research has shown that we tend to eat more when watching a TV show as we don’t register how much we’re consuming. Don’t let that happen to you!
5. Recognise that a lot of content is now being clearly produced to encourage bingeing – make sure you’re in control of it, and it’s not in control of you…
The Joy of Binge
From livening up social situations to banishing stress, a good binge-watch can have multiple benefits. Here are some of the interesting tidbits we picked up in our Binge Files research.
One-third of 25-34s talk to friends and family about what they’ve streamed, while 19% of them liven up work meetings by chatting about their favourite shows.
20% of people take the boredom out of their commute with streaming content, and 38% use streaming as time to get cosy with their SOs – streaming on their mobile or tablet with their partners. Even when things weren’t so rosy, streaming helped, with 9% of women finding that binge-watching had helped them through a breakup.
Feelgood TV is still king, with Friends still being the top-rated show for 16-24s. 42% of 16-24s use phrases from their favourite streamed shows (“How you doin’?”). A quarter of 16-24s watch shows based on what their friends recommend. 46% of 16-24s can’t wait for the next episode. And with Go Binge you can even live stream that feelgood TV.
20% of people binge-watch to cheer themselves up after a tough work week, and 53% of all people use binge watching to de-stress. 44% of people are sad when a show ends.
84% of people streaming on phones do it alone and 76% watching via a tablet are solitary streamers.
Download the full Binge Files report
Main pic: Getty via Cindy Prins