North Texas Daily

Netflix binge-watching raises concerns

Netflix binge-watching raises concerns

Netflix binge-watching raises concerns
February 12
00:00 2015

Harrison Long / Intern Writer

With the subject matter of television shows like “My Strange Addiction” ranging from the depraved (“loving” one’s car) to the downright weird (eating toilet paper as a snack), vices like binge-watching Netflix should be among the least of society’s concerns.

A recent study by University of Texas at Austin doctoral students Yoon Hi Sung and Eun Yeon Kang, with professor Wei-Na Lee asked 316 millennials between the ages of 18 and 29 a series of questions regarding their consumption of Netflix. Seventy-five percent of those interviewed admitted to frequent binging of popular Netflix shows “Orange is the New Black,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “One Tree Hill” and “Desperate Housewives,” all of which have multiple seasons available to stream instantly.

Researchers also asked, “How often do you feel alone?” The study focuses on the possibility of depression and loneliness being linked to binge-eating and drinking. It says if this is the case then perhaps the abuse of instant entertainment through services like Netflix could be a factor contributing to depression among millennials.

“It all started with the word ‘binge’,” Lee said in an interview with Newsweek. “[It] has a negative connotation, except when it comes to watching TV. That got us curious.”

Fashion merchandising sophomore Taylor Eldtridge said her longest binge-watching session was close to seven hours.

“I try not to binge-watch because I’m usually tired anyway,” Eldtridge said. “After I’ve had a long week I like to go back and forth between “The Carrie Diaries,” “Gossip Girl” and “The Walking Dead.”

Other students binge-watch as a way to immerse themselves in the dramatic atmospheres presented by the shows.

“I enjoy shows like Scandal because despite everything that might happen, the main character, Olivia, always tries to do the right thing,” speech pathology junior Kathryn Vanmeter said.

Vanmeter said she could not recall having feelings of loneliness from watching the show.

While the actual definition of binge-watching is ambiguous, it is commonly defined as an individual watching more than two episodes of any one-hour segment in one sitting. The study said although there is no need to panic should one find themselves in bed on a lazy Saturday afternoon, it is the repeat bingers, or those who choose to engage in a series rather than their own life, that concern the researchers.

The study found people who might previously be subject to feelings of loneliness and depression manage to find solace through binge watching. The more available they are, the longer they are able to escape reality. Those subject to such  behaviors may never seek help, and the problem continues to escalate or eventually make way into other aspects of life.

The researchers are expected to present the bulk of their findings this May at a conference in Puerto Rico.

While this situation is not new, with box sets of television shows having been available for decades, it is through mediums such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, where entire series of programs are available instantly that researchers say such behavior is enabled

“I’ve never felt alone due to finishing a Netflix series, more so just sad that it was over,” biochemistry junior Chris Tahmassi said. “The only other emotion I can ever remember feeling was disappointment with the fourth season of ‘Arrested Development.’”

Featured Image: Netflix logo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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