Picture this: it’s 11 o’clock at night, and you have settled down to watch a YouTube video you may have heard about earlier or saved from your Facebook feed, whether it be a BuzzFeed video, a celebrity interview or a sports recap.
You start watching and next thing you know, it’s 4 a.m., and you’re asking yourself, “How did I get here?”
You’ve fallen into a time-trap we are all so susceptible to. But what causes us to go down this dark descent? How do we repeatedly find ourselves in this situation?
The answer may lie in the fact we use mobile entertainment to consume everything all at one time. Binging is the new style of media consumption, and we all fall victim to it. With a vast array of media readily available, who wouldn’t want to watch something new? You can find your new favorite show in a matter of seconds, so why wait to watch all the seasons?
This is how we like to consume entertainment. Our world is so fast-paced we feel we must be up to date on everything going on. This does not stop at our forms of entertainment. We have to know what’s going on at all times, even if it is near impossible for most things. Our society promotes this idea of always being in the know, so much so that it feels almost instinctual.
We don’t have to wait a week for a new episode now, we can just catch up all in one weekend. Then we wait a year for next season to appear on our preferred streaming sites because heaven forbid we actually watch cable TV. We all do it, but why?
Well, as I have been learning in my digital and social media class, binging allows you to “experience a drug-like high.” This may sound very extreme, but our brain produces dopamine when we binge which makes us feel good, thus making us not want to stop.
If you stop and think about how this works, you realize it has happened to all of us. That feeling of absolute emptiness when you finish your favorite show is a direct result of the end of dopamine-led binging. Maybe if we consumed content week by week, the end of a show could have a sweeter, more satisfying ending.
Don’t forget the absolute betrayal you feel when someone watches a show without you, or when you go online and can get that small dopamine experience finding spoilers for any show you want. Also, when you binge a show, you become educated very quickly and want to educate everyone you know, but there is always someone who knows more than you.
Next thing you know, you’re rocking merch and following all the actors on Twitter. Then all the fan accounts follow you, and you catch yourself saying, “Like on that one episode of…” in order to relate to anything. There is no problem in being passionate or invested in something, but we often only invest because we feel like we know everything about the show.
So, what can we do to avoid this next time we wanted to watch a show? Perhaps watching one episode at a time? This may seem like a major inconvenience, because all the episodes are available at your fingertips, but it may help your eyes not burn at 3 a.m. from staring at a screen for hours on end.
Maybe even use a show to reward yourself for completing a task, or maybe as a break from studying. Don’t consume all your content at one time, because what will you do when you no longer have any TV to watch? What if you can’t find another show to get into?
Watching TV after a long day is a great way to unwind, so don’t stress yourself out trying to finish the entire show in one weekend. And if you have something important to work on, particularly long projects, try to remember how dopamine works in your brain and keep yourself from falling into another binge.