Reid, M. (2014, July 9). Your Brain On: Binge Watching TV.
. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from Link
The article reviews the physical and psychological effects of binge-watching over the course of 4 different periods of viewing: Turning on the TV, 30 minutes into viewing, several hours into viewing, and turning off the TV. Each viewing time has it’s own set of drawbacks and possible benefits. Overall, binge-viewing is an exercise in dumbing down your brain to it’s basic functions, and the desire to repeat this activity.
This statement is made in the context of what happens when one begins to view. Each new environment, character, and special effect is translated into new stimuli to hold the viewers attention. This creates the effect of being mesmerized, drawn in so intently that the media is all that matters. As previous articles have alluded, and as Lay’s advertisements would have us believe, “you can’t have just one.”
This is in reference to the endorphins released when watching visual media for extended periods. This release of chemicals calms viewers, puts them at ease, and elicits happiness, among other things. By cutting off one’s connection to these naturally-produced chemicals is damaging to the brain, in a manner. Withdrawal from pleasant experiences invites people to engage in pleasurable experiences again, to even become addicted to those actions. As other authors have already confirmed, binge-watching is addictive, and now we know the chemical basis for that addiction.
Marsh, P., Ferrao, Z., & Anuseviciute, G. (2014, July). Tune In: The Impact of Binge-Viewing.
. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from Link
Many revelations were provided by doctors Marsh, Ferrao, and Anuseviciute. The study shows that binge-watching is almost evenly split between VOD services and broadcast television, as well as a difference between men and women in viewing habits. Men are more likely to binge “by appointment” while women are more impulsive in their viewing habits. One final revelation is that binge-viewers are more accepting of ads, as outlined in Cramer’s article on the study. Otherwise, the study reinforces many of the findings of other researchers.
“Binge-viewing is a frequent activity done mostly during prime time and occurs primarily at home through a video streaming service or broadcast/cable TV.”
Data suggests that the majority of binge-watching is done in the evening, when prime-time shows are airing. Most of this is conducted through a television, bringing me to a realization. Binge-watching can not only be conducted by watching multiple episodes of the same show, but by watching several individual episodes of different shows in succession as they air. Even if 50% of bingers use VOD services, 43% use broadcast television. This has changed my preconceptions of the definition of “Binge-Watching.”
“Despite a conventional wisdom that binge-viewers are avoiding ads, they are not only tolerant of ads, but are even more receptive to them compared to non-bingers. Binge-viewers are twice as likely than non-bingers to see and share ads on social media, as well as talk about ads with friends and family – marketers could leverage binge-viewers’ engagement with ads and look for cross-marketing opportunities and branded integration efforts with the most popular programs.”
In this context, consumers assume that ads come with the territory, as they were primarily raised with the idea that shows have ad-breaks. Netflix is one of only a few services free of ads, so to assume that viewers expect no ads online is foolish. An explanation as to why binge-viewers are more receptive of ads than non-bingers is not provided, and I would not venture a guess as to why. However, given the researcher’s conclusions, it would be prudent to expect branded product integration to become more of a part of binge-viewing. The question is: are ads more effective during periods of binge-watching, or do people just like talking about them?
Synthesis: My required research has come to an end, and I have seen where researchers agree and disagree. However, as I read these final three sources, as well as other recent sources, it has become harder and harder to find points of disagreement between authors.
Reid’s article lines up with every finding of the American Heart Association, IEEE, and a number of respected psychologists. Binge-watching takes the viewer through a gauntlet of emotional, psychological, and physical peaks and troughs. It is highly addictive
, makes the consumer highly suggestible
, and leads to a shortened life
. No matter how one puts it, binge-watching is detrimental to the viewer.
This would have been damning enough, but then Cramer had to write about Marsh and her study. It grants us a small view into the mind of the average binger, and it does not paint a pretty picture of binge-watching. It is set as a reflection of instant-gratification, as an escape from the busy lives people lead. Binge-watching is a distraction from daily life, a mass opiate for the proletariat. The sad part is, people don’t realize the harm that they are doing to themselves, and as binge-watching becomes more accepted
, the effects will only spread faster. Advertisers will sling their swill more easily with a complacent, depressed society seeking to fill a void in their hearts left by TV, and the only one’s to suffer will be the consumer.
Binge-watching may be beneficial to viewers sensibilities, wanting to catch up on shows
and be socially current, but at what point does social currency lose to emotional and psychological degradation?