You get home, and decide that after a long day of stress, you deserve some time for yourself and automatically reach for your phone or laptop and make use of one of the dozen of streaming services that are readily available to you. Perhaps you use Netflix, or Hulu, or maybe even Amazon Prime. Whatever the source, users of such streaming services agree that it is easy to get caught up in television series so that “just one more episode” results in binge watching an entire season.
According to a survey done by MediaPost, 73 percent (nearly three quarters!) said they had a tendency to binge watch, including 90 percent of millennials. Some 38 percent of those millennials also said they binge watch every week. There is no precise cause behind this avid viewing of television series; rather, a multitude of factors contribute to this behavior.
Since we live in a world that centers heavily on the use of technology, it is no surprise that social media plays a key role in influencing people to make use of streaming services. Twitter is the most influential of all the sites, since users can easily and immediately tweet their opinions on shows, especially those that exclusively stream on Netflix. The hit series “13 Reasons Why” for instance, resulted in a surge of social media activity that continued for weeks after the show’s release.
Similarly, Netflix series such as “Orange is the New Black” and more recently, “Stranger Things” have garnered fans all over social media who continue to promote these shows to new audiences. In fact, according to CNBC, “New Netflix original shows generated an average of 30 percent more mentions on Twitter when compared with new shows on network or cable television.” Therefore, Netflix’s ability to supply viewers with “viral” content gives them a significant advantage over other suppliers.
Moreover, streaming services allow consumers to effortlessly watch anything, anywhere, and anytime. A simple click, and you have access to dozens of shows without having to wait for the next episode to air. To one’s convenience, you can instead indulge in a season’s worth of episodes, something that our brains apparently find comforting. Netflix send Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist, into the homes of its users to discover why exactly they find binge watching so enthralling.
76 percent claimed that binging was like a refuge from the busy pace of their daily lives and found it comforting to be able to get lost in a television series. And the fact that they could watch entire seasons at a time made the experience more enjoyable as well. Likewise, Princeton University conducted experiments with frequent users of streaming services and found a scientific explanation for binge watching: we become attached to characters on a screen because of our ability as humans to recognize the feelings of others, an ability known as empathy.
Thus, in this age of technology, most people find themselves becoming a cross of a couch potato and a channel surfer, all for just a few dollars a month. There are certainly plenty of services available and even more options for what to actually watch. Nonetheless, we must be responsible with the amount of entertainment we devote our time to.