Everyone has binge-watched a TV show. Only a few weeks ago, I watched the Netflix show the Queen’s Gambit in only 3 days. However, is binge-watching actually bad for you? In this episode, of thinking in English, we will look at what binge-watching is and then think about the benefits and consequences of doing it! Hopefully, by the end of the episode you will be able to express your own opinion on the topic.

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Sitting (n) – a limited period of time during which you sit and do a particular activity

I read that book in one sitting

Cliffhanger (n) – a story or a situation that is exciting because its ending or result is uncertain until it happens

Many of Hitchcock’s films are real cliffhangers

To indulge (v) – to allow yourself or another person to have something enjoyable, especially more than is good for you

I love champagne but i don’t often indulge myself

To admit (v) – to agree that something is true, especially unwillingly

She admitted making a mistake

Perspective (n) – a particular way of considering something

Her attitude lends a fresh perspective to the subject

Beneficial (adj) – helpful, useful, or good

A stay in the countryside will be beneficial to his health

Excessive (adj) – too much

Excessive exercise can sometimes cause health problems 

Insomnia (n) – the condition of being unable to sleep, over a period of time

She suffered from insomnia caused by stress at work

Fulfilling (adj) – making you feel happy and satisfied

Nursing is hard work, but it can be very fulfilling

On today’s episode of Thinking in English, I want to introduce another debate over a controversial issue. If you go back through some earlier episodes, I have made similar style episodes on assisted suicide and free university education. Definitely check them out if you haven’t already! By highlighting a topic, asking you a question, and introducing two different perspectives, my aim is to make you think and form an opinion. Instead of just listening to this podcast, I want you to consider everything I say and the arguments I make, and then decide for yourself how to answer the question. Instead of just listening to English, I want you to try and use English and think in English. So… what is the question for today’s episode? While past episodes have been quite serious,  this time i decided it will be a little less serious! Is binge-watching bad for you?

Before I present you with the arguments, let me first offer some background information! What is binge-watching? Binge-watching is when you watch multiple episodes of a show in one sitting. Traditionally, TV shows would release their episodes gradually and the audience would need to wait days or weeks between each episode! I remember watching an exciting TV show on a Sunday night which ended on a cliffhanger. It was so frustrating having to wait a whole week before I could watch the next! The internet and streaming services have completely changed the way we watch TV and movies! Binge-watching shows gained popularity around the year 2012, and especially after Netflix’s 2013 decision to release all 13-episodes in the first season of House of Cards at one time, instead of posting an episode per week. Although binge-watching is a relatively new concept, the verb ‘to binge’ has been around for much longer. ‘To binge’ means to indulge in an activity to excess, especially eating, drinking, or taking drugs. Binge-eating and binge-drinking are also common terms.

I’ve talked before on this podcast about dictionaries’ words of the year. Well, in 2015,  “binge-watch” was declared the word of the year by Collins English Dictionary, which said use of the term had increased 200% in the previous year. In fact, 73% of Americans admit to binge-watching, with the average binge lasting three hours and eight minutes. The coronavirus pandemic has also led to a surge in binge watching around the world as more people are spending more time at home! Despite this, is binge-watching bad for you? Does it have any impact on your medical or physical health? The rest of this episode will present different perspectives on binge watching!

On the one hand, some people argue that binge-watching can help you make beneficial social connections. Bingeing can create a community around shows. Think about how popular Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or Tiger King have been in recent years. Millions of people watched the same show incredibly quickly, and social media was full of references to such shows. This allows you to discuss and enjoy the show with large numbers of people, and can make it easier to relate to other people. Romantic relationships can also be strengthened by binge-watching together because it serves as a fun activity that creates a shared interest and offers an easy way to spend time together.

On the other hand, it has been suggested that binge-watching could lead to mental health issues. For instance, A University of Texas study found that binge watchers were more likely to be depressed, lonely, and have less self-control. For some people, excessive TV watching is associated with regret, guilt, and feelings of failure because of a sense of wasted time. I’m sure you have experienced something like this before. Once you get really involved in a TV show, and watch for long periods of time, you can feel strange when you finally finish the show. I watched the Queen’s Gambit on Netflix last month, and after finishing it I felt slightly depressed, anxious, and empty!

In addition, binge-watching can cause serious physical health problems. Sitting down for long periods of time can lead to a number of health conditions including heart disease and blood clots! This has been known for many years – people who work in offices are advised to get up and walk around every hour or two! People often eat junk food and drink sugary drinks while binge-watching a show. I know I do! Watching a TV show while eating potato chips is great, but unhealthy!  Furthermore, one study found that binge-watching was related to poorer sleep quality, more fatigue, and insomnia.

Despite this, there are actually some health benefits that come from binge-watching. Most notably, stress relief! According to psychiatrists, binge-watching releases a chemical in the brain, which creates a feeling of pleasure and can help people to relax and relieve stress. There are lots of stressful things in our lives – work, money, family, politics. Binge-watching can stop you from thinking about these issues and allow you to relax!

So we’ve looked at the health pros and cons of binge-watching. However, does binge-watching a show make it more fulfilling? Some people say ‘yes’ – it does make shows more fulfilling! While binge-watching, the viewer can feel the pleasure of full immersion, which is a great feeling similar to staying up all night to finish a book or project. Watching several episodes at once tends to make the story easier to follow and more enjoyable than a single episode. Shows that have multiple different storylines, complex relationships, and interesting characters are much easier to understand if you binge-watch the episodes. If you have to wait a week until the next episode… maybe you would forget some of the smaller details!

In contrast, a study found that people who watched multiple episodes of a show in one sitting reported “significantly less show enjoyment” than people who watched one episode at a time. Perhaps this is because waiting for the next episode builds excitement. Sherlock, a famous British TV show, ended one of its series on a major cliffhanger. It was so shocking that everyone was talking about the episode and trying to solve the puzzles. My friends, my teachers at school, newspapers, and even the news were talking about it for weeks. People who binge-watch the show missed out on that experience – they only had to wait 30 seconds to find out what happened. 

Final Thought

On today’s episode, we have looked at the concept of  binge-watching. More specifically, is binge watching good for you? Or bad for you? On the one hand, some people argue that binge-watching is negative because it has physical and mental health consequences and can make TV shows less fulfilling. On the other hand, others argue that bingeing can help you make relationships, relieve stress, and enjoy shows more. What do you think? What is your opinion on binge-watching? Do you prefer watching several episodes of a new show at one time or one episode per week? What other pros and cons for binge-watching can you list? Which side do you find more convincing?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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