The second season of Stranger Things debuted last weekend, and once again, Netflix subscribers all over the world had another season and reason to “get their binge on.” Netflix was the first streaming platform to introduce this epic television watching experience, and to say it’s been met with positive feedback from their subscribers would be a major understatement.
The subtle art of binge watching a television show was arguably started when Lost was first released on DVD… well, for me at least. The idea that you could watch your favorite television shows in binge format rather than having to wait a week for each new episode was a scary concept for television networks, but not for their viewers. It’s the television experience television junkies had been waiting for their whole lives. With binge watching becoming the most popular television viewing trend, it begs the question… is it bad for you… like, really?
We interviewed with Dr. Judy Rosenberg, a Los Angeles based psychologist regarding this extremely important psychological matter, and this is what she had to say. Probably while she was in the midst of a Stranger Things: Season 2 marathon.
Dr. Judy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles based psychologist and is CEO of: PsychologicalHealingCenter.com
When we binge watch our favorite shows on Netflix we light up certain centers of the brain related to the emotions activated by the show–pleasure, pain,fear, etc. The amygdala, the primitive emotional part of the brain gets hijacked when overactive. Think of love addiction for example. Addiction, even addiction to watching shows activate dopamine production–the pleasure drug, and the viewer will be coming back for more!
There have been studies that show viewers who binge watch a series feel upset when they finish the show — what are some possible reasons for feeling this way?
The Name is Bond… Character Bond
Viewers identify with characters and bond to those characters. Over time it’s as if that character becomes a part of them. When they finish the show, or when the show ends, especially permanently, they may actually grieve those characters and the emotions evoked by the theme of the show. We often play out our emotions through other people and fantasy characters are a great way to feel our feelings without getting our hands dirty with real relationships. The amount of control we have over the TV is WAY more than the amount of control we have over other human beings, so there is safety in this way of fantasy relating.
We’ve been told forever that watching too much TV isn’t good for us — is this true and if so, why is that? How has the popularity of binge watching a TV series contributed to this issue?
Netflix vs. Humans
When we substitute TV for human relations we disconnect from our human nature and substitute for virtual. We are wired to connect and when we disconnect from humans and over-connect to TV at the costof human connection, we may feel well fed emotionally but eventually we will starve to death. TV is not a great substitute for relationships, and although it might fill our hole in the soul–for those who are emotionally starving temporarily, it will never fulfill us.
How often is too often to be binge watching?
If binge watching is turning into an addiction and you can’t stop it and control it, if it is interfering with your work, your human relationships, your sleep, your exercise, your hobbies, etc, it is time to stop and perhaps even go through withdrawal. Instant gratification is difficult to pull away from. Real relationships and the work of life is more difficult and still, at the end of the day more enriching, growth producing, and connecting.
When TV Marathons Become an Addiction
What are some signs that binge watching is becoming detrimental to your mental health and well being?
Sleeplessness, appetite changes–eating too much while you are hypnotized by the show, substituting the TV for significant relationships, cancelling plans that connect you with people in order to watch your show, and a general feeling of feeling full on the show,yet empty and hollow inside.
Are there any positive effects of binge watching a show?
Entertainment is always fun, and talking about the show with a significant other can be a point of connection, but again, not at the cost of relationship and life itself.
Can binge watching become addictive? If so, how?
Yes. Addiction means lack of control, a take over of your life at the expense of important areas of life mentioned above.
Are people with addictive personalities any more or less likely to engage in binge watching? Are there any other factors thatmake a person more or less likely to binge watch?
Loneliness, lack of goals and a fulfilling life,a sense of having a feeling of emptiness inside which I refer to as a hole in the soul.
What are some guidelines for binge watching in away that’s healthy?
Limit the time, make sure that other life events are engaged in, watch with friends and other significant people so you can Share and Discuss.
What happens in our brains when we come to the end of a show we’ve been binge watching? Would love to hear more about the mental and emotional process of having a show end that you’ve spent so much time with.
Possible plunge in energy and emotion. Like a drug, it takes you up, and then lets you down. Then, just like a drug, we want more, and more and more….
Everything affects us emotionally and energetically. If a client has addictive behavior Binge watching is not beneficial. But for most people it depends on the nature of the show. Dark shows can cause clients to become anxious, etc. When it comes to this particular show, I have to admit that I watched it over 2-3 days and LOVED IT! It is a classic light and love prevails over darkness type of show and I believe binge watching this show will not have a negative impact on most people. The messages of love, triumph of good or evil, are universal and speak to our souls and psyches at the deepest core level.
As with anything, moderation is usually the key, but it is so specific to each client. Some people who never allow themselves to take time for themselves need to choose to binge occasionally on a TV show etc. Others who have a tendency to procrastinate and escape too much would be encouraged to not get caught up binge watching this or other shows.
Once again, regarding this show, I believe that it exceptionally well done, clever, and entertaining and the relationships have a depth and honesty that are healthy and engaging.