IS BINGE_WATCHING ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE PASTIMES?
I am concerned that one of our favorite and most popular pastimes, Binge Watching, is a sleeper addiction that creeps up on us. And I worry that, like all screen time addictions, which includes our phones, are growing, getting more invasive in our lives, and is becoming irreversible for some. Once upon a time we referred to this a TV watching.
Think about it. binge-watching is a welcome distraction that helps us unwind and get a break from our daily routines. Our favorite shows creates conversation and engages us. They keeps us company when we need it the most.
But binge-watching our favorite shows can also diverts our attention, absorbs our time and interferes with our creativity. It can become an addiction and prevent us from appreciating our youthful zest for living life to its fullest and stifle our natural curiosity about ourselves, others, and the world.
There are many definitions of 'addiction.' The National Institute of Health (NIH) classifies screen time addiction as a technology addiction and may function similarly to gambling and substance abuse disorders. (3) (4)
Professor Steven Sussman, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Psychology in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, defines addiction and its role in TV watching in his article Hidden Addiction: Television.
Professor Sussman's research indicates that while TV addiction as a "stand-alone" phenomenon still needs investigation, there is a phenomenon of television addiction, at least for some people.
I recently spoke with Professor Sussman about this screen time addiction. He helped me understand this possible addiction better. Please listen to our conversation.
But there are two sides to every story, there are some very positive sides to our obsession with screen time (14). The University of California says can be a form of Escapism and a healthy diversion from our daily stress, "we can feel rejuvenated and ready to deal with whatever is happening in our real lives." (10). TV is educational, informative, entertaining, social.
And The New Yorker outlines my favorite and essential positive aspects to binge-watching:
· You will avoid sunburn.
· You will always be near a bathroom;
· you won't lose your wallet,
· you won't run into your ex, and:
· you won't get run over by a car.
But on the other side of that story, statistics about TV addiction are staggering, assessing that it is a technology addiction similar to our phones and is negatively impacting our mental health. (5) According to 2019 research from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend, on average, a little more than half of their leisure time watching TV (9). According to the NIH, 'the more often individuals engage in the stigmatized yet all too familiar practice of binge-watching, made popular by instant streaming sites like Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and Paramount+, the more likely they are to indicate problems resulting from this behavior.
While Binge-watching inherently may have nothing to do with a TV addiction if kept in perspective (11), it is a reliable predictor for the prevalence of problematic use' (12).
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings once said Netflix's number one competitor is sleep, "And Netflix is winning." (2). According to a Deloitte survey, 73% of Americans binge-watch TV: Millennial Binge Watchers average six episodes and five hours per viewing.
I know that many of my readers do not have a TV addiction. Of course, they are correct; they don't. TV has a place as a welcome distraction that helps you unwind from your otherwise busy days. But, be alert to your watching patterns, ask yourself, at the end of the evening, do I feel better about life and myself? It is a simple question with a simple answer, yes or no. Depending on how honest you are with yourself, you can consume TV, like you might consume a chocolate chip cookie, for its joy, but not so much that it causes you harm.
And just as eating too many chocolate chip cookies may be a predictor of diabetes or obesity, technology addictions such as TV can prevent us from keeping youthful zest, curiosity, and creativity as integral and accessible parts of our lives. These traits are critical pieces of a long, healthy, and happy life, but they are not a given. They need to be nurtured and practiced. No addiction should be allowed to steal our authentic selves away from ourselves and our friends' appreciation and awareness of who we are and what we have to contribute.
Television addiction is nothing new. It has been studied for almost 80 years and predates current opioid and phone technology addictions. Below are some timeline statistics that might help put this TV addiction in perspective. This timeline indicates that we are exposed to it early on, as we are to our phone addiction. And like all addictions, we can treat the symptoms or address a cure.
SO HOW DO WE TREAT THE SYMPTOMS OF A POSSIBLE TV ADDICTION?
In 2020 Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, Ph.D. trained in Psychology, Biofeedback, Neurofeedback, and Addiction, in her article 'Feel Addicted to TV, Here Is What To Look For.' identifies some of the indicators of a TV addiction and outlines her strategy to rein in your viewing. Here are some of her suggestions:(9)
· Keep track of how much you watch
· Explore the reasons for watching TV
· Create a specific limit on TV time
· Distract yourself
· Connect with others
· Know when to see a Dr.
It is one thing to treat the symptom:
HOW DO WE FIND A CURE
How can we conquer our TV or any harmful addiction and make sure TV has a good place in our long, happy, healthy life? We can start by making youthful zest, curiosity, and creativity integral and accessible parts of our daily lives.
But like any new behavior, it takes time. According to a European Journal of Social Psychology study, it can take between 18 and 254 days to change a given behavior and make a new behav). That is a significant variation. So the sooner you start, the better.
Let's start by activating our curiosity and creativity. For the next eight weeks, once per week, be curious about something new. And create a solution to address that curiosity. Since we are talking about averting a TV addiction, using your phone reminder or calendar app., schedule this little exercise on a day and at a time when you would usually be watching TV. Let us call it our 'time to be curious and creative'.
And I would like you to increase the time you put into this exercise every other week. Start at 10 minutes and get up to 30 minutes.
Here are a couple of examples of what you might want to do during this 'time to be curious and creative'.
Have you ever wanted to play an instrument? Maybe one that is sitting in a closet. Dust it off, pick it up during your 'time to be curious and creative'. Learn to close your eyes and play a cord? Maybe get a harmonica and start small.
Have you been out of touch with a good friend? Over this eight week period, write a little story about some fun things in your life and send it off to that friend. Your friend will be so happy to hear from you, as you will be.
Do you like to cook (or dabble in cooking)? Grab a squash or something else you have never tried before the next time you are at the grocery store. During your scheduled 'curiosity to promote creativity' time, create something new with what you bought. The New York Times cookbook, No-Recipe, Recipes might give you some inspiration.
What are your thoughts on this favorite endless pastime, binge-watching? And what will you do with this "time to be curious and creative" over the next eight weeks? Please share those thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
I look forward to working together to create positive changes in our addicted lives and make sure youthful zest, curiosity, and creativity are integral and accessible parts of our daily lives.
TELEVISION ADDICTION, A TIMELINE
Widespread television viewing began in 1936 in Great Britain, and in 1947/8 in the United States. (6)
In 1990, the New York Times published one of the initial articles claiming 'watching television has many marks of a dependency like alcoholism or other addictions. (7)
In 2013 the NIH found that Television watching was the most popular recreational pastime in the US (4), and the same year, Netflix declared that Binge watching is the new normal, with 61% of their viewers binge-watched regularly. (8)
According to 2019 research from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend, on average, a little more than half of their leisure time watching TV, an increase of almost 14% between 2015 and 2019.
(1) George Winslow One in three Americans say they have a screen addiction, TV Tech, August 25, 2021
(2) Staff writers, Media use by Tweens and teens 2019, Common Sense Media, 2019 statistics,
(3). Steve Sussman , Hidden Addiction, Television, Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Sept 2013,
(3a). Isaak Stotts, LP, Technology addictions, signs, risks and treatment options, Addiction Resources, November 2021,
(4) Steve Sussman , Hidden Addiction, Television, Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Sept 2013, Introduction, first paragraph
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4114517/ Introduction, first paragraph
(5) George Winslow One in three Americans say they have a screen addiction, TV Tech, August 25, 2021
(6) Steve Sussman , Hidden Addiction, Television, Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Sept 2013, Introduction, third paragraph
(7) Daniel Goleman, How Viewers Get addicted to TV, New York Times, October 1990,
(8) Staff writers, Netflix INC, Netflix Declares Binge Watching is the New Norm, December 2013,
(9). Crystal Raypole, Feel addicted to TV, here is what to look for, Healthline, January 2020,
(11) Jim Medina, UC Santa Barbara, Why binge-watching may actually be good for you,
University of California, May 30, 2017
(12) Alexander Ort,a,⁎ Etall, Is Binge Watching Addictive, NIH, December 2020,
(13) By Rina Raphael, Netflix CEO Rod Hastings, Sleep is our competition, Fast Company, November 2017,
(14) Mitro Mitrovski , Positive and Negative effects of television on society - 2022 guide, Vermont Republic February 8, 2021