Screw You, Stupid Study: Binge-Watching TV Is Awesome For You
Today in Conclusions That Could Have Been Reached After A 10-Minute Phoner With Me As Opposed To An Exhaustive Study! A study from the University of Texas has found that people who struggle with loneliness and depression are more likely to binge-watch television than their peers because it provides an escape from their problems. Hello, my lifestyle. The researchers were driven to conclude that binge-watching is not the harmless activity we think, because in our misery, we’re more apt to just let the next episode play, as opposed to going about our days and being productive. “When binge-watching becomes rampant viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others,” said Yoon Hi Sung, one of the researchers. “Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously.”
I am an avid binge-watcher. It is my preferred method of TV viewership, as I like getting immersed in a story and then seeing it through to the very end. I’ve watched the vast majority of my favorite shows this way and have finished many in record time*. Not to brag, but I once watch 12 episodes of “Sons of Anarchy” in one day — by episode eight I had deleted my OKCupid account because it was clear I was in a committed long-term relaysh with Jax Teller and it was very serious. And guess what? I was less depressed that day than I was on the day I finished binge-watching and went out to meet some friends for dinner. SOOOOOOO put that in your pipe and smoke it, Sung.
I don’t disagree that depressive types like myself are likely to be binge-watchers; obviously, when you’re so sad you’re bed-ridden for an entire weekend, you’ve got to find ways to fill your time when you’re not scrolling through Instagram and crying about how perfect everyone else’s lives are. But causing my depression or making it worse? Please! Binge-watching TV often makes me feel better. If a show has important things to say about life and leadership — like, say, “Enlightened” or “Friday Night Lights” — I find myself feeling inspired to have a better attitude. If a show is full of violence and tragedy — like “The Wire” or “Sons of Anarchy” — I am momentarily heartsick, sure, but I’ve also gotten a bit of reality check, because at least my nickname isn’t “Dookie” and I haven’t just watched my best friend Opie get beaten to death in prison. And frankly, if the show in question is amazingly well-written, expertly acted and full of complex themes — like, say, “The Fall” — I actually think my brain benefits more from having watched it than it would spending the day wandering around Topshop and gossiping with a girlfriend. Also, I’ve got ADHD and always need to be multi-tasking, so it’s rare that I’m only binge-watching — I usually am working or weaving at the same time. The only time I have actually felt depressed after binge-watching a show is when the last episode has ended, the story I’ve become invested in has concluded, and I realize I have nothing left to watch. I feel the same way after I finish a really good book too, but no one blames reading for depression now do they?
Look, obviously if you’re regularly canceling plans and calling in “sick” to work because you just have to watch ONE MORE EPISODE of “Orange Is The New Black,” you’re taking it too far. And it should go without saying that if you’re binge-watching terrible TV shows — like “The Big Bang Theory,” or “Army Wives,” or more than five episodes in a row of any “Housewives” franchise — everything I’ve said in this post does not apply to you and you should find something else worth living for. But I say there is no harm whatsoever in settling in on the couch to spend a leisurely 12 hours with Kevin Spacey as he rules Washington with an iron fist and some killer side-eye, or Coach and Tami Taylor and their endless folksy pearls of wisdom, or Valerie Cherish and her relentless ambition and cheery fortitude. In fact, you might even feel better.
* I don’t actually know if I’ve broken any records.