Binge-Watching – Top 3 Pros and Cons
Pro/Con Arguments | Discussion Questions | Take Action | Sources | More Debates
The first usage of the term “binge-watch” dates back to 2003, but the concept of watching multiple episodes of a show in one sitting gained popularity around 2012. 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, marked a new era of binge-watching streaming content. 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 prior year.   
73% of Americans admit to binge-watching, with the average binge lasting three hours and eight minutes. 90% of millennials and 87% of Gen Z stated they binge-watch, and 40% of those age groups binge-watch an average of six episodes of television in one sitting.  
The coronavirus pandemic led to a sharp increase in binge-viewing: HBO, for example, saw a 65% jump in subscribers watching three or more episodes at once starting on Mar. 14, 2020, around the time when many states implemented stay-at-home measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. 
A 2021 Sykes survey found 38% of respondents streamed three or more hours of content on weekdays, and 48% did so on weekends. However, a Nielsen study found adults watched four or more hours of live and streaming TV a day, indicating individuals may be underestimating their TV consumption. 
Is Binge-Watching Good for You?
Binge-watching establishes beneficial social connections.
The act of bingeing content fosters a sense of community around a show, something experts call a “shared cultural space.” This common ground allows viewers to discuss and enjoy the show with everyone from a coworker to the stranger in line at the grocery store. This shared space makes it easier to relate to other people and share personal perspectives.   
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. Licensed professional counselorHeidi McBain said that “if both people are partaking without distractions, laughing together, holding hands… quality time is being fostered.” 
A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that binge-watching can help long-distance relationships by replacing shared activities such as going to dinner together and having mutual friends. Read More
Binge-watching has health benefits like stress relief.
According to psychiatrists, binge-watching releases dopamine in the brain, which creates a feeling of pleasure and can help people to relax and relieve stress.  Psychologists say that finishing a series can give viewers feelings of control and power, which can be beneficial if viewers are not feeling that in their daily lives. 
John Mayer, PhD, clinical psychologist, stated, “We are all bombarded with stress from everyday living… It is hard to shut our minds down and tune out the stress and pressures. A binge can work like a steel door that blocks our brains from thinking about those constant stressors that force themselves into our thoughts.” 
With the rise of at-home workouts, binge-watching can be paired with exercise. Adding a favorite show to an exercise routine can make the time pass more quickly, add motivation, and increase compliance with an exercise routine. Jan Van den Bulck, Professor of Communication and Media at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, stated, “Two years ago, I bought a good indoor rower and told myself I am allowed to watch whatever I want when I am on that machine, and it has helped me to row every day for 45 minutes with no feelings of guilt and no boredom. The cliffhangers work to my advantage: it makes me want to row more the next day.” Read More
Binge-watching makes a show more fulfilling.
While binge-watching, the viewer can feel the pleasure of full immersion (aka “the zone”), which is a great feeling similar to staying up all night to finish a book or project.  Shows made for binge-watching, such as Orange Is the New Black and Stranger Things, are often more sophisticated and have multiple intricate storylines, complex relationships, and multi-dimensional characters.   
Watching several episodes at once tends to make the story easier to follow and more enjoyable than a single episode.  That’s a big reason why the show You went unnoticed while airing on Lifetime but became a sensation once available to binge on Netflix. Read More
Binge-watching leads to mental health issues.
A University of Texas study found that binge-watchers were more likely to be depressed, lonely, and have less self-control.  One of the study’s authors, Yoon Hi Sung, PhD, stated: “When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others.” 
Binge-watching can lead to addiction. Dr. Renee Carr, a clinical psychologist, said, “The neuronal pathways that cause heroin and sex addictions are the same as an addiction to binge watching. Your body does not discriminate against pleasure. It can become addicted to any activity or substances that consistently produces dopamine.” 
A study found that rather than relieving stress, excessive TV watching is associated with regret, guilt, and feelings of failure because of a sense of wasted time.  When that binge-watching session is over, the viewer may be more likely to “mourn” the loss of the show by experiencing depression, anxiety, and feelings of emptiness.  
Maricarmen Vizcaino, a Research Scholar in the College of Health Solutions at the University of Arizona, stated, “you would assume that people will feel happier because they’re watching their show, or they’re [watching] some entertainment, but that’s not the case — people are more stressed out, if they’re binge-watching.”  Read More
Binge-watching can cause serious physical health problems.
Sitting for extended periods of time has long been linked to slow metabolism, heart disease, cancer, blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis.   Binge-watchers are prone to sit on the couch eating unhealthy food and snacking more, which is linked to weight gain.  
One study found that binge-watching was related to poorer sleep quality, more fatigue, and insomnia, because of pre-sleep arousal.  Researchers have also found that watching three or more hours of TV a day is associated with premature death. 
Another study concluded, “Heavy users reported the least healthful dietary patterns and the poorest health-related characteristics… Binge-watching was also significantly associated with less healthy dietary patterns, including frequency of fast-food consumption as well as eating family meals in front of a television, and perceived stress.”  Read More
Binge-watching makes the show less fulfilling.
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.  Damon Lindelof, the co-creator of popular shows such as Lost, stated, “This idea of anticipation. That Christmas morning feeling… doesn’t exist in binge culture.” 
The popularity of bingeing shows makes social media a minefield of spoilers for people who haven’t had time to finish a new season, and a lack of agreement over when the spoiler embargo should be lifted causes rifts among shows’ fanbases. Read More
- Do you prefer watching several episodes of a new show at one time or one episode per week? How does your viewing experience change when binge-watching?
- What other pros and cons for binge-watching can you list? Which side do you find more convincing and why?
- What reasons can you think of to explain why some streaming services like Netflix drop a full season at once? What reasons might a service such as Disney+ have for posting just one episode per week?
1. Contemplate Talib Babb’s comedic take on “Why Binge-Watching Is Good for You.”
2. Investigate your own binge-watching with the “Quarantine Binge Watching Calculator.”
3. Consider Jake Pitre’s critical theory of binge-watching.
4. Consider how you felt about the issue before reading this article. After reading the pros and cons on this topic, has your thinking changed? If so, how? List two to three ways. If your thoughts have not changed, list two to three ways your better understanding of the “other side of the issue” now helps you better argue your position.
5. Push for the position and policies you support by writing US national senators and representatives.
Should Fighting Be Allowed in Hockey? – Proponents say fighting makes sport safer by holding players accountable. Opponents say fighting leads to concussions, and death.
Is Pokémon Go Good for Society? – Proponents say Pokémon Go players reap mental and physical health benefits. Opponents say the game leads to injuries.
Should Parents or Other Adults Be Able to Ban Books from Schools and Libraries? – Proponents say parents have the right to choose what kids read. Opponents say that right doesn’t extend to everyone’s children.