Binge watching may hinder happiness


What is the best way to relax on a day off? For some it is getting brunch and going on a walk or spending time outdoors. Others love to spend a day shopping or with friends. There is another type of person, though, who loves to spend 15 hours with Netflix to relax.

Binge watching can be therapeutic for some people. Fifty percent of Americans admit to being “binge watchers.”

I am studying abroad in Italy this semester, and one of my fellow American students has spent almost every day in his bed watching Netflix. He has covered countless seasons of shows from Modern Family to Suits and only leaves to go to class.

It is easy to see the problem with binge-watching habits, especially for those of us who are supposed to be studying another culture. However, there is more bad news for anyone who binge watches Netflix. A recent study from the University of Texas at Austin revealed a correlation between binge watching Netflix and depression.

Of course, correlation does not mean causation. So binge watching Netflix may not cause depression, but there is a definite link between the two. Perhaps people prone to depression are more likely to binge watch.

The survey was done on 300 millennials and examined their Netflix habits. According to a summary of the survey in the Huffington Post, “Those who lacked self-regulatory skills reported being unable to stop clicking ‘next’ even though they knew there were other things they needed to do, indicating a lack of self-control. The data also showed that feelings of loneliness and depression were directly correlated with binge-watching.”

I admit to having nights when I am so tired that I want nothing more than to lie in bed and watch Gossip Girl. When I think about the times I have forced myself to go out with friends after a long day as opposed to watching Netflix, I have never regretted it. It may take more effort to motivate myself, especially since I sometimes dread leaving my apartment and socializing (introvert probs), but I always have fun in the end. I always am glad I went.

Staying in bed and catching up on a favorite show is not worth missing a walk under the stars, an ice cream date at Sonic or a sibling’s baseball game.

My parents always encouraged me to push myself in order to do what was healthy or the right thing for my mental and physical well being. Similarly, I would encourage college students to push against laziness or lack of self-control when it comes to Netflix. If you have had a long week, remember that it may be more therapeutic to go to the Burger Stand and have a beer with a friend than to watch Orange is the New Black.

Even if your idea of fun for that night is not to be with friends or do yoga, remember that just pushing past the initial desire to stay at home ultimately will make you happier.

Additionally, there is the glorification factor. Many people take pride in the massive number of episodes they can watch in one sitting. Bragging about binge watching is rampant. The researchers in the survey commented that “people who show signs of addictive behavior are those most likely to binge-watch, and are also the kind of people who use their addictions to make themselves feel better about their lives and/or relationships with others.”

There is no glory in addiction.

Obviously, this is the first study released on the topic and most studies deserve to be questioned or further researched. To me, though, none of the findings are that surprising. It makes sense that lying in bed all day to watch TV may not be the best thing for your mental or physical health.

In a country that has problems with mental illness and obesity, it may be time to stop the glorification of sitting down for a whole season of Grey’s Anatomy on a Friday night and start glorifying the things that truly matter. No matter your beliefs or upbringing, family, good food, exercise, self-love, hard work and achievement will always make you happier than Netflix.