Are you still looking? Real serial junkies know this question: The video streaming service Netflix is asking anyone who has watched several episodes of a series without a break and still has no facilities to finally switch them off. What drives people to binge-watching?
Again missed the jump, the way back to reality. For the third, fourth, fifth time, Netflix took the decision and dived into some fictional parallel world for another 45 minutes. The day was long, the head really needed rest, the lids are heavy, and yet you force one’s eyes to keep one’s eyes open to watch another episode, and another, and another.
“Binge Watching” – in reference to “Binge Drinking”, the English word for coma heaging – is a quite new phenomenon. TV series have been around for decades. (The first ones, by the way, include “Flipper” and “Lassie.”) However, you could only watch one episode per day or week. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and co. feature entire series – and for some reason, many people feel the irresistible urge to “search” them in one go. They sacrifice whole evenings, nights, weekends for this rather unproductive activity – and this is just one of the many parallels between soaks and serial watching.
ARE SERIES ADDICTIVE?
In fact, psychologists have been discussing for some time whether the binge-watching phenomenon is a real addiction. In their behavioral patterns, some serial junkies are already somewhat reminiscent of drug addicts: they neglect their duties and their social environment, they lose interest in other hobbies, they feel “unable to leave it” and feel guilty after consumption.
In 2013, a study made headlines that said excessive serial watching was actually comparable to addiction to hard drugs. On behalf of the television station Fox, the German company Neuromarketing Labs had shown confessed serial junkies excerpts from various series. Meanwhile, the researchers measured the participants’ breathing, pulse and skin resistance. It turned out that the on-screen events provoked physical reactions among viewers: their pulse and breathing accelerated and their skin produced more sweat.
SERIES AS A ESCAPE FROM REALITY
“Social surrogate hypothesis”, in German “social replacement hypothesis”, social psychologists call this idea. It has not yet been sufficiently substantiated. However, there are some studies that suggest that people are more likely to be drawn into a series marathon if they feel lonely and depressed. Some psychologists suspect that the sight of a familiar (albeit fictional) community can compensate for this sense of lack of social support.
Others are more likely to assume that “escapism” is behind it: those who feel depressed and lonely flee into a fictional world so as not to have to deal with their sadness, stress and problems.
SERIES ARE NOT IDEAL FOR STRESS RELIEF
Many people would probably agree with her from her own experience: After a nerve-wracking day at work, one sometimes wishes nothing more than to be beamed at the click of a mouse in a quaint New York pub or a crazy nerd flat. However, sitting around in front of the screen does not help to really relax. To relieve stress, the body and mind need above all movement – especially if you have already sat at your desk all day.
Moreover, the flight from reality also carries a risk, of course. Those who seek solace from their screen friends in lonely moments seal their social isolation, because they do not give other people the chance to come into contact with them at all. Those who constantly flee into a parallel world cannot solve their real problems.