In the past couple of years, the concept of “binge-watching” or binge-anything is something that many people have become widely familiar with, as instant entertainment has become integrated into our modern society. As I, and many others, can attest, binge-watching in particular is a distressingly easy habit to fall into. I consider myself to be a firm subscriber to the “treat yo’ self” mantra, and I’ve found that the reward system of treating yourself to a couple of episodes of your favorite series after being productive with schoolwork can be a great way to end the day. As temporarily rewarding as it may be, however, new research shows that locking yourself up in your college dorm and binge-watching that new Netflix series everyone won’t stop talking about might not be all that positive.
In a study conducted by the International Communication Association in January, researchers found that binge-watching — television in particular — is connected to depression and feelings of loneliness. The researchers observed that people who are lonelier and more depressed are more likely to spend time alone binge-watching, mainly as a way to dodge negative feelings.
Conversely, another study that appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research found that doing other activities alone (such as watching a movie) does not have as much of a harmful effect on personal health. In fact, a number of studies have shown that just spending time with yourself can actually combat stress and depression, in addition to helping you cultivate a greater sense of independence. Solitude can actually result in some really rewarding experiences, in addition to stimulating creativity and improving attention span.
As a college student who has plenty of experience with binge-watching and enjoying movies alone, I think the results from both studies are very helpful in understanding how important maintaining personal health is before and during young adulthood. Take the first study: the researchers are not arguing that everyone who decides to spend an entire weekend catching up on their favorite television shows is automatically isolated, depressed or both. Most people, especially college students, spend a couple hours watching shows simply as a way to wind down after a long day of classes. Sometimes it’s just nice to retreat to your dorm and check out a new show on Hulu, Netflix or the like and relax for a while. But the results, rather, have indicated that the real problem arises when spending time alone and doing nothing but watching television becomes an excessive habit.
Often, binge-watching can quickly turn into something negative when it becomes more of an unhealthy procrastination tool and a way to avoid responsibilities rather than just a simple pastime. So even if you weren’t stressed before you started watching television, you certainly can feel very anxious, isolated and depressed afterwards especially if it’s not done in moderation.
College is an excellent time for socializing with a lot of people and getting to know those who may become your best friends for life — but it is also a great time for spending quality time alone and getting to know yourself. There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone — and learning just how to be alone is incredibly important.
Throughout these past two years at college, I’ve come to learn that you don’t always need to have people around you to enjoy something. Sharing experiences with friends is wonderful, but it’s also wonderful to just take things in by yourself, whether it be a movie, works of art or sights in a new city.
Taking some time to enjoy things by yourself doesn’t necessarily make you antisocial, it just makes you more pro-you. But, similar to watching television shows or other forms of entertainment in moderation, science has shown that it’s just as important to learn how to spend time alone in moderation, as well. Both activities only run the risk of becoming harmful if you allow them to become harmful. So binge-watch away, but also remember to take time out to treat yourself to you.