Binge watching: a tool to escape or connect?

Students explain why they spend hours watching shows and movies on streaming services.


With the rise of streaming platforms, binge-watching has become a common experience for college students. 

Sixty percent of adults who watch shows on demand said they binge-watch television, which is defined as watching two or more consecutive episodes of a show, at least once a week. Fifteen percent reported they binge-watch each day, according to a 2018 poll by the Morning Consult and Hollywood Reporter. 

Kyra Heyl, a sophomore public health major, started binge-watching TV in her senior year of high school and the habit picked up again in college. She gets excited when finding peers who enjoy watching the show New Girl, a sitcom streaming on Netflix starring actress Zooey Deschanel.

“I wanted to watch all the shows that other people were recommending so I could … have something to talk about with other people as an icebreaker to conversation,” Heyl said. 

Spending time alone binge-watching is more enjoyable when absorbed in a show because you want to find out what happens in the next episode, Heyl added. 

“You kind of lose your desire to be around other people because you can easily fall in love and get attached to characters and that’s all you want to do rather than take little breaks,” she added. 

Netflix claimed to have 40 million accounts in a 2019 letter to its shareholders. The streaming service has an auto-play function, which automatically takes viewers from episode to episode, enabled by default.

Shreya Gowda, a freshman biology major, said believes it is the responsibility of the user to practice self-control and moderate how much they are watching. 

“Having easy access to streaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Gowda said. “It’s helpful on bad days because it’s a very easy escape.”

Gowda binge-watched shows frequently in high school, once watching 10 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in three weeks. Now, she limits herself as the demand of college life does not give her as much free time.

There are links between binge-watching and increased anxiety and depression, mostly due to the excess of screen time and the isolation that comes along with spending hours watching a show alone, according to a 2015 study by the American Public Health Association. 

Gowda said she often finds herself binge-watching when she is stressed and procrastinating from doing school assignments, and the more stressed she is the more likely she will continue watching. 

“When you binge a show you get consumed by it so therefore even if you understand you have other priorities, you give in to your wants more than your needs,” Gowda said. “It’s a really easy way to engross yourself in something that’s not your daily life, especially if that daily life is giving you stress or if you just don’t want to deal with something.”

Avid binge-watchers reported poor sleep quality, increased fatigue and more insomnia symptoms, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Freshman biology major Aasha Subramanian said she knows her binge habits can have negative effects, but she still engages in the behavior at times.

“It’s much more addictive and it takes more time out of my day for sure which is not healthy at all, but I wouldn’t give it up,” Subramanian said. 

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