Netflix Binge Disease is a real thing, and anyone who has looked at the clock at 4 in the morning with zombie eyes after hours upon hours of watching shows, will know what I am talking about. Even as I write this, I am anticipating the next episodes of the show I recently started. Needless to say, Netflix is an obsession, and some might even call it an addiction. There is something so satisfying about clicking “next episode” that we have become slaves to the bright screen and compelling storylines. But where does it end? At what point do we look at ourselves and realize that we have a problem?
According to the company timeline on its website, since they introduced their streaming service in 2007, Netflix has gained significant momentum and now boasts 50 million members globally, and has inspired many other streaming services. For a company that has grown so much and now includes original series that have collectively been nominated for more than thirty Emmy Awards, they truly seem to be on the cusp of world domination.
But what is it about Netflix that makes us convince ourselves that sleep is trivial when there are still episodes left to watch? One of the largest culprits of the Netflix obsession is the lack of commercials. Television has gone through a major shift in the last decade. As people living in a fast-paced and highly technological world, we no longer have the patience for commercials because we have become accustomed to getting what we want right now and not having to wait for it. For a while, in fact, it looked like television was in trouble because people no longer watched commercials and networks could no longer make the same amount of millions for each night of television programming. Recording shows became an option, but even still, having to fast forward through commercials is a waste of time for the “I want it now” attitudes that plague the modern world. Networks now offer their shows On Demand with most cable plans, but even then, at least 5 minutes of commercials are required watching for all new episodes. You will never find a commercial on Netflix, and people like that.
Another plausible reason for this intense obsession with Netflix is the escapism offered. In fact, escapism is a large part of why people watch television or movies in general. Life is hard, but for many it is a lot more bearable if they are able to get lost in another world or story that is completely different from their own. We thrive on these stories; we laugh and cry and treat the characters like our best friends. Call it the magic of storytelling or call it obsessive; either way, it offers a level of comfort and peace because for a short time, we don’t have to think about anything. We do not have to be reminded of our internal or external struggles because all of our attention is devoted to people on a tiny screen fighting dragons or whichever storyline is running that week. There is definitely something to be said about the transformative power of storytelling, and in this case, storytelling comes in the form of 41-minute episodes and enough drama to keep us coming back for more.
In theory, there is nothing wrong with using Netflix as a preferred method of entertainment, especially if you possess enough self-control to resist the pull of the subsequent show. If it is the weekend, and you have no work or appointments, go for it; this is the perfect time for a Netflix binge-a-thon. If you have the super-human ability to stop yourself after one episode and go to bed on time, awesome! Because really, Netflix is a great vehicle for watching television and movies. However, for those of us who cannot resist the “next episode” countdown, and end up sacrificing our sleep and sanity because of it, Netflix is a beautiful siren of the deep, luring us to our couches and the point of no return.
For those people, I am here to tell you that there is still hope. There are ways to combat the disease that is the Netflix Binge and become fully-functioning members of society, able to spend a day away from the couch without suffering from separation anxiety. We will beat this. Self-control is habitual and the more you practice, the better you become.
The following are some tips to balance the love of Netflix with the necessary sanity that is often lacking when one enters into an unhealthy binge-a-thon:
Make sleep a priority
Studies have shown that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. According to researchers at Harvard University’s Division of Sleep Medicine, a lack of sleep can cause impaired judgment, less productivity, mood swings, and can also negatively affect long-term health. If you have trouble getting to sleep, try turning off electronic devices, darkening the room, and avoiding caffeine after 3 o’clock in the afternoon. If sleep is thrown to the wayside, there is much more at stake than a few extra days to finish marathoning The Office.
Plan out your Netflix allowance ahead of time and stick to it
There are so many different methods of time and personal management, and everyone has something that works specifically for them. For me, it’s to-do lists and having certain spaces designated for certain activities (my bed is only for sleeping and watching television, not eating or working). Set out an hour or two a night or week (or whatever you wish for your own parameters) for your Netflix enjoyment, and reward yourself for sticking to it!
Draw out your shows and savor the storyline
Remember the good ol’ days, when we were forced to wait an entire week in between episodes to find out what happens in a television show, and made sure to do so because there was no option of recording? That kind of anticipatory excitement is something that is quite lacking from today’s technology because we have access to so many things and all at once. Though Netflix gives us full seasons of shows, you can recreate the excitement of waiting a full week by actually waiting a full week, and in doing so, let the story draw out, so you can enjoy it for months instead of cramming the whole show into only one week.
Don’t take it too seriously
Okay, at the end of the day, it is just television. It is not going to ruin your day or even significantly affect your life. Netflix provides a relaxing escape from the hum and drum of your day-to-day and however you choose to enjoy it, that’s great!
So enjoy your Netflix, keep your health in mind, and look to a future where the balance between technology, entertainment, and health is one more easily solved. In the midst of a modern society that revels in the here and now, take the time to appreciate the little moments of enjoyment, whether they come from spending a cozy weekend in while marathoning your favorite television show, or something else that feeds your soul.