Picture the scene: sofa, laptop, snacks. Netflix has been streaming your favourite show non-stop for a couple of hours now. You’re fully immersed in the plot-line when, all of a sudden, the screen freezes and up pops this message:
‘Are you still watching?’
Yes, Netflix, I know I’ve watched six consecutive 40-minute episodes. Yes, Netflix, I probably should be engaging in meaningful interaction with other humans. Yes, Netflix, I am still in my pyjamas at 3pm. No, Netflix, I haven’t been outside yet today. But yes, Netflix, I am still watching. Please stop questioning my life choices and let me continue immersing myself in a world other than my own.
The first time this happened to me, my housemate and I were actively avoiding essay writing. Other times, I’ve been dodging chores, evading sleep, or just completely hooked on a really good bit of drama.
Based on statistics, though, I’m not alone. In fact, 61% of TV streamers regularly engage in binge-watching, which is viewing 2-6 episodes of the same show in one sitting.
Binge-watching is a relatively new phenomenon, but one which is becoming ever more acceptable. And considering the perceived state of the world today, it’s pretty understandable. Because binge-watching is often about avoidance, isn’t it? TV is immersive, taking us out of our reality and into a new one where we have no responsibilities. We can watch the drama unfold in other people’s fictional lives whilst conveniently forgetting about our own stresses and strains.
It makes sense. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. Escapism is fine for a short time, and bonding with colleagues over the latest Netflix original series is great, but binging on TV isn’t the healthiest way to live. Avoiding your problems by ignoring the world around you doesn’t solve anything.
With all that’s going on at the moment, it’s easy to want to build a blanket fort, grab some snacks, and turn on your favourite series for some marathon viewing. Despair seems everywhere, and TV can often feel like the best and easiest escape route. But as Christians, we’re called to be lovingly present in the world. We’re called to model good disagreement, not active avoidance.
So, am I still watching? Yes, probably. But hopefully a little less often, for shorter lengths of time, and with a growing awareness of my tendency to evade responsibility. But I’ll still enjoy the latest season of The Good Wife, of course.
Nell is Culture Projects Leader at LICC.