Over long breaks, we are all faced with this dilemma: to binge or not to binge? That’s binge watching TV series, of course. Why not? It’s summer, go crazy! It’s as addictive as crack but with no side-effects! Vive la liberté, égalité, fraternité et binge watching! There are no rules and no limits; why not watch a series or 10? With the entire series three of Orange is the New Black released on Netflix in one go, go forth and watch the whole thing in a single sitting! It’s all just the tap of a finger away!
And so the hours melt into each other as the fibres of your jeans slowly fuse to your chair, dirty dishes fester in a pile closely resembling the leaning tower of Pisa and your IQ rapidly plummets, whilst your student debt and electricity bill rise exponentially. Whether the sun at your window is rising or setting soon becomes of little consequence because, in your bubble of entertainment, your body clock has attuned itself to periods of better internet connection and has decided to construct artificial days and nights that way.
But what happens to those who are brutally torn from their TV marathon trance for a social call, or a looming essay deadline without being weaned off it by a professional? Will abandoning your Netflix account result in disastrous side-effects? Is there a risk that you will go cold turkey? And have rhetorical questions become cool again? These are just some of the questions that may or may not be answered if you decide to continue reading these ramblings.
So you’ve finished an intense Netflix binge and have been spat out the other side of the screen, breathless, pumped with adrenaline, craving another hit. But now you’re having a crisis as you realise all you have are the blandest Bruce Willis films and David Attenborough documentaries on marine exploration to tide you over until new episodes next year. Should you have rationed it out, instead of consuming it all at once? Maybe savouring a series like a good cheese that matures with age (or a cheesy metaphor … which doesn’t) is the way forward. I mean, who hasn’t experienced the finger-chewing week-long wait for the next episode of a crime drama like Broadchurch or The Killing to be released, during which time you start obsessing over past episodes for clues as to the identity of the murderer or even placing bets as to ‘who dunnit?’ with friends?
Staggering the viewing can be a masochistic experience and, for those who are into that kind of thing, such a pleasant form of torture can be even more rewarding than inhaling a programme without a second’s thought, as it allows you to savour every detail and memorable speech. So are Netflix and Amazon Prime ruining the tradition of anticipation and patience by making entire series available in one go? They are introducing a kind of fast-food ‘all you can eat’ entertainment which will leave its consumers gorged and bloated, and too embarrassed to check their metaphorical weight on their even more hypothetical scales.
But perhaps it is the modern day prerogative to live and breathe the dramas of the characters and immerse yourself totally in their heartbreaks and hook-ups, their battle charges and car crashes. In our busy modern lives, maybe binge watching an entire series box set over a weekend is the way to go. And perhaps promoting rationing or even abstinence denies all those Netflix fanatics out there their right to a legal escapism and ‘out-of-body-experience’. Just be aware of the dangers which start to emerge when this fantasy existence spills into your real life, as you begin to shun your flatmates because your favourite character just got killed off, or find yourself punching the air joyously when another lead character gets laid, only to realise that you did not and that this is more than likely because you spend all of your days in front of a laptop screen.
So, conclusion: indulge or abstain it’s up to you, but try to lead a balanced, healthy life: Binge for a few days, and then peal yourself off of the sofa and prepare for the burn of natural light as you leave your flat to go for a walk once in a while. Check that the outside world as you know it is still out there (trees still green, the rich still in charge, etc.). And please, contact your friends and loved ones to say you’re still actually alive and in a state that could (optimistically) be called sentient. Then return, get comfy, find another series, and repeat.