When people think of a binge, usually the first thing that comes to mind is binge drinking alcohol or binge-watching television. Although on the surface it may not seem like these two things have a lot in common, they are both frequently used for the same purpose and can lead to forms of addiction. We have all heard of people becoming addicted to alcohol and becoming alcoholics, but is a television or technology addiction as detrimental to your health as drugs or alcohol?
According to many studies and research, binge-watching TV and over exposure to technology can impact the brain and body in various ways. So what exactly is considered binge-watching television? According to a survey conducted by Netflix, “binge-watch[ing] TV…[is] defined as watching between two and six episodes of the same TV show in one sitting." In this same survey published by PR Newswire, 61 percent of the 1,500 participants said that they regularly binge watch television and 73 percent of people do not have negative feelings about binge-watching. Binge-watching television is becoming the new normal for thousands of people, but it can have many effects, positive and negative, on our body and brain. Some believe that the effects of technology and television on the brain and body are more positive than negative, but findings prove that the negative impacts outweigh the positive because technology and television can rewire the human brain and affect your mood and cause harm to the whole body and can even become an addiction, but there are ways to prevent binge use of technology and television and stop these detrimental effects altogether.
Although it seems like binge use of technology and television should be bad for your body and brain, there is a large amount of research showing that this is not always the case. In today’s society, younger people are able to process information faster than ever. They can “make decisions more quickly, exhibit greater flexibility in employment, and [have] heightened cognitive and analytical skills." This is because children are being exposed to technology and television at an early age causing their brains to adapt, “rewiring [them] and making them more elastic." While “rewiring” the human brain may not sound like the most positive thing, it is actually quite beneficial to the majority of the population. In addition to being able to process and retain information easier, technology has also allowed us to dream in color, have increased visual skills and greater creativity according to Rebecca Hiscott in a Mashable article.
While there are few positive impacts on the brain caused by technology and television as stated above, the majority of the effects are harmful and can cause serious damage. Rebecca Hiscott’s article reported some positive effects of the brain being “rewired,” but there was also a large amount of negative effects including lack of attention and memory problems, inability to sleep and poor impulse control. In a recent study, researchers compared student’s memory and results on a test given after either “playing a violent video game, watching a movie adaption of this game, watching a tennis match, and playing a tennis video game." The students who played the highly stimulating violent video game or watched the movie tended to have lower scores on their tests than the students who watched the tennis match or played the tennis video game. This is most likely because the violent game and movie required more attention and thought to understand what was happening, which negatively impacted the students short term memory.
Research has not yet been done on different types of movies with more relatable characters or a more complex plot, but it is quite possible that these types of movies will have the same, if not worse effects on student’s test scores. It is also believed that it may not exactly be the movies or television that causes students to receive low test scores, but the fact that television and other technology could be replacing study time.
Another negative effect caused by overuse of technology and binge watching television is that it creates an inattentive and “distracted generation without direction or the ability to engage in deeper thinking." Over the years, people have gained access to hundreds of different forms of technology causing them to always want to be connected in some way. People are choosing to look at their phones or watch TV and movies instead of interacting with the people around them. They are becoming preoccupied with the virtual world, which is limiting our ability to interact with other humans without technology and is reducing people’s ability to think critically without accessibility to an internet connection.
There are many negative effects on mental health due to binge use of technology and television, but our physical health can be impacted just as seriously. Watching television and using technology are activities that do not require much effort on our part, but people almost always feel tired and lazy after long periods of sitting doing nothing. This is because “lounging slows circulation and metabolism." This on top of the fact that complex television shows can take a lot out of us, emotionally and mentally, explains why binge use of technology and television is so dangerous and can cause us to become even lazier than when we started relaxing in the first place. In a study examining the long-term effects of excessive television use, researchers “looked at the amount of time subjects between 5 and 15 watched TV, and the health outcomes they experienced 26 years later." In conclusion to this study, it was discovered that subjects were more at risk of developing diabetes as adults, high cholesterol and having reduced if they watched more than two hours of television a day.
So why do we continue to sit around all day watching TV or playing on our phones even though out entire lives we have been told that it will rot your brain? There are actually various reasons why this is becoming more and more common in today's society. Companies practically force us to continue watching television by giving us the option to play the next episode in a series without even having to scroll or click anything. Writers most of the time make the ending of each episode a cliffhanger so the watcher is sucked into the next episode to find out what happened, but then there is always another cliff hanger begging to be resolved so the cycle continues. Another reason why people tend to watch more than one episode during a sitting is because the complex “plots, subplots and dialogue require us to pay close, controlled attention." Because we are so focused on comprehending what is in front of is, this also allows people to escape their realities and forget about their problems. When people watch television specifically, for this reason, most of the time they feel worse afterward. “People who tried to forget about their anxieties by watching television had a four percent increase of developing insomnia,” but all of the excitement and adrenaline produced by cliffhangers in television shows force us to keep watching. This feeling of temporarily escaping reality can be compared to the same euphoric feeling of being drunk or high.
Binge use of technology and television are becoming all too familiar in our society. This problem could eventually lead to extreme danger for the human body and brain if it is not put to a stop and we are forced to change our ways. One simple way we can try to prevent binging is by making our favorite television shows into an exercise game such as doing 10 push ups every time a certain word is said or a certain character comes on screen. Another idea is to watch 20 minutes in to the next episode, which will give us just enough time to figure out the resolution to the cliff hanger from the previous episode, but prevent us from getting completely sucked in to the conflict of the next episode. Netflix is also beginning to acknowledge the problem of binge watching that has been created. They have joined forced with DreamWorks to develop “a children’s series…that will begin an incremental release,” preventing kids from finishing “the entire series in one long, unproductive weekend." This may not prevent binge watching in teen and young adults, but it is a start at preventing our younger generations from possibly suffering from the serious mental and physical effects that technology can cause.
Overuse of technology and binge watching television have some positive effects on the human brain such as increased creativity and visual skills, but overall their impacts are negative and can be very harmful if let get out of control. Binge use of technology and television are both compared to a drug or alcohol addiction and can be almost as detrimental to our physical and mental health, but there are ways to stop binging and prevent these negative effects from harming the population.