The Curse of Binge Watching

I write every day.

But unless you have an imposter syndrome bigger than your body of work and a constant feeling that you’re losing out on the best opportunities when you look at other writers, you truly aren’t a writer.

With the rise of OTT apps, screenwriting has taken massive leaps and writers have more opportunities than ever to present their opinions and tell a well-crafted story to a global audience.

I could tell a good story, but I didn’t have screenplay writing experience. To that end, I began to binge-watch every series and movie people had been fawning over endlessly and found as many scripts as I could online to study the art of screenwriting.

A good script was all I needed, right? But the more shows I binge-watched in an attempt to write the ‘next big thing’, the more I was convinced I could never create stellar content.

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That’s because I had succumbed to a binge-watching spiral that can’t be classified as anything but a health concern.

Binge watching is a social phenomenon I am very guilty of, as are most of you who are reading this. More than just making your body weak with all the hours you spend just slothfully lying about, it also contributes to massive social anxiety – trust me, I’ve felt it often enough.

It is human nature to want to be part of groups and communities. In an internet-less world, in the cultural sphere, it was book clubs, philately and history societies, sport clubs etc.

Today, it is nerding together on shows and movie franchises like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Westworld, Harry Potter, BoJack Horseman and countless others.

In fact, almost every few days, a new show drops that’s really “amazing and popular” that everyone’s watching. And it’s hard not to feel left out in a conversation if you haven’t given it a watch already.

Binge-watching among millennials and Gen Z has become a way of staying relevant while keeping a distance from everyone. Research says that most people binge-watch alone, contributing to mental health issues, isolation and a sedentary lifestyle that leads to cardiovascular issues and muscular degeneration, and many other health issues.

But no streaming service will issue a health advisory for young adults glued to watching every season of Narcos over a single weekend or howling over This Is Us the way CBFC aggressively issues ‘smoking is dangerous’ ads every time a cigarette, lit or unlit, appears on the screen in a movie hall.

It is an incredible sign of the dissonance of our times where we hate sitting at one place, constantly needing to do something – mostly fidgeting with our phones – but spend hours sitting in front of a screen watching a story play out.

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Most of us already struggle with getting adequate sleep today. Then, you start watching something because it’s too early to sleep only to end up scarfing down the sixth episode at 3 am, only to suddenly find it impossible to fall asleep thanks to the blue light from the laptop messing with your eyes in a dark room.

It’s a never-ending loop of self sabotage. Science says that not getting enough sleep is bad for our minds, but the idea of YOLO pushes us into indulging in such behaviour time and again.

Among the many things binge-watching took away from us is the ability to read books. I don’t mean a tome like War and Peace, but simpler novels that were easy to gulp down in what now seems like simpler times.

Before binge-watching swallowed our weekends, people went to the park, caught the sunset at the beach, hung out with friends and even picked up new hobbies. What was once supposed to be the centre of our week to discover new facets about the self is now a crutch of our drawn out, insipid and overwhelming existence.

I don’t lay the blame on us entirely: between a crumbling economy, dwindling savings, frustrating society, incredible political upheavals and a lack of real relationships, binge watching is a safe space.

We curate the reality we are in and we decide who we love and hate. We live like gangsters and warrior princesses and die like heroes – even if just for a little while.

Storytelling has changed, but the allure of escaping into a story remains the same, mental and physical health concerns be damned.

Charmi Trevadia is a consulting branded content strategist with special love for pop culture from Mumbai, India.

Photo: Arlo Allegri/Reuters/Newscom