Binge watching your favourite TV shows and movies is one of the most indulging and stress free ways to pass your time. No wonder streaming platforms make millions churning up so many new ones to keep us glued to our screens.
But is binge watching actually enjoyable?
Watching entire seasons at a stretch can leave one undervaluing the impact of each episode and not be able to enjoy individual parts of the show completely.
In fact a compulsive need to know everything all at once can actually cause more harm than good because it can take a toll on your mind and affect your ability to form coherent thoughts or critically analyze the content.
When you’re overloaded with information you are likely to miss the nuances of the show and the format can seem repetitive making your brain filter out some of the information and you end up missing out on critical narratives that drive the show.
But on the flip side, binging might be more enjoyable when the TV shows are more complex and the narrative is intricately woven demanding the viewers utmost attention lest they forget even a tiny detail. It can also bring comfort and allow a total switch off from reality. Instead of waiting a whole week to know what happens next, binging is instantaneous and has a higher recall value, putting the entire plot in perspective of the overarching theme of the show.
Binging allows the audience to have a stronger emotional connection with the characters and a heavier investment in their journey. Especially with TV shows that are set in a different world altogether such as Outlander and Game of Thrones, it’s much more feasible to binge the show to know all the intricacies of the show.
While both arguments are sound in their reasoning ultimately the real question is what it really means for a TV show to be “enjoyable” and how it changes the whole experience.
For a TV show to be enjoyable for a viewer it needs to bring pleasure to our brains. At the most basic level pleasure comes from merely liking a show. Then we need to have a desire to obtain the “reward”, in this case another episode. And finally we experience learning based on previous rewards which is achieved by TV shows by setting up goals or missions for the characters and the viewer’s pleasure arises from seeing them accomplish that goal.
This formula has been used by creators in TV for many years to give the show a purpose and viewers something to hold onto while the main arc is fulfilled over the course of multiple seasons so that they’re not bored and have a strong connection with the story and its characters.
This is a well oiled machine; viewers keep coming back for more and the TV shows gain loyal fans via compelling and ‘binge-worthy‘ storylines, ultimately satisfying the viewer’s need to be entertained until it no longer can which is when they start looking for the next binge.
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