Burnout in the Age of Binge-Watching
The binge-watch formula has consequences for those of us who love TV but struggle with mental and chronic illnesses or even sheer tiredness.
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The way we consume media has changed dramatically over the past 5 years. Long gone are the days of waiting week by week to find out what happens next on your favorite show — now streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other platforms have you covered, dropping entire 8-episode series to enjoy wherever you hang your hat.
This shift in the way we watch has created a cultural ripple, from the discourse on Twitter to good ole fashioned water-cooler talk. For every “did you catch the latest episode of The Good Place?” there’s a, “Yeah, I’ve finished the whole series! How far along are you?”
But it’s not a format that suits everyone.
For those struggling with mental health problems, chronic illnesses, processing issues, or sheer tiredness, keeping up with streaming platforms is a lot.
I’m one of many people that loves television but finds it difficult to sit through a 30-minute episode without drifting. When my anxiety disorder leaves me mentally fried on a day-to-day basis, settling down and dedicating a good slice of your time for a single episode is a challenge.
Despite making attempts to really “digest” what I’m watching — like switching on subtitles, which helps me process things, and putting enough time aside — I usually peter out around 10 minutes in. Which sucks, because it feels like I’m the only person on the planet who hasn’t actually seen the end of Stranger Things season three in real-time, not just through lengthy tweets detailing every spoiler.
It’s a strangely isolating sensation to not be able to share your love of something simply because you’re not fast enough.
Sam Barakat, who is a mental health first aid instructor and campaigner, struggles similarly. After having issues with depression, she found herself experiencing problems with concentration and memory, which impacted her enjoyment of watching shows.