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Still, he said, “TV has always been accused of being a time-waster, and now we’re talking about big, big chunks of time. And time spent [binge viewing] means time taken away from other things, family, friends, activities.”
The only way to watch
Deb Balzer of Minneapolis doesn’t see any other way to watch her shows.
“In fact, it makes no sense to me to watch a weekly one-hour show and wait and wait all week when I can just order a show and watch it until I am done,” she said.
She compared it to reading a good piece of literature. “As a college student with two majors, I often had to read entire books overnight,” Balzer said. “With Netflix, I can easily translate my binge reading to binge viewing.”
Not only is the process the same for Helmin-Clazmer, but so is the aftermath. She feels “the same sort of depression as when one finishes a book. Television is a visual text, so it would make sense that the same sort of depression is felt.”
Even so, Mitchell isn’t so sure there’s a lot to worry about here. He said that getting deeply immersed in the lives of fictional characters and/or watching bleak fare doesn’t necessarily lead to aberrant behavior, “unless the person is particularly vulnerable for some reason. For people who are well-integrated, I wouldn’t think there would be a problem.”
Mitchell, who has studied binge eating, said that with virtually no scientific research on binge viewing, he was hesitant to liken this kind of TV consumption to more physical activities that can lead to addiction. But he did suggest taking a break.
“It’s probably better to get up after an hour and do something.”
Marathon TV sessions are just fine with Sarah Wilken of Maple Grove. And the darker the story line, the better.
In the past year, she and her husband, Brian, have traveled extensively across Europe. But some of their most indelible moments have occurred while endlessly soaking in such daunting shows as “Dexter,” “Homeland” and “Breaking Bad.”
Especially at this time of year.
“I will admit that realizing you’ve wasted an entire weekend away on the couch doesn’t necessarily make you feel like the most productive person in the world. … [but] especially during a cold Minnesota winter, it’s nice to hole up and escape into a riveting drama. I find it’s winter itself that makes me feel the closest thing to depressed.”
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643