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Binging television shows creates new viewing culture

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Whether I’m in the mood for a viewing of the humorous yet intense “Sex Education,” or some wholesome content such as “The Great British Baking Show” or “Queer Eye,” I always end up binging my television shows.

The leisurely pace of keeping up with the content on cable TV is something many millennials and Generation Zers would have grown up with, but this lifestyle is quickly being phased out in the age of the internet. 

We can now fully immerse ourselves in the narrative of a particular series for as long as we’d like to, instead of scheduling time in our week for new episodes. Some may attribute this evolution of the way we watch TV to the sheer convenience of online streaming and our own impatience.

The days of waiting for episodes of our favorite shows are, for the most part, over thanks to modern streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go and Disney+. 

A fun insider tip and quick aside for the Scarlet Knights: If you’re looking to get easy access to series like teen rage “Euphoria,” the insightful “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” or the enthralling “Game of Thrones,” Rutgers University provides HBO Go for free to all students living on campus.

As relatively affordable and accessible streaming services get more expansive in terms of their outreach and content, “cord-cutting” is becoming a popular term being used in the case of cable and satellite television providers. These providers — think, Verizon, Comcast and AT&T DirecTV — have experienced a sharp decline in subscribers in the past few years.

Some shows still release episodes weekly. I still patiently wait each week for the latest from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Bachelor,” which are available on Hulu. But, for the most part, I just dedicate a few hours in my day to watch fully released seasons of my favorite shows and get it over with. 

A 2017 article on NBC News BETTER explored how binge-watching is an enjoyable and engaging experience that is said to generate positive emotions in our brains. When we spend a prolonged period of time tuned to our screens, we produce dopamine, a hormone associated with happiness and pleasure.

The same NBC article also discusses binge-watching as a somewhat effective — albeit not entirely healthy when done too frequently — stress management tool. The act of going all in when it comes to your favorite shows is sometimes a much-needed escape from reality when you’re dealing with the busy college lifestyle of studying and deadlines.

Netflix in particular is strategic with its belief in binge-watching, and its true-and-tried model is to release an entire season of episodes all at once, according to a 2019 Forbes article. Netflix is the leading Hollywood studio in this year’s Oscar nominations and has found success in the method to its madness. The streaming platform has created a content consumption culture of its own and doesn’t feel the need to follow the lead of its competitors like Hulu and Disney+, which typically follow a more traditionally paced model of releasing episodes on a weekly basis.

There has been plenty of research done on this 21st century television phenomenon that has found the experience of the binge-watcher to be near universal. In 2014, cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken worked in partnership with Netflix to find out more about the widespread, increasingly more commonplace practice of binging TV. 

McCracken’s main conclusion was that binging TV was the “New Normal.” 76% of TV streamers surveyed said “watching multiple episodes of a great TV show is a welcome refuge from their busy lives.” 

Additionally, 79% of those studied said “watching several episodes of their favorite shows at once actually makes the shows more enjoyable.” In today’s world, we are far from alone when it comes to how we watch TV.

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