After decades of weekly installments of television shows, the last few years have seen a titanic shift in the way we ingest television. While episodic stuff is still chugging along on network and cable televison, the act of “binge watching” has become the preferred way to watch shows for many. If you don’t suffer from Fear Of Missing Out or, worse yet, being spoiled, you might be the type to spend a Saturday with your best friends – Blanket, Remote, and Tea Kettle – watching 13 hours of television in one go, breaking only for bathroom, food, and maybe a nap? Watching all that stuff is tough. But that habit is hurting the “takeaway” we get from television shows, one study says.
I’ve argued against binge watching before, and been read the riot act by friends as a result, but now I’m back with some science.
According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal First Monday, binge watching changes not just how well we remember shows, but how we feel about the same content. The study found that those who watch shows all at once experienced much faster memory decay compared to those who watch the same programs on a daily or weekly basis.
Did I have a good time?
Those who watched shows in large batches also reported their time watching the shows as less enjoyable in the long term. Binge watchers not only enjoyed the shows less overall, but their remembered enjoyment dropped off, too. Daily and weekly watchers enjoyed the programs more and saw that enjoyment drop off less over time.
Having just finished Twin Peaks: The Return about a week ago, one of the things I enjoyed the most about it was talking with my friends and checking out the show’s subreddit each week to see how people interpreted David Lynch’s trademark storytelling. Based on watching my friends talk at our weekly D&D game, Game of Thrones fans would seem to agree with this. Man, a lot of people sure die on that show.
Binge watching is fun right now, and it incredibly difficult to resist when everything is plopped down in front of us all at once. But it seems like if Netflix wants us to remember its award-winning shows better than we remember last night’s dreams, the company might want to rethink how it make its shows available.