Everyone has activities they do to unwind. Many people choose to relax while checking out clips on YouTube. They can instantly find material from their favorite comedians or people who have achieved celebrity-like status due to YouTube’s reach. They might watch episodes from a beloved series on Netflix. These streaming services have become so popular, they’ve changed the way we watch video and television. Compulsively streaming and binge-watching is normal. Here’s how online video services, like YouTube, have changed impacted our behavior.
How Technology Changed the Way We Watch Things
YouTube was heavily responsible for introducing people to the idea that they don’t have to wait to consume content they love. It’s all only a search away and accessible in seconds. The platform also actively encourages people to continue consuming content by offering personalized recommendations and an autoplay setting.
Similarly, binge-watching — where people watch episodes back-to-back — became both possible and popular thanks to services like Netflix. When using that service, you have the option to start the next episode automatically. This removes any extra effort and makes it easier to watch show after show.
Netflix releases the entire seasons of some new shows, such as “Orange Is the New Black,” on one day. Then, people may plan binge-watching parties, or at least speak of it with pride, such as, “Oh yeah, I binge-watched that season last weekend!”
Some individuals who love binge-watching probably forget that Netflix started as a mail-order delivery service, and probably can’t fathom how they ever watched anything without the ability to get engrossed in it without delay.
However, research from the University of Melbourne found binge-watching makes people enjoy shows less than watching them weekly. Binge-watching also negatively affects people’s ability to recall details about the content several months later. Individuals who saw shows in weekly installments had better recall capabilities.
Key Differences Between Binge-Watching and Compulsive YouTube Use
If people watch YouTube compulsively, they may show symptoms of other kinds of compulsive behaviors, such as repetitive thoughts or actions that make them feel like they’re caught in a pattern and cannot break free from it. A YouTube compulsion could begin innocently, like when a person gets into the habit of watching clips before bed to take their mind off other things.
However, compulsions can escalate to where people feel their routines are incomplete unless they watch YouTube with the typical frequency.
In contrast, binge-watching is typically confined to a limited period. For example, after people finish watching the episodes associated with a favorite show, they can often return to other activities.
To clarify, people often refer to binge-watching as associated with only watching one program in rapid succession. Compulsive YouTube viewers, on the other hand, may be substantially more diverse in the content they choose.
These Behaviors Could Lead to Addiction
People often use the word addiction in a lighthearted way, such as by confiding in a friend and saying “I’m totally addicted to that new series!” From a clinical perspective, though, there are some distinctive factors that differentiate the more common problem of compulsion from addiction. One of them is that addicted people continue engaging in behaviors despite harmful consequences.
Furthermore, people who are genuinely addicted typically find they need progressively larger amounts of a substance or stimuli — media, in this case — to achieve the desired effects. As the addiction gets worse, it may lead to job loss, eroded relationships and the inability to take part in meaningful activities.
YouTube compulsion and binge-watching by themselves do not constitute addiction. However, if people try to stop and find they cannot succeed, they may have progressed to addiction. In one instance, a teenager who started watching YouTube compulsively ended up in rehab for “digital addiction.”
Initially, she started watching YouTube in an effort to learn as much as her peers at school who often talked about the clips they saw. Then she started watching clips that were violent, and some that instructed how to die by suicide. After two hospital stays stemming partially from depression, she checked into a specialized program to reduce her YouTube dependency.
To better determine if binge-watching or YouTube use is turning into addiction, people can take steps to track their time spent by checking their account metrics on YouTube or looking at the data associated with other sites like Netflix to see if the number of things watched goes up over time. They can also ask friends to give concerned warnings if it becomes evident the behavior has reached an unhealthy level.
Moderation Prevents Binge-Watching
Something that binge-watching and YouTube compulsion have in common is that they typically don’t include enough or any moderation. If people set limits on watching YouTube or restrict themselves to watching streamed episodes across several weeks instead of spending hours doing it, they could avoid complications that could escalate to addiction.