Does binging media make it less fun?

We all require some form of media to relax after a long day. For me, that usually means reading a book, listening to music or watching YouTube. The term ‘binging’ used by people who watch whole seasons of a TV series has me intrigued. I recall a time more than a decade ago, when we pulled all-nighters to finish Harry Potter books. Binging is, as I understand, a term that means that some art form captivated us so much that we forgot everything else, continued to make good progress or, even finish the entire story in one go. Although if you want to say, ‘I totally binged on that assignment and finished it.’ I totally respect you, no joke. Use it as you like.

I wondered how binging or long sessions of a media affect us. I am very interested in enjoying a book or movie with the best experience possible. I have binged on books before and still do, when I get the time. But is that really the best experience?

When I was a student, I tried to binge on something. I got out my beloved Star Wars DVDs and decided to watch episodes 4-6 in one day. It was Star Wars Day anyway (May the 4th). I had previously watched episodes 1-6 twice so far, scattered and watched over a week or two. So I popped in episode 4, enjoyed it fully, popped in episode 5 and then I realized that this was beginning to feel like a chore. I was not really enjoying the movie because I had gotten bored. The movie was surely not boring, I still love Start Wars 5 the most. But this binging thing was surely not for me. Could I focus? Yes, on the first 3 hours but not after that. I hadn’t had enough time to think about and appreciate episode 4. This is crucial to enjoy media fully.

Sometimes I have found that it makes the experience much better if I take arbitrary breaks in between. Sometimes a day or two. Not too long that I’ll forget what happened but not too short that I haven’t had time to think about it. Because that’s what I found is important for enjoying media. Time to think about it.

I completed all three seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender (it was wonderful). But this time I watched it very slowly with deliberation and with time constraints. At most an episode a day. Sometimes one episode in 2-3 days. At the same time, I was also discussing the story so far, theories and my predictions with a few friends who had already watched it. I used idle time to think about the story. It made the experience much more enjoyable. Although, I must confess that halfway through the last season I got super interested and watched 2-3 episodes a day.

A friend of mine explained his process of mindful binging. He focuses on just one story at a time; be it a book, series or movie series; and only picks up something else after completing it. This is interesting to me because at any point of time, I have a handful of stories that I am into. Depending on my mood at different times, I get into TV shows, novels, manga/anime with a few movies sprinkled in for variety. Right now, I’m reading a fantasy novel, romcom manga series, crime drama TV series and historical fiction novel regularly. Apart from that, one horror novel and one nonfiction book which I pick up ocassionally. I don’t have a problem mixing up the stories as long as I stick to one story in a genre. That way I can pick which story to continue depending on my current mood.

I think books are the only art form that can be binged on, since you have to actively imagine every line to enjoy the story. If you get tired, you’ll stop reading. If it’s a TV show, your eyes will continue to stare listlessly at the screen as the story moves forward while you may not have absorbed most of it. Recognize when this happens and stop it there, resume later.

Perhaps I should try to focus on one story at a time, or at least limit them. But I definitely recommend that you try to put arbitrary breaks between your binging sessions to think and discuss it. It might just make your experience more enjoyable!

Thanks for reading!

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