It’s affordable, harmless and can offer the all-important pause to an otherwise overactive mind. Whether we have realised it or not, binge-watching has become a modern-day form of self-care
Last Updated: 12.50 PM, Mar 21, 2023
Over the past few years, the entertainment industry in India has undergone a significant transformation. With the rise of over-the-top (OTT) platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, Apple TV+, Sony LIV, ZEE5, and many, many others, the way we consume entertainment has changed dramatically. And binge-watching shows or films on OTT platforms is clearly among the most popular ways for many to unwind.
Perhaps the most significant reason why binge-watching shows or films on OTT platforms is so popular is that it offers an escape from reality. With the constant pressures of work, family, and life, sometimes we just need a break.
Read also: Mother’s Day 2022: Celebrate with your mom by binge watching these heartfelt shows on OTT
‘Affordable, harmless, and least energy-consuming escape’
And along with being affordable, this is a big reason for Parinatha Sampath, a programmatic account manager and mother to a one-year-old from New Jersey, USA, to Netflix and chill. Although the way she consumes shows has changed, she still turns to binge-watching to relax and reset.
"For me, it's the most affordable, harmless, and least energy-consuming escape. I used to binge-watch often, but my increased responsibilities and shorter attention span don't allow for it anymore. That said, now I binge-watch as a way to bond with my partner. As parents of a toddler, we're able to afford a few hours on Friday and/or Saturday nights to watch series or movies together. It's the easiest excursion we can take together," she says.
Get lost in a world of your choosing
OTT platforms offer a level of personalisation that traditional television simply cannot match. With the help of algorithms, these platforms can recommend content based on your viewing history, making it easier to discover new shows or films that you might enjoy.
Watching a show or film on an OTT platform allows us to get lost in a world of our choosing, where we can forget about our problems, at least for a little while. It's a form of self-care that is accessible to everyone, no matter their age, gender, or background.
And Anjali Muthanna, a freelance writer and mother to a 4-year-old, couldn’t agree more. "If it’s something you enjoy, then binge-watching is the same as going out for a nice meal, going to the spa, or going on a girls’ night out. I actually feel like I’ve done something for myself when I binge a show, especially when I have the house to myself. If not, I download a show and go out for lunch to watch it," she says.
The best way to get some 'me time'
It’s not just busy mothers who choose binge-watching as a way to de-stress. For Bengaluru-based IT professional Rahul Dsouza, binge watching anime, action, and fantasy shows is a way to relax, take his mind off the stresses of daily life, and even uplift his mood.
"I binge-watch shows as often as possible, and also on weekends. I do believe that it is a form of self-care, since it helps me relax and takes my mind off everything else that is going on. The time that I watch shows is my 'me time'. And it helps with my mood as well. Some shows, for example, a comedy series, can instantly uplift my mood. It is relaxing, especially after a long week of work," says Rahul.
Rahul adds that every show that he binges on impacts him differently, and he likes that some of them engage his mind. "If I am binge watching a thriller show, it engages my mind, and I feel like one of the characters in the show, trying to solve the puzzle. Each show I binge-watch impacts me differently, but I don’t let it mess with my head, since I don't watch it to an extent where it starts affecting me negatively," he quips.
Radhika Bhat, an independent therapist based in Bengaluru, agrees that watching content on OTT platforms can indeed be a form of self-care since it lets people pause, detach from an overactive mind, and reset.
"Can binge watching be counted as a form of self-care? Yes, and like Rahul mentioned, within limits, it is helpful since it allows a bit of a breather. For those 30–45 minutes, one can give their mind a break from working overtime, thinking about 500 things, and being pulled in many directions; it gets a bit of a pause. And that pause can help a person reset. People can get very invested in shows and form attachments to the characters," she says.
Radhika adds, "Those who otherwise feel isolated and don’t have much of a social circle tend to not feel as lonely because they get to be a part of somebody else’s life, even if they are fictional. It’s not real connections, of course, but it does work as a kind of substitute. Some shows, like Heartstopper on Netflix (an uplifting LGBTQ+ drama about teen friendships and young romance), can help those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community feel like they can relate to a character from the show. So, it can be validating, comforting, and reassuring."
The trap of ‘just one more episode’
The word 'binge' in itself means going overboard with something, so beyond a certain point, binge-watching can become an escape and a way of avoiding or postponing other things, and that becomes unhealthy, as with anything that you binge.
One of the most significant concerns of binge-watching is the impact it can have on our mental and physical health. Sitting in one place for hours on end can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which in turn can lead to health problems. It can also have an adverse impact on mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
Shruthi Ramkumar, a young mother and working professional, can’t help but binge-watch new shows, but she doesn’t enjoy doing so. "I am very choosy when it comes to starting a new show, but when I do, I like to finish it off quickly, without any distractions. But for me, binge watching is not a form of self-care since I end up watching late into the night, wake up groggy the next morning, and then the rest of my day is negatively affected. I’m just curious to know the ending and prefer to finish off a series quickly so that I can actually stop binge-watching and focus on other things," she says.
For such people, Radhika says that it is important to recognise the ‘binge trap’. "The trap of ‘just one more episode’ becomes a maintaining factor. So, if you’re having a bad day, binge-watching distracts you for a while, but beyond a certain time, it can take away time and energy that you could be using to help deal with the bad day," she explains.
How do you strike the right balance?
Binge-watching shows or films on OTT platforms is certainly a favourite way to unwind among people of all ages because it offers convenience, personalisation, escapism, and accessibility. While there are some concerns about the impact it can have on our health, these can be mitigated by having a healthy balance.
Watching shows or films on OTT platforms should be a form of entertainment and self-care, not a way of life. It's essential to take breaks, get up and move around, and engage in other activities such as exercise, socialising, or pursuing a hobby.
Although the allure can seem too great to overcome, there are some simple measures that you can take to ensure that you stay within limits. Radhika lists them out:
- Be intentional about how you access content on OTT platforms and restrict it to a certain amount of time each day, say one hour
- Watch shows and movies only when you can afford to watch them, i.e., when you have free time (not late at night)
- Make sure that binge-watching does not become a habit. How do you know this? If it takes time away from building a social life or exercising, then you need to do something about it
- Plan something that you have to do after watching an episode, such as meeting a friend, so that you are forced to stop watching after a certain amount of time