A co-worker stumbled into our company’s break room early on a Monday morning. She looked worn down, tired, and not ready to start another week. I finished pouring my coffee and looking up asked “Hey, how was your weekend?”
She answered with excitement that a new Netflix series (Orange is the New Black) had come out and she had watched it. Not just an episode. All 12 or so hours of it straight through. A quick break to pick up a food delivery and bathroom breaks were all that had broken up her delicious binge watching coma.
Her husband had been in another room of their house doing the same with another show.
Since then it’s become much more common for me to hear it mentioned, even bragged, that someone has binge watched a show all weekend. It’s the product of an interesting new shift – instead of waiting each week for a new TV episode to come out they release all at once in one glorious heap.
This concerns me a lot. It’s another opportunity for excess and consumption at high levels that often steal from other things.
I should say that have been a loyal Netflix customer, faithfully sending my $7.99 for something like 6 years, so I don’t think TV watching is inherently bad. But there is definitely a cost to it. I would encourage knowing and thinking through those costs especially our ability to live a life of rest, health, and peace.
7 good reasons binge-watching Netflix isn’t restful for you
1 – Your brain is going constantly.
Have you ever driven or walked past a house at night? You can instantly tell if those inside are watching TV because blue lights are flashing constantly. It looks like a full on 60s disco party and it’s a lot for our brains to process. Plus you have the story developing quickly and action or drama scenes moving fast toward a 30 or 60 minute resolution. There’s a lot there for our brains to process.
2 – The overdose of blue light.
Just like I mentioned above there is a light dance happening each time we watch TV. And it’s not just any light; it’s blue. Blue light triggers your brain to think its daytime and it will make it harder to fall asleep if you’re binge-watching especially at night.
3 – It’s an isolating activity.
Watching hours of Netflix or any TV show is just you by yourself being entertained. And while this is fine at times it’s clear that it does almost nothing to grow and deepen your relationships with others. Those friends, family, and even acquaintances you have make up an important part of who you are and bring rest for your soul. Even if you have friends watching with you it doesn’t do much to deepen those relationships staring at the screen together.
4 – Sitting down for long periods of time isn’t healthy.
Binge-watching or any extended activity that encourages just sitting still for hours is just bad for our health. It’s become popular in the health community in recent years to talk about the bad effects of sitting and I think it’s for good reason. Studies have shown sitting for extended periods makes us more obese and shortens our life span in addition to other issues. A sedentary lifestyle has bad consequences for our health and ability to get rest.
5 – It promotes poor food choices.
Binge-watching promotes poor food choices. Whether it’s getting delivery, eating a bunch of snacks, or quickly making a meal in the microwave it’s highly likely we aren’t making good choices while trying to get back to the TV. This breaks good habits of eating we’ve tried to do over the week and builds bad habits in their place. All of that makes it hard to be healthy and give ourselves the rest that we need.
6 – It encourages double stimulation.
In the old days you used to sit down and just watch TV. There wasn’t much multi-tasking. But now we have more screen choices available to us and they’re all portable! Instead of just watching TV you can now also be shopping on your tablet while also on Facebook on your phone. Three points of stimulation for the price of one.
7 – The opportunity cost of binge-watching.
Opportunity cost is a term I learned in economics class which means “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” Essentially, that means when you’re binge-watching Netflix you’re missing out on a whole host of other things that are more restful and life-giving. This one is really key in my opinion as it so easily crowds out other better choices.
Obviously, as I mentioned above Netflix isn’t bad in and of itself. I have faithfully had an account for quite a while without cable/satellite. I think there is a place for balance in the area of entertainment. The answer for most isn’t to pitch the TV out the window and cancel Netflix once and for all. Instead it’s good to fill most of our time with other activities and have a few shows mixed in. Of course, this balance will look differently for everyone.
So, here’s a non-definitive list of activities that you could replace your Netflix binge with. These are just idea starters. Feel free to go from here as you get inspiration!
Overall the goal is to choose things that are energizing, filling, and lasting for your spirit, mind, body, or soul.
21+ things to do instead of binge-watching Netflix
- Play a game outdoors. Ultimate (Frisbee) is a great group game that keeps you moving and enjoying time together.
- Play a board game with friends.
- Have an intentional conversation with a friend.
- Go to bed early and wake refreshed like never before.
- Take a long bath. Add some epsom salt for even more relaxation and better sleep.
- Write a hand-written letter to your mom or a good friend.
- Take a good long walk and think, pray, or sing. A trail, road, or wherever works for you.
- Just get out and lay in the sun. Read a good book or take a nap while you soak up that Vitamin D.
- Read a good book. Fiction is best before bed. Stick to a printed book or kindle device so you aren’t staring at blue light. An audio book works well too.
- Take a nap. Even 20 minutes is great.
- Crochet, knit, or something with your hands.
- Meditate on God’s goodness or spend time in extended prayer thanking Him for your blessings.
- Do some extended stretching exercises. Nothing intense just slow and relaxing.
- Go for a hard run or hike. Even if it’s not great weather, this is a fun adventure.
- Intentionally serve someone in need of help.
- Have an at-home date-night with your spouse. Here’s some great questions my wife and I use to spur the conversation.
- Cook a good meal. Take the time to really prepare and enjoy it.
- Bake something tasty.
- Take the time to spend 10 minutes writing in your journal.
- Read the Bible. Start with a Psalm or Proverb and read it several times.
- Go out and poke around the garden for a few hours.
- Get coffee with a friend. Or make it at home and invite them over.
- Listen to a good podcast. A good audio-book works great as well.
- What would you add to this list?
I believe our propensity to binge-watch is a small way our culture crowds out the important and life-giving parts of life through an increasing availability of excess. Let’s work together to find ways to place limits that allow us to grow our health, restfulness, and relationships with others.
Share your thoughts by contacting me here if you have something to add to the lists or a question. I would love to hear from you.