Overproduction leads to binge watching

With streaming services having effectively replaced cable, there is a seemingly bottomless pit of content to lose yourself in. Not only are there hundreds of television shows and movies licensed to services like Netflix and Hulu, but these same streaming services are producing their own new content. In tandem with binging,re-watching has also grown in popularity right alongside it. So, with so much content to binge, why watch the same shows over and over?

For students like Morgan Taylor, a junior public relations major, going back to shows like “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars” every other year offers comfort in familiarity.

“I guess for those (shows) that have longer seasons or have been around for a decade or less, I think those are the ones where I’ve gotten attached to the characters,” Taylor said. “I just like seeing their story, plot over and over again for some reason, even though I know how it ends.”

According to Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a professor of Neurology at Penn Medicine, when a piece of content is well-produced, it engages the consumer so much they can’t put it down for even a moment.

“With narratives — whether it’s books, movies or a television series — it’s about a person’s experience being completely immersed. You forget about yourself as you’re immersed. With good writing, you are transported away from where you are,” Chatterjee said.

For Taylor, that results in hours-long binging sessions of shows like “This is Us,” “Riverdale,” “Love is Blind” and “The Masked Singer.” This experience is shared by fifth-year film major Jonathan Knoell, who will go back to a show he saw previously depending on how well-told a story is.

“If it’s a really well-done story where it’s got a huge twist and it’s been making hints at stuff and you’re like, ‘Oh! That twist happened,’ and now I have to go back and see where all the points are. There are some shows that are very straightforward and I watch them and I’m done.”

Of course, it’s impossible to be up to date with a seemingly-bottomless barrel of content, regardless if you’re trying to keep up with a good story. In fact, it’s this overproduction of content that makes keeping up new shows either difficult or simply not possible.  

I’ll admit, I don’t really take a whole bunch of time anymore to seek out new things because the fact is… there are so many services and there are so many ways to intake media,” Knoell said. “There’s too much.”

Missing out on popular or well-written stories can result in FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out. According to Nick Hobson, Ph.D for Psychology Today, FOMO can be described as the feeling of “what exactly are you missing out on?” For students like Knoell, this mentality isn’t something to stress over.  

The mentality to me, of being scared that I’m missing out on something, is about as silly as saying that to somebody else who’s not interested in something like ‘The Bachelor’ or ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or, I don’t know, ‘Lost,’ ‘Firefly,’ Knoell said. “If you’ve never seen ‘Firefly’ and you literally have no interest in ‘Firefly,’ you’re not going to watch Firefly.’”

If a viewer is looking for something new to watch and are overwhelmed by the amount of content or stuck in the comfort of watching something familiar, there is another way to look at the binge-watching phenomenon.

“If I binge-watch a show, I feel like nine times out of ten it’s just me putting it on background while I’m doing something, but I still try to keep up on both,” Taylor said. “But if I don’t, I eventually come back to them.”