Opinion: “Binge-culture” not bad, just new

Cassidy Alexander

With sites like Hulu and Netflix that release full shows at once,  we have developed a binge-culture. Graphic by Emelie Pineda
With sites like Hulu and Netflix that release full shows at once, we have developed binge-watchers who are part of a binge-culture.
Graphic by Emelie Pineda

So was the dress blue and black or white and gold? Sorry to bring it up again, and it doesn’t really matter what you saw or think you saw. What matters was the insane response online to the question: in one day it was everywhere, on news sites, social media sites and conversations everywhere you looked or went. Celebrities and your middle school classmates alike were chiming in (see the Tweet below); experts and novices were offering their opinions. And after 24 hours, we were sufficiently sick of it. Society as a whole had binged on the phenomenon and we’re ready for a break.

This is a perfect example of what I’ll refer to as binge-culture: the modern tendency to gorge ourselves on things in a short period of time and effectively make ourselves sick of them.

We do it with memes: hundreds of photos circulating of Kermit the Frog sipping tea and saying “but that’s none of my business” is kind of a really weird occurrence. It happens with viral videos too — these things circulate and millions of people give them their attention for a brief period of time and then that’s it.

We do it with shows: the term “binge-watching” is an integral part of our vocabulary today. With the advent of on-demand programming and sites like Hulu and Netflix, everything you want to see is at the tip of your fingers and it’s hard for us to control our excitement. Netflix has noticed, and releases original series all at once, further enabling chronic binge-watchers (see: everyone). House of Cards season 3 was released on Feb. 27, and the only reason I didn’t finish all 12 episodes was because I had this article looming and was hyper-aware of my own tendencies to binge.

We do it with news: whether it’s the blue/black or white/gold dress, or Kim Kardashian’s nude photos that tried to break the Internet. Every week it seems there’s a story on the news that isn’t exactly hard-hitting, but everyone is talking about it and offering their opinions before it’s gone into the abyss of our Internet histories.

People have been concerned about kids’ “shrinking attention spans” for years, blaming their dwindling ability to focus on the Internet and other new technology. The millennial generation has been criticized as needing instant gratification. However, while these are often concerns directed toward children, they’re just as problematic for adults, who have the same access to technology and all its effects, proving that it’s a culture-wide shift.

There have always been fads. (Remember all-denim outfits, scrunchies and the phrase “far out?”) But today we have what seem to be micro-fads, or incredibly short-lived trends, in what we think and talk about that define our society.

While it’s certainly a shift, it may not be a bad thing. People are quick to point out what’s bad about technology or this generation, but binging on interesting things won’t be the death of us.

People often ask, “Why are you laughing about this when there are so many better things you could be doing?!” This is the wrong question to ask. It’s no one’s job to police others’ emotions or the way they spend their time. People are allowed to binge-watch shows on Netflix, just as they’re allowed to binge-drink alcohol on the weekends or do other things that may not be the best for them.

In a way, it may be better this way. The more quickly people are done with one entertaining thing, the more quickly they can move on to the next productive one. It’s a different way to manage our time, surely, but it’s not going to be the end of civilization as we know it.

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