Hey, you, Apostle of Christ! Are you guilty of binge watching?
You’ve heard the analogy several times that if you put a frog into boiling water, it will jump right out. If you put it in cold water, then slowly turn up the heat until boiling, it will boil to death. This explanation is fitting for many aspects of the sudden changes the new media have brought into our lives today, but it seems particularly true of television.
Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services have become the new staple in media consumption because of its low prices and on-demand access to massive collections of media. For just a few dollars a month, we have access to more media than we could actually consume in a lifetime. Netflix has proudly proclaimed that binge watching has become the new normal. They also continue to make it easier to watch the next episode with automatic play, so indulging in acedia is a truly passive activity.
Machado, in this article, worries that shows about the traditional family have disappeared from the map. The most popular recent TV show that comes to mind about family is Modern Family, which does feature one traditional family (a father, mother, three children), but as one option among other equal options (a same-sex couple that adopts children, an older man with a child from a previous marriage with a younger woman). In fact, the entire premise of the show seems to be to undermine the image of the traditional family. Instead of family, there are many shows about groups of friends (The Big Bang Theory), colleagues (13 Reasons Why), vampires (The Vampire Diaries), work places such as offices, hospitals, courts (Grey’s Anatomy, Suits) and crime (Gotham, Sherlock).
Sleep is one of the big casualties of binge-watching. According to Psychology Today, a joint University of Michigan-University of Leuven study found that regular TV viewing doesn’t disrupt sleep patterns, but binge-watching does. Binge watching was linked to insomnia symptoms, fatigue and poor sleep quality. And among those who already had poor sleep quality, a third of them could link it to binge-viewing. “When we’re deprived of sleep, lots of stuff can go wrong. For one, anxiety and depression can increase. That makes us prone to mistakes, which can stress us out more,” according to an article in USC News, a University of Southern California online publication. “Research shows binge-watchers report higher levels of loneliness and depression.” On the good side, though, binge-watchers said it gave them something to talk about with friends and colleagues.
Tim and Leslie decided to consult Church documents about television and the social communications media. The Catechism says “the means of social communication (especially the mass media) can give rise to a certain passivity among users, making them less than vigilant consumers of what is said or shown. Users should practice moderation and discipline in their approach to the mass media. They will want to form enlightened and correct consciences the more easily to resist unwholesome influences.”
And when it becomes an addiction? It would be absurd to consider technology in this regard “liberating”. Says social psychologist Adam Alter in his book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. “In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine,” says Dr. Alter, an associate professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University. “Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.”
Hey, you, Apostle of Christ! Are you guilty of binge watching, especially films without values?
Studies (pusc.it) show that seven out of ten young people in the West watch TV series through subscription ‘streaming’ platforms like Netflix. 72% of young people watch TV series several times a week; three out of ten do it to daily, according to an international survey of more than 3,600 young people.
Netflix has imposed a cultural revolution and, from a mere distributor, it also has become a producer of TV series. In just three years, Netflix landed in Europe and won over the public for the platform’s simplicity of use. What are the ingredients of Netflix’s success? TV series churned out at will and the ability to create pure addiction, episode by episode, among its subscribers, notwithstanding the quality of the content offered.
For us Christians, for whom the communication of the “Good News” is a fundamental commitment, influencing this area of media is urgent. The media of social communication have become so important that for many they are the principal informative and formative instrument of orientation and inspiration for individual, family, and social behavior.” Pope John Paul II wrote: “The first Areopagus of the modern age is the world of communications, which is unifying humanity and turning it into what is known as a ‘global village.’
St Josemaría, on speaking of the “apostolate of public opinion”, had always encouraged us to write and speak, with ‘gift of tongues’, in order to spread the truth about the Church and about human beings. He has always insisted that one of the greatest evils is ignorance: and we have to talk courageously and truthfully about what we have in our heads and in our hearts… This ‘apostolate of public opinion’ can be done in several ways: from a Theology lecture, to an article in a newspaper, to a simple conversation with a friend, say, while walking along the corridor… What are you and I doing to make sure that these “unli-movies” (available on demand from these streaming platforms) transmit the values that will enable us to achieve “human flourishing” and, ultimately, lead us to our final end, to God Himself?
For Catholics, America Magazine has compiled a “Guide for Catholic movies and shows to watch on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime”.