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  • Katie Austin

Breaking the Binge

Updated: May 16, 2020

Why do we love to binge watch things?

During this time of isolation our desire for human connection--particularly connection with someone other than those in isolation with us, manifests itself in a familiar comfort that we found before the time of COVID--the binge. The idea of--I’ll just watch one more--it’s only 20 minutes, 40 minutes… often turns into [I’ll let you fill in this blank] minutes or hours.

The idea of--I’ll just watch one more--it’s only 20 minutes, 40 minutes… often turns into [I’ll let you fill in this blank] minutes or hours.

Why do we love to binge watch things? There are many motivations: comfort, distraction, delight, escape, legitimate interest in the big cat world, etc. However in this time of social distancing, bingeing also offers a weird form of companionship with our fictitious and non-fictions friends.

When we spend hours and hours with the stories before us, we cannot help but feel connected to the people we watch. During the last two months Psychic Detective Shawn Spencer and his sidekick Burton Guster have made me laugh, Michael Scott and Little Sebastian have made me cry, Carole Baskin has made me question the legal system, and the Study Group from Greendale Community College (almost) made me order a paintball gun. Don't even get me started on my emotional attachment to Disney's Robin Hood. However, spending hours watching and rewatching our favorite shows can't help but take up space in our lives that could be used for real connection--with God, ourselves, and others... even the others that we are bingeing beside.

I love television--not to Abed Nadir levels, but it's been a long and significant relationship that extends back to my childhood. And this reflection is not to cast judgment on my or your behavior during our time at home, but it is simply a challenge to say: What are we missing when we’re not missing an episode?

As Summer begins--it is Summer isn’t it? [Some days I think it's November and other days I think I’m going to wake up on March 14 realizing this was all a dream.] I invite you to join me in the Breaking the Binge Challenge. #bingebroken

This challenge will look different depending on where you want to limit your screen time. Here are the suggested rules--pick and choose an adventure that suits you (much like the new Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt movie I am undoubtedly going to watch this week):

7 Ideas for Breaking the Binge

  • Do not binge before you have had committed time for prayer. If we say “one more episode…” or “Yes, I’m still watching” before we sit down for at least 15-20 minutes of quiet, screenfree prayer time, it is very likely that it will not happen that day.

  • Consider your goal before switching on your screen. Is this for entertainment? Do I need an escape? Am I feeling lonely? Am I watching with others as an activity? How many times have I seen this episode of Parks and Rec? Again--no judgment on the goal, but when we continue to operate on autopilot without considering the why of our actions, we fall into the trap of becoming mindless drones.

  • Being productive while bingeing. A favorite practice of mine is to switch on something familiar that makes me smile while doing laundry, cleaning out a closet, or tidying up. (1) PRO: you get something done from the never-ending list that is adulthood. (2) CON: you don’t actually get anything done. If I am honest… at some point I’m just watching and the towels are still in a pile, half-folded. Alternatives: have silence while you clean the kitchen [that whole work being a prayer thing only works if we’re praying.] OR find an audiobook, some inspiring music, or something that won’t become a visual distraction.

  • Setting a timer--or more specifically a bedtime. For many of us, the screens in our lives mess with the all-important idea of having a bedtime. We are moving from two months of no bedtime to Summer. If you are living life on an academic schedule, there is a huge temptation to have no rule of life throughout the Summer. Making the decision to go to bed at not only a reasonable hour but a consistent hour is good not only for our physical health but mental health as well.

  • Make a list of everything else you want to do. Often we switch on the streaming services because we can’t think of anything else to do… but perhaps you have a stockpile of hopes and dreams for your free time--play the piano, finally learn French, make that stained-glass sidewalk chalk project you have been dreaming about. If we make an actual list and review it before we click "continue watching" we may actually get started! SIDENOTE: The problem with starting new projects is often our ability or willingness to finish them. Treating these special projects with the same limitations--placing a timer or some other limitation (e.g. reorganizing only 1 shelf of the pantry at a time) can help big goals become manageable. Commit to one of these other projects for 1 hour before indulging in the binge.

  • Go outside. That's it. Just go outside. #bingebirdwatching

  • How far do you want to go? If you really feel that binge-watching has crossed from "oops where went my evening" to being a serious obstacle in your pursuit of daily duties (and heaven), then it may be time to cut yourself off. We like talking in phases now... so let's try a few. PHASE I: eliminate streaming apps from your phone, tablet, or anything that is not your TV. PHASE II: make a one episode at a time rule for yourself. PHASE III: place a large object in front of your TV. Stare at that for hours on end and see if it has the same effect. PHASE IV: cancel your streaming services.


Don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes we overdo it.

Move on and start again.

These are just a few ideas and suggestions as we try to Break the Binge--what would you add to the list?

Decided to pick up some new hobbies, activities, or habits that take you away from binge watching? Post a pic with #bingebroken and tag @askauntkatie on facebook and instagram!

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