From a Bookworm to a Binge-Watcher

Monday, 01 June 2020


From a Bookworm to a Binge-Watcher

Harshita Himatsingka | February 23, 2019 17:19 hrs

The year: 2008. The event: My birthday. Emotion: Bliss.

I remember this day as one of the happiest days of my life because, for the first time ever, I was deemed responsible enough to be given a huge sum of money. The sum, although only Rs 1000 in retrospect today, meant a great deal to 12-year-old me at the time. The first place that I rushed to after receiving this gift was Modern Book Depot in Pan Bazaar: my “paradise.” 12 books from the Mary-Kate and Ashley series for my 12th birthday! Could that day get any better? Yes, it could, because my mother saw the joy on my face and brought me the remaining titles of the series as well. Best day ever.

The year: 2018. The event: A regular Tuesday or Wednesday perhaps. Emotion: Bliss.

I remember this day as one of the happiest days of my life because after a long wait, one of my favorite series had finally released the second season of their show online. As soon as my classes got over for the day, I rushed home to Netflix: my “paradise” again. In my pajamas, on my bed, with a snack in hand, I was all set. Let the binge-watching begin. Same old laptop, same old me, but a brand new season of one of my favorite series! Could that day get any better? Yes, it could, because the producers of the show just extended the number of episodes and I got to enjoy an hour more of pure happiness (the episodes were 30 minutes each). Best day ever.

When I was young(er), I was a very proud bookworm. Just like we need to eat food to survive, I also needed books to survive. Anyway, I used to devour a book a week and I had a special diary where I wrote the dates of when I started reading a book and when I finished it. Nerd? Yes! Proud? Yes! This went on for a while and I was living the best life being the girl who would always argue that the book is better than the movie, and for the record, it always is, when suddenly, I went to college and the bookworm in me disappeared. I’m not yet sure if he’s gone for good, but I hope not because I really want him back. My new year’s resolution this year is to find him and get him back in my life because I really miss him.

So, when I went to college and my trusted friend left me, I wasn’t all alone. I found a new friend, Mr Binge and he has been a trusted accomplice all through these years. But I’m not sure if he’s the best I can do with. I mean, we have tons of fun, I really like hanging out with him, but is he “the one”? I don’t think so.  Because of him, I can’t meet my age-old childhood friend and I think he’s also inculcated a lot of other not-so-good qualities in me.

While reading gave me knowledge and a worldview that far exceeded my own, binge-watching gave me a low attention span among other things. Now, being a movie and sitcom buff, I cannot totally denounce watching TV and movies. However, the way to consume that has dramatically shifted. Earlier, reading was a priority and I would probably only watch TV after I came back from school for an hour or two in the evening. However, in college, for some reason, I just couldn’t tear myself away from the screen and would gulp down series after series like a woman possessed. I did thoroughly enjoy it and so did other people who were vastly impressed with my knowledge of TV characters, actors and so on. This was a world of its own and so easy to get sucked into.

Again, since I’m a curious cat, I did some research into why binge-watching is so rewarding and the results sort of scared me. According to an article published by NBC news, binge-watching produces a chemical in our brain called dopamine which gives the body a natural, internal reward of pleasure that keeps us glued to the screen because of continued engagement in the said activity. This chemical basically tells our brain that what we are doing is awesome and we should continue to do more of it. This process is the same as that of being addicted to drugs or other substances. The article mentions that the neuronal pathways that cause heroin and sex addictions are similar to that of binge-watching as our body does not discriminate and differentiate against pleasure. It will continue to want to engage in any activity that consistently produces dopamine. While binge-watching does relieve stress, it can also very quickly become a source of that very stress. Scary, isn’t it? Who thought watching “The Crown” in one sitting could rewire my brain and make me an addict?

So, this is not an easy thing to accept, but, I’ll still say it. Now, when I pick out a book to read, I can hardly get through more than 15-20 pages in one sitting. And the worst part is, I know in my heart of hearts, that the 12-year-old me is so disappointed. Earlier, what I could do in a week, now I possibly couldn’t even do in a month. However, I am trying to turn this around. I will probably still be a mad woman, but I’ll shift gears on the kind of crazy, and go back to being the reading woman possessed who devours, I’m hoping, at least 2 books a month, for starters. Nerd? Yes! Proud? Yes.

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