In August 2014, the term ‘binge-watch’ entered the Oxford online dictionary. It means to ‘watch multiple episodes of (a television programme) in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming’. Of this addition to 21st Century language, Oxford Dictionaries made the connection to Netflix. “[There were] notable spikes in usage recorded around the Netflix releases of House of Cards, Season Two in February 2014 and Orange is The New Black, Season Two in June 2014.”
Five years on in 2019, the binge-watch generation shows no signs of slowing down. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Hulu, HBO and countless other platforms offer up fast, exciting and often big-budget entertainment. Global audiences have round-the-clock, affordable, multilingual and mobile access. One episode rolls into another; each video leads to the next – algorithms get to know our preferences, in order to suggest even more.
For most people, this level of choice and personalisation is life-enhancing. We sign up and follow. We watch what we want, when we want it. But what happens if our binge-watch habits escalate and we lose control? When does binge-watching turn into Netflix addiction or YouTube addiction?
Binge-Watch Habits in 2019 – YouTube and Netflix Viewing Figures
In April 2019, Netflix reported nearly 150 million paying subscribers. Audience reach is likely to be at least double this figure – over 300 million viewers and counting.
Netflix understand the value of moreish or ‘binge-worthy’ shows. In 2013, they began to release entire series all at once, rather than one episode at a time. In October 2017, Netflix said that five million members that year had ‘binge-raced’ through an entire series in under 24 hours – as compared to 200,000 users in 2013.
In January 2019, Netflix reported to shareholders on their headline shows. “We were very pleased with our launch of You three weeks ago; we estimate it will be watched by over 40 million member households in its first 4 weeks on Netflix. This binge-worthy show […] is now a full Netflix global original. Sex Education from the UK is also tracking to be a huge hit (estimated over 40 million households watching the title within the first 4 weeks).”
In terms of YouTube’s reach, the figures are unrivalled and enormous. There are now over one billion users on their platform, one-third of all internet users worldwide. YouTube has local versions in more than 91 countries in 80 different languages. Every day, YouTube users watch more than one billion hours of video. Played consecutively, this would take 114,155 years to view.
Economist and Wired reporter, Chris Stokel-Walker, carried out an independent study into YouTube’s influence on children and young people. Publishing his findings in YouTubers in May 2019, Stokel-Walker said: “Even at the age of four, more than one in eight children are spending more than an hour at a time on YouTube. That steadily increases, almost without exception, to the age of 18, when 36% of people watch videos for more than 60 minutes at a time.”
When Does Binge-Watching Become Netflix Addiction or YouTube Addiction?
To understand Netflix addiction and YouTube addiction, we need to look at what happens before, during and after viewing sessions. Addiction isn’t simply a case of extreme use – if you binge-watch, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an addict. The key is the thoughts, feelings and actions that drive the addictive process, as well as the consequences of your use.
Firstly, if you’re addicted, there are signs to look out for when you’re not watching:
• Are you generally comfortable with yourself and satisfied with your life?
• Can you identify what’s going on immediately before you pull up YouTube or Netflix?
• Do you feel compelled to watch?
• How often do you watch to change the way you feel – to escape pain, to numb emotions, to feel relief or to avoid a difficult situation?
• If anything or anyone gets in the way of viewing, how do you feel?
• Is Netflix or YouTube the main source of excitement, pleasure or connection in your life?
• How would you feel if you couldn’t get access for a day, a week or a month?
Secondly, there will be signs of addiction when you watch Netflix or YouTube:
• Do you often lose control of how much you watch?
• Even when you’re not enjoying the content, do you find it hard to switch off?
• Do you fear missing out, if you don’t watch more?
• When you’re watching, does it anger or upset you to be interrupted by family or friends?
• Do you forget about the basics of self-care – eating proper meals, getting enough sleep, exercising or connecting with other people?
• Does Netflix or YouTube feel like the most important or real thing in your life?
Thirdly, if you’re addicted to Netflix or YouTube, there will be increasing consequences as your disorder progresses:
• Has your Netflix or YouTube habit made you more isolated?
• Is your mental or physical health suffering?
• If you’re in a relationship, what does your partner think about how much you watch?
• Is it hard to study, work or enjoy time with friends?
• Do you have recurring or distracting thoughts about YouTube or Netflix, particularly when you need to focus on something difficult or unpleasant?
• Do you feel guilty or ashamed about your YouTube or Netflix usage?
• Do you try to impose rules to limit your use? How does that work out?
• After binge-watching, do you feel a sense of withdrawal, comedown, depression or blankness?
Help with Netflix Addiction and YouTube Addiction
If you know your use of Netflix, YouTube or any other platform is addictive, please get in touch with Addiction Helper. We advise addicts, as well as their relatives and close friends, on the best addiction treatment programmes for their needs.
We take internet addiction as seriously as any other addiction. We understand that Netflix addiction and YouTube addiction often mask very difficult emotions, painful experiences or unresolved trauma. Please do not hesitate to call us, if you or a loved one is affected.