About a year ago, author Bret Easton Ellis suggested that we live in an era of content overload. And I tend to agree. Now, I might be biased since Ellis is one of my favorite authors and American Pyscho is both a favorite movie AND a favorite book of mine, but it’s something hard to deny. With the dawn of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu – suddenly people had a whole world of movies and television shows at their fingertips. Now with the rise of exclusive/original content, there’s a whole new deluge of media to consume. But, is that really a good thing?
Well, it might seem like a good thing, especially for the consumer. But media evolved, and the way we consumed that media has evolved right along with it. Where am I going with that? Ellis recalled a story where he caught himself indulging in America’s new favorite pass time: binge watching.
Television shows used to be delivered in small bite-sized pieces. And then we wait about a week to see the “thrilling conclusion” so to speak. Not anymore. Now we don’t have to wait seven days before we learn what happens, just a handful of seconds. The ability to binge watch sounds like a blessing – but as Ellis points out – it might really be a curse.
See, when Ellis caught himself binge watching show after to show, he realized that he’d changed. He kind of lost himself. He realized that, without him knowing, he had surrendered a large portion of his freedom.
New shows being released left and right, not by episode, but by season. And so many of them have become popular that the social pressure to join in can be significant. After all, you don’t want to be the only person in a group of friends who haven’t seen the latest season of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. Because these shows tend to dominate conversations. Discussions about what happened the last episode, who their favorite characters are and where you think the series is going. You either don’t care for the show and must now sit quietly while everyone else has fun talking on a topic of which you know nothing about OR you do care – haven’t caught up yet – and are now listening to spoilers.
The ability to binge watch combined with the overwhelming amount of content being produced for us to consume is kind of like bringing the drug den to the addict. We’ve become addicted to this indulgence. We’ve become greedy. And now, instead of spending an hour or two watching some 45-minute episodes of your favorite show, your spending entire days watching one season after another – your brain locked in a trance of consumption.
Moderation is dying because there’s no incentive to be moderate. We’re like children given a free pass to a candy shop. The adults smile on and even encourage us to eat all we want, but the consequences that were there before the free pass are still there now.
People are stuck consuming. It’s easy to get caught in the trap. Every hit feels great. Every bite of chocolate is like heaven in your mouth. Forgotten is the damage the drugs do to your body. Forgotten is how badly the candy ruins your health. When we consume, it becomes easier and easier not to think. We become locked in a receptive state. And in the end, we surrender more and more of our freedom to becomes mindless pigs.