When does addiction occur? Most of us know the feeling of being ‘glued’ to the screen or to the pages of a book and not wanting to leave the bed even to meet friends or go get their paycheck. In this post I will concentrate mostly on TV series, but I firmly believe that addiction can occur with most kinds of media.
There are certain groups of people who rarely get addicted to a TV show. Take young dedicated professionals & family people for example. When a person has not enough free, conscious and awake time to dedicate to the show and the buzz surrounding it, they are not very likely to become deeply involved. It’s mainly single people with interest in some creative area and a lot of free time (high school students, university students, part-time employees or freelancers) that get addicted to TV shows. Working moms that fall asleep in front of the TV while watching the same crime series every night don’t really count.
There are several ways one can reduce the risk of becoming addicted. That being said, addiction isn’t always a bad thing. I will dedicate a future post to the merits of genuinely immersing yourself in something and how it can help build confidence and widen creativity.
The first rule of keeping addiction under control is Pace. Pace has to do with the speed you watch episodes with, as well as with the time you wait to watch the newest episode after it has been aired. The longer you wait, the less time of your day you spend watching, which in turn means that you have time to do other interesting things that you will likely talk about with your family and friends. If you binge-watch a TV show, you will have neither the time, nor the inclination to talk to people. Imagine watching Dexter and someone calling you and asking “What’s up?”. Your likely answer will be “Nothing much. More blood.” Not very sexy.
The second rule deals with the sense of Belonging to a group/fandom. We as human beings are social creatures and are programmed to seek the company of others. And is there anything better than sharing your hobbies with other like-minded people? The feeling of elation you feel when you watch an episode and start fangirling about it with strangers on Twitter can be deceptively good. On the large scale of things, it is usually a huge waste of time. So my advice would be to always wait until the wave has washed over. Don’t log in social media for a couple of days following the release of the newest episode. Let the world discuss it and don’t feel obliged to participate. There will always be other late bloomers like you. There is no need to go with the crowd when it comes to art. When you finally watch the episode and log in, you will think logically enough to decide better whether to watch those 24 gifs that someone posted.
The third and perhaps most important rule is Intensity. This has to deal with the amount of material outside of the original TV episodes that you consume. Often just watching the series is not enough. You suddenly find yourself googling images, making stills and writing down quotes. But this is just the beginning. While you are thus innocently engaged, someone somewhere is writing an NSFW slash fanfiction, organizing a conference or filming a spin-off TV series. The possibilities are endless. If a show is good enough, sooner or later people will start creating content around it. As the old song goes, “We don’t have a lot of material, / but that’s all right, we’ll just make our own.” What this means for you, is that there will always be more to see, or read, or watch, or hear, or comment on, or reblog. I recently read a book about serial killers and finished two online courses on forensic science.
If you are lucky, you have enough going on in your life as it is and can’t spare the time for all of the fandom craziness. Otherwise you might very well lose yourself in it… or start creating content yourself. Either way, addiction to a TV show is an extremely time-consuming hobby and one should think hard and long before letting it in one’s life.
I hope these 3 rules help. In the next post I’ll discuss the positive sides of addiction, so you can make the most of it if you were so unfortunate as to fall its victim. And on a more cheery note, how many of your fandoms can you see here: