It seems the word “couch potato” has had a much longer shelf life in pop culture usage than we remember. The media was talking about couch potatoes already in the 1980s when the cable TV industry started giving kids more options and excuses for sitting around and watching TV. Even before that in the three-network universe, there were those who managed to find ways to sit on a couch all day and watch movies, daytime soap operas, or the real crave of the day: Daytime game shows.
With daytime TV not being watched as much now (presumably from more people working in the daytime), it might be surprising to hear that couch potatoes even exist any more in the era when watching media is more mobile. With Netflix, a lot of people are watching shows on their smartphones or in other parts of the house that aren’t near the 70-inch HDTV in the living room. Now that studies show that sitting and watching too much TV can ultimately lead to early death, it almost sounds like a report from 30 years ago when we basically heard the same thing.
It was about that time, ironically, when obesity started its slow ascent in the youth and adults of America. Regardless, those who lived in the 1980s remember hearing about the dangers of sitting too long in front of the TV and how much parents persuaded their kids to go outside and play after sitting a little too long watching Saturday morning TV. In those days, that suggestion was usually heeded rather than defiantly defying such a thing. Today, some kids may be so obese that parents realize their kids physically can’t be outside running around without further health concerns.
Now with definitive word that they may have an early death if sitting too long watching TV (or for any long sitting), what does it say about the emerging binge-watching culture where assimilating Netflix shows is a new media priority?
Will Binge-Watching Lead to Health Problems?
For many, binge-watching a show all in one sitting is a convenient way to escape the ills of the world and watch a show about all the ills in a fictional world. As droll as that sounds, it’s more than true based on most of those binge watches being of drama shows that tell us perhaps more truth about society than anyone cares to admit. So many great dramas are being made now that it’s easy to get assimilated into the shows to a point where time has no meaning if you have nothing else to do.
While it may sound unbelievable that anyone would have time to binge-watch anything, someone should do a real poll or study on the degrees of binge watching. Are we really sitting for four or five hours straight watching a Netflix show without moving a muscle, or are we taking those shows in more healthy bites throughout the day while doing other things?
One thing we haven’t taken into consideration is how much TV and Netflix can become a casual piece of entertainment around the house while moving around doing housework or working on a project. It’s no different than we flip on a movie on commercial cable that we watch only casually because we love the movie and because it inspires us on whatever else we’re doing. It could be that most binge watchers aren’t sitting motionless in a chair and actually have the shows going on their computer or streaming on a TV while doing other things.
In such an ADD culture, it’s hard to imagine we’d be completely absorbed in a series for an entire day without being cognizant to how unhealthy it is. Ultimately, binge-watching may be more apt to be like a friend that pushes you to do something else concurrently while still getting the gist of the show’s details as you pass by the computer or TV. In some circles, it may mean while doing jumping jacks or when making the rounds while running a vacuum cleaner or running around the house.