I hate myself when I stay up too late at night.
I shouldn’t. I should be grateful that I have a career with few time requirements – a career that enables me to get away with staying awake ‘til 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and then sleeping through to 10:00. But the hours between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. have always been my most productive. That’s when I’ve always had the best ideas and the most energy to work on them.
So when I ruin my morning by going to sleep too late, I am angry. And who’s to blame but me?
What keeps me up is not financial or family worries. It’s a syndrome that has become a worldwide epidemic, affecting millions if not billions of people. I’m talking about AOBW – adult-onset binge watching.
My first bout was with The Wire. After that it was the British version of The Office. Then it was the American version. Then there were reruns of Modern Family and Friends and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Then came House of Cards. Then The Killing. Then the British version of The Killing. Then the Swedish mini-series of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Then a slew of English dramas and then French ones and then Korean ones. Then back home for Bloodline.
The problem with TV used to be that there were so few good things to watch. The good stuff was in the theaters.
Today most of the good stuff is on TV because, in the entertainment industry, that is now where the money is – and, thus, where the smartest and most talented people choose to work.
Their jobs are all designed around one central purpose: to keep the audience watching.
One of the ways they do that is with continuous plot and character development. Another way is by ending each episode with a cliffhanger. Neither of these techniques is new. They were used very successfully by soap opera producers for decades.
What’s new is the high quality of the plots and the acting and the ideas. What’s also new is streaming services that allow you to watch whatever you want… whenever you want… for as long as you want on your laptop or tablet.
Couldn’t be easier or more convenient. And the result is a worldwide epidemic of binge watching. You know it’s bad for you. You know you will regret it. But you do it anyway.
Is there any help?
I’ve found two things that you might want to try.
An App and a Simple Hack
StayFocused is an app that limits the time you are able to spend with your eyes glued to the screen.
Install it. Set the sites you want to block and the maximum time you’re allowing yourself on each one. Once you’ve reached your limit, you will automatically be blocked for the rest of the day.
Too technical for you? Here’s another idea – something that I’ve been doing for several years with good success: Stop watching before the end of the episode.
Since I know that the best TV series are engineered to encourage binge watching by making each episode end with a cliffhanger, I make it a point to stop watching somewhere in the second half – far enough from the end to guarantee that I won’t get caught up in it.
This is much easier than it sounds. Just remind yourself that you’re not going to miss a thing. When you tune in to the next episode, they’re going to repeat the cliffhanger before they get on with the story. So you’ll get to enjoy both the cliffhanger and the denouement in the same viewing.
Let me know if either of these ways to control your AOBW works for you… or if you have found something else.