The lessons I learned from binge-watching in the aftermath of my breakup

things

I.
I love TV but I became a non-binge watcher rather quickly. And the resolution didn’t come after a thoughtful inner conversation. Between the last episode of Stranger Things and my latest attempt to binge watch, a couple of months had passed. I had moved to another city, I had lots of work to do, I was mourning my breakup and I had some debts to pay.

The resolution came when I tried to indulge again with old friend Netflix. I made the necessary arrangements — basically making myself a sandwich — and clicked play to revisit Mad Men Season 1, Episode 1: Credits roll, violins ensue, Don Draper’s floor breaks beneath him… and I feel sick. My gag reflex reacts, not as Jon Hamm’s character keeps falling, though. I felt as I had unknowingly been submitted to the Ludovico treatment. The one Alex DeLarge volunteers to in order to be released from prison only to discover that the things he loved the most now just make him sick. I turned off the computer and played some music on my cellphone. I haven’t binge-watched anything else ever since.
We can be sure that our thirst for Series will not only be quenched, but prevalent.

II. At the time of writing this it’s april 29th 2017 and countless reviews, viral think pieces, spot-on memes, and reassurances of the golden age of streaming TV have been making rounds thanks to the newest Netflix Original, Amazon or Equivalent. We can be sure that our thirst for series will not only be quenched, but prevalent.

But I’ve been away from that frenzy for too long now. And it’s almost been a year after my breakup. I was a binge-watcher. And I’m always at risk of falling back. Winter will always be coming for me.
I was a binge-watcher. And I’m always at risk of falling back. Winter will always be coming for me.
When we try to rationalize our crave for watching someone else’s lives on the “small screen”, we usually resort to the whole “this resonates with our everyday lives” argument. And it’s true to an extent. But I assure you that the next line applies for every TV Series ever made: “ _______ it’s a series about politics, sex, power dynamics and the complexities of the human condition”. Other than that, it’s just a beautifully crafted audiovisual product designed to fill our free time. And probably emotional voids.

…It’s just a beautifully crafted audiovisual product designed to fill our free time. And probably emotional voids.

My habit ended months after my breakup. Even after the “it’s not me it’s definitely you” trauma, I still managed to hop onto the bandwagon that Stranger Things enticed across Generation x’ers, Millennials and even that new generation that We’ll be condemning next decade. This means that I actively ignored the Mr Robot looking in the Black Mirror of The Man in the high castle atop the Westworld. And many more of those magnificent cinema-like productions that flood our mobiles and little and big screens.

III. Watching a show used to be a week to week habit. You’d have the time to process the episode during the weekend and even talk about it at school lunch break or at the office after a company meeting. But now, what this binge-watching phenomenon has created is the need to watch something even before you want to watch it. Spoilers, spoilers everywhere.
Our habit has shifted from actively pleasurable to non-spoiler defensive. It appears that Binge Watching is the need for someone’s experience not to be spoiled by someone else’s. In other words, it doesn’t stem from an active interest in enjoying the experience, but the intent of avoiding that passive experience of being spoiled of something.

It appears that Binge Watching is the need for someone’s experience not to be spoiled by someone else’s.

Binge watching creates the need to be ahead of everybody because we are so bad now at delaying pleasure that we’d better cram our eyes with all this content even if we are not hungry.

IV.
The biggest rituals I had with my ex in the wake of our relationship was watching movies, travelling and going out. The last two years, though, I would actively propose to do more couch potatoing. My standard proposal of spending time with her was “what are we going to watch, baby?”. Fortunately, she didn’t agree with this all the time.

Was this a time machine indicator of an inevitable routine of what life as a couple would turn out to be had we gotten married? “What holographic-scented experience you want to have, dear? want me to play New Year’s eve 2054 in Cambodia?”. “No Fer, I want to go out for a walk”. She’d probably protest.
Netflix and chill can be an indicator of a stable, safe, round the clock routine relationship. Or it can be the biggest red flag. I mean, she didn’t break up with me because of my binge-watching. She did mention, however, that I was depressed.

Netflix and chill can be an indicator of a stable, safe, round the clock routine relationship. Or it can be the biggest red flag.

DEPRESSED. A new netflix series.

Ew. But likely. Doesn’t it exist already?

Anyways. At that time I was going through the one of the toughest moments of my life and I wasn’t doing very good. I didn’t have a steady income and I wasn’t being commissioned as many writing and radio gigs as I would have liked to. I was so arrogant and entitled that I was reluctant to take other jobs or gigs or not investing in acquiring other skills that could have made me a better radio producer, a better writer. So I lost lots of scholarship, fellowships, grants and contest opportunities.

And how did I cope with that? You’re goddamn right.

Instead of redirecting my efforts to get better at what I was doing or to get another job or to help me pay the bills and not get credit card debt I kept on watching TV. If I woke up and had breakfast it would have to be with the next episode of whatever the fuck was hip. I even gave Flaked a chance (It is insufferable: two friends get in trouble because bro code? really?). Afternoon tacos with Boardwalk Empire, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk for dinner with The Americans or Better Call Saul or House of Cards or Orange is the New Black. “Baby I’m just going to be ahead of you 3 episodes so you’ll catch me later right? love you bebé”.

It’s so hard to detach yourself from such and stimulating experience of watching complex characters feeling or going through a wide array of emotions in 42 minutes or less.

It’s so hard to detach yourself from such and stimulating experience of watching complex characters feeling or going through a wide array of emotions in 42 minutes or less. And they end up solving their problems. For a real human being to experience that it takes months, even years.

V.
Fortunately for me, my best memories with my ex don’t involve binge watching at all. It was we preparing breakfast. Spring cleaning her new apartment. Talking on the wee hours of the night on what our future would look like. Dirty talking while we were away. Love making when we were close. Taking turns to walk my pitbull Tuco -yes, that Tuco. (No, mine won’t kill you… maybe out of cuteness but that’s another story).

It was her bringing us food for a radio contest and staying up to give support. It was her being the first person to listen to the finished work of that challenge. It was me offering to give her a ride to the outskirts of the city and help her with some props for one of her photo productions. It involved being involved with each other. Not in front of a screen.

I can bounce back to binge-watching at any moment. Therefore, I’m not fully recovered. But I’m more available for others and for myself (watching Game of Thrones is like watching any ball game. Available for those inner thoughts that need hands-on resolution instead of high-definition.

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