By Caroline Hong
More people nowadays are resorting to getting their fill of episodes through the Internet instead of through old-fashioned television, with services like Netflix and Hulu Plus providing their customers with more accessible and convenient viewing. According to The New York Times, one in three current teens relies primarily on online streaming and video hosting for their shows. A small monthly fee allows for a sprawling library of past shows that span genres from drama to comedy. No need to worry about missing last night’s episode —a membership to a streaming site can easily provide ad-free viewing as early as the day after broadcasting. Because of this convenience, people often “binge-watch” multiple episodes—or even entire seasons for the ambitious—in one sitting.
Online viewing is also more convenient than live television is for those who are pressed for time. Viewers are now able to watch whatever they want whenever they want. Lacking the time to watch an entire episode in one sitting no longer precludes people from watching shows because they can easily pause an episode and resume at another time.
Regardless of the plethora of advantages online services provide, their incredible accessibility might be detrimental overall, encouraging viewers to spend too much time in front of screens. A new report by eMarketer indicates that people spend an average of around five hours daily with digital media, a significant increase from four and a half hours in 2011. Watching television used to be a family pastime but now is often a solitary activity because everyone can watch different programs in different rooms. Additionally, now that it is so easy to access shows online, it is harder for parents to monitor how much time their children are spending watching television. Teenagers, therefore, are more likely to spend more time glued to a screen, when they could be studying, exercising, or socializing.
Procrastination now flows freely in the form of one episode thoughtlessly succeeding another, creating a habit that could turn into a harmful lifelong practice.
The popularity of watching television shows through the Internet is no fad. Though the convenience of online viewing is alluring, its tendency to promote over-watching is significant. One thing is clear: as services like Netflix and Hulu take center stage, the television set may be relegated to the pit.