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Binge-watching can’t be good for you — but is it really that bad?

To binge or not to binge? Like many of us, with so many TV and streaming options these days, actress Annabelle Gurwitch struggles with falling into the black hole of epic, auto-loading TV and miniseries marathons. How is it different from getting caught up in a great book? And is it really that bad for us? Gurwitch offers her humble opinion on what may be a new addiction.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Binging, until recently, was a word usually associated with the meals we enjoy during the holidays.

    Not in this golden age of television. New TV series debut almost every week, and, among avid viewers, there's a feeling that you can't keep up.

    Tonight, actress Annabelle Gurwitch offers her Humble Opinion on what may be a new addiction.

  • Annabelle Gurwitch:

    It was 6.00 p.m. when I sat down to watch an episode of the series based on Stephen King's "The Mist."

    Before I knew it, I was glued to my computer while I cooked, ate dinner, brushed my teeth, took a bath. And it was 4:00 a.m. when I finally dragged myself to bed.

    After 10 consecutive episodes, I still didn't know where the mist came from, where the mist was going, or if mist is condensation or precipitation.

    I had gotten sucked into the binge-watching black hole, where time and space spaghettify and lose all meaning.

    This can't be good for me, I thought. But, last week, I lost the same amount of time reading Virginia Woolf, so is that any different?

    It's a good question to ask ourselves, as binge-watching has become the new normal.

    See, our brains love anticipation, and producers reel you in with cliffhangers. But the excitement doesn't last, and we need more stimulation, like hamsters on a wheel.

    So, when new episodes load seamlessly, you end up watching more than you intended. And, not surprisingly, binge-watching has been linked to poor sleep quality, fatigue, and people report feeling more anxious and depressed afterwards.

    Now, that could be a chicken-or-egg question, but being engrossed in a great novel has been shown to spark neural connectivity, which lengthens attention span, increases vocabulary, and even has the potential to raise our I.Q.s., although it could be argued that binge-watching is so popular, that it increases your social I.Q.

    Fans even track their binge-watches on the Internet. On one site, when last I checked, 902 people claimed to have spent 12 days, 21 hours, and 30 minutes watching all the episodes of "The Simpsons."

    So, to binge or not to binge, that is the question, which is why I'm asking myself, what would Mrs. Dalloway do? I highly doubt that Clarissa Dalloway could have gotten all those flowers herself if she'd been hypnotized by, say, "Orange Is the New Black."

    But if you should hear that I have gone missing, you will know I got sucked into binging the seven seasons I have missed of "Game of Thrones," and winter has finally come to my house.

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