Within two weeks, I watched 64 “Veronica Mars” shows on Hulu followed by a nearly two-hour movie all in preparation of an eight-episode revival. I finished that in one day.
Then, the blues ensued; a depression and mourning after an all-consuming tale comes to an end.
I was in the same funk after steamrolling through “Stranger Things,” “Jessica Jones,” “Derry Girls,” “Russian Doll” and “Peaky Blinders” on Netflix.
Binge-watching isn’t that much different than being invested in a really good book. The time commitment is about the same.
It’s not unusual to find me at 2 a.m. unable to put down a novel. I almost pulled an all-nighter when the final Harry Potter book was released.
Of course there are differences between reading a story and watching one, but the post-conclusion melancholy is identical. Saying goodbye to characters can be a difficult mental task.
When “Veronica Mars” first aired, I was caring for a newborn, so television wasn’t part of the routine. It takes a few years for parents to move from the world of Curious George back into pop culture.
It took 15 years to discover the teenage private investigator turned adult crime fighter. It’s more about solving mysteries with a whip-smart attitude than the typical teen angst found on the CW network programs. That’s what I’ve told my husband and kids anyway.
As I’m rolling those storylines around in my head, I’m thinking of what next to tackle: maybe a book or perhaps another television series.
Before any decision is made, I plan to reclaim my time.
Researchers have a fascination with the effects of screen time and binge watching, which is a relatively new phenomenon that arrived with online streaming services.
A majority of Americans binge on television programs (two or more episodes at a time), according to numerous surveys: 61% according to Netflix, 58% from a YouGov report, and consulting firm Deloitte reported 70% (broken down by 90% of Gen Z, 86% of millennials and 80% of Gen X).
Statista, a market research website, says 52% say they feel sad after binging on a show, giving some comfort about my current “Veronica Mars” comedown.
Sleep appears to be a victim of our rush to watch everything unfold at once.
A report from the University of Michigan and Belgium’s University of Leuven found a link between sleep problems and binge watching. It found one in three binge watchers experienced poor sleep including insomnia, fatigue and poor sleep quality.
This was just associated with binging on shows, not regular television viewing.
Strangely, reading a book is heralded as a way to relax, have better social skills and live longer; television gets no respect.
A decade ago, neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis of the University of Sussex found reading a book the best way to go to sleep because it reduces stress levels by 68%.
My book choices must be on the exciting side because I stay up longer. Give me the latest Janet Evanovich or Diana Gabaldon and I will be lost for hours.
Though, textbooks, self-help guides, research papers and scholarly nonfiction encourage early bedtimes and naps.
The upside is I may get a couple of more years to my lifespan by reading, according to Yale University researchers led by professor Becca R. Levy.
And reading fiction (compared to nonfiction) increases empathy, according to University of Toronto researchers.
A few years ago, a University of Oklahoma study extended those findings for good dramatic television. OU researchers Jessica Black and Jennifer Barnes found that people viewing Emmy-quality drama (such as “Mad Men,” “The West Wing” or “Lost”) scored higher on emotional intelligence measures over those watching a documentary.
“Both written and filmed fictional narratives demand that the audience understand the feelings and intentions of the characters,” Black and Barnes write. “Without knowing what the people in a story are thinking, it is difficult, if not impossible, to follow the plot.”
“Veronica Mars” may not have won or been nominated for an Emmy, but its stories centered on the have and have-nots remain relevant.
With that rise of emotional maturity, it appears my binge watching shouldn’t be viewed solely as a guilty pleasure, but it did leave me sleepy.
For my next TV series, I’ve pledged to watch with someone to set a more reasonable pace with time limits.
The challenge will be convincing my husband — lover of science fiction, old-time Westerns, super heroes and cheesy ghost stories — that the “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and the revival series of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” are up his alley.
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