Bad news for those of you who are planning to spend Valentine's Day curled up with a good, old fashioned Netflix marathon. According to science, binge-watching is linked to loneliness and depression. In other words, science thinks that basically all millennials are sad, lonely people. Thanks, science. Thanks a lot.
This cheery, cheery news comes to us via a study out of the University of Texas at Austin. Stupid universities ruining everything. In the study, the researchers looked at a group of about 300 people aged 18-29 and asked how often they felt lonely, how often they felt depressed, how often they had "self-regulatory deficiency" aka a lack of self-control, and finally how much television they binge-watched. They found that people more prone to feeling lonely or depressed were also more likely to binge-watch in order to try to alleviate those negative feelings. And people with less self-control were more likely to binge-watch because, well, self control.
Hey, it's really hard to stop Netflix once it's already autoplaying, OK?
"Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge-watching should no longer be viewed this way," said Yoon Hi Sung, one of the study's authors. He says that binge-watching may lead to fatigue, weight gain, and assorted health problems, plus the potential to neglect relationships and responsibilities in favor of the latest season of House of Cards .
So does this mean you need to rethink your Valentine's Day plans and stop being such a lonely, miserable person? Not really. After all, the study isn't suggesting that binge-watching causes loneliness or sadness. In fact, the researchers believe the opposite, that binge-watching is a way of coping with those already present emotions. Is it the healthiest, most productive way? Maybe not, though as someone who survived several stressful semesters by unwinding with Netflix, I'd take issue with the idea that it doesn't serve any productive purpose.
But the real take away here isn't that binge-watching means you're pathetic or that binge-watching is going to wreck your life, just that binge-watching might be a sign that something bigger might be going on with you. If you find yourself binge-watching all the time, it might be worth it to take the time to ask yourself why that is. Are you avoiding something? Do you feel lonely? Are you sad? Are these things that you need to face up to? It never hurts to check in on yourself, after all.
Of course, there's also the possibility that binge-watching actually will help you cope with all those feelings. I wouldn't bet on it, but hey, science hasn't disproved it yet, right?
Either way, spend Valentine's Day however you want. Because let's be real, Netflix is less likely to make you sad and lonely than dating. It just is.