Do you binge-watch often? What compels you to do that? Have you ever wondered why you binge-watch? On average people spend around 30 minutes on watching Netflix and about 4-5 hours on TV.

30 minutes of Netflix per day adds up to 72 hours per year. Similarly, if you are watching TV for at least 4 hours a day, this adds up to 34, 560 hours per year. Could you have spent that time otherwise? 

Turn on the TV and there are over hundreds of channels. Log into Netflix and you will have to take a moment to decide what to watch. Go to the supermarket and there are a multitude of products in a single category. Go shopping and find a plethora of choices awaiting. Life used to be simpler. Better. 

Today, there’s so much variety that it has become tiring to make a decision. If you don’t put thought into it, you may end up with a sub-par choice that you may regret. Your time is crucial. Understand that. Binge-watching Netflix is not healthy. In this post, we look into how you can choose quality entertainment in the age of choice overload, making sure that you are not investing time in   

What you watch matters 

Research shows that the media (television, films, radio, and music) is a critical part of the social environment that influences our children. According to research, the media significantly contributes to social norms that define behavior in children and young adults. It essentially shapes your reasoning abilities and even impacts your decision making. This is more serious than you think.

The human brain is a powerful organ. The magnitude of its power is yet to be fully understood by science. One of the most amazing things about the brain is its ability to adapt. In scientific terms, it is called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. This plasticity is what allows your brain to rewire, modify, and adapt to new learnings. Without neuroplasticity, we would not be able to learn and retain new things. 

If all other health factors remain the same, neuroplasticity allows us to keep learning new things even in our senior years. However, where it helps us acquire and store new skills, it also makes us vulnerable to misinformation that can do more damage than good. 

When you are watching Netflix or listening to the radio or podcast, you are exposing your brain to new information. While neuroplasticity is helping you understand, acquire, and store new information, it is not filtering out anything that could have a negative influence on you. 

You have to deliberately filter information to make sure you only retain quality material

Imagine this: Anybody can use the media to influence the masses. You are being influenced everyday unwittingly. Big companies and governments could use media to influence you and alter your decision making to gain personal benefits. 

There is scientific evidence that media (including movies, TV shows, Late night talk shows, and music) have a significant impact on your brain. 

What you watch impacts every aspect of your health. Let’s look at each aspect of your health that is being altered by the media, and then we’ll get into what you can do about it.  

Effects of what you watch on the brain and emotional health 

What you watch drastically alters brain structures impacting your emotions, reasoning, and decision making abilities leading to:

Cognitive decline 

Watching Netflix is a passive activity. You are passively receiving information; there is no interaction between you and the images and sounds. This leads to more alertness and less focus. People who watch more than 3 hours of Netflix or TV can have an increased risk of cognitive decline in older age. Cognitive decline can impact memory, language, and reasoning. 

Emotional decline 

TV programs and news can often contain stressful information that can cause certain cognitive impairments leading to weak emotional responses. This is mainly because passive watching engages emotions rather than intellect. When you are constantly exposed to stressful news and content, it triggers reactions in your brain that impact your emotions. These reactions can become permanent over time rendering you unable to control your emotions. 

Physical changes to the brain 

One research shows that prolonged TV watching can lead to thicker hypothalamus, septum, and visual cortex. In children. Hypothalamus thickening is directly linked with mood and personality disorders. In children and younger adults, prolonged TV watching can lead to antisocial behavior that can lead to further problems including social anxiety. 

Effects of what you watch on the Physical health 

Since TV and Netflix watching is a passive, sedentary activity, it impacts your heart, spine, eyes, and other health aspects in the long run. People who watch more than 3 hours of Netflix or TV are at higher risk of developing diabetes, obesity, mental health problems, and antisocial behavior.

The effect on your decision making and reasoning

Did you ever watch a news story about a crime and felt a strong sense of hatred and aggression? It is normal to react to such stories. But here it gets very tricky. News organizations and content creators know how to elicit certain reactions. And, this makes it a very dangerous scenario because that means they can manufacture content in a way that would make you react. The reaction can in return impact your reasoning and decision making. News and media organizations can use manipulative tactics to make sure they make you react the way they want you to react. This especially comes in handy in politics. People who watch Fox News are more likely to be against the democrats, while people who watch CNN are more likely to think badly of the republicans.

They are a constant tug of war to get you on either side, and content can manipulate enough to get you on either side. Apart from politics, research shows that children and young adults who watch violent TV shows are more likely to have aggressive behavior in school. 

There are physical changes in the brain that lead to behavioral and mood problems. And watching Netflix contributes to those changes. 

Some TV programs manipulate information that discourages civic participation. Your participation matters. So, how far would they go to manipulate information and what can you do about it? 

The truth is we don’t have any control over information that we are exposed to through news and TV shows. What we can do is to learn how to filter information and make sure that it does not impact our decision making. It’s easier said than done. 

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The effect of choice overload

Life is all about making decisions. We make decisions every day. The decisions we make today define our tomorrow. So, you should never take any decision for granted. Unfortunately, in this day and age of over choice, some organizations and influencers are trying to influence our decisions for their gains. 

The sensitivity of the brain and its vulnerability to absorb any information without a filter makes it prone to information overload. Remember back in the day when we only had like a couple of news channels. There was far less information to process. Today, we are living in the age of over choice; our brains have more information than they can process. This leads to cognitive exhaustion that hinders our ability to make better choices. 

How to make better decisions in the age of over choice

It is established that what you watch impacts almost every aspect of your health and especially your reasoning. So what do you do? 

1. Acknowledge the over choice 

Understand that there is an influx of information that you are exposed to regularly. All information isn’t good/quality information. 

2. Reduce your screen time 

Avoid watching Netflix for long hours. Instead, engage in activities that benefit cognitive development. These activities can include board games, physical activity, and intellectually stimulating video games. 

3. Think things through 

Avoid making decisions based on one-sided information. Take your time; consider all the factors before making a choice. 

4. Be mindful of what you watch 

Avoid binge-watching. Be selective and do some research before you settle on a TV show. For example, invest in watching educational documentaries rather than crime shows. Turn off the TV; try to gather information through unconventional means to get a different perspective. 

The bottom line 

Your brain is one of your most valuable assets. This explosion of options is only trying to overwhelm and exhaust your cognitive abilities. So be mindful of information; be mindful of what you see, hear, and retain. Equip yourself to make better choices by learning how to filter information. It’s not easy, but thanks to our brain’s amazing capability (neuroplasticity) if you try and discipline yourself, you will learn to filter out useless information. 

Next, learn how to stop your brain from buzzing with thoughts all the time here.

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