Don’t Feel Guilty Binge-Watching TV While Social Distancing, Says Merrimack Professor

Associate professor of communication and media, Lisa Perks, Ph.D., unpacks the positive effects of binge-watching during the coronavirus pandemic.

Binge-watching television during the coronavirus pandemic is more than just a way to pass the time, says Lisa Perks, associate professor and chair of the communication and media department. She says it can be an important tool for coping. When you get involved in a series or revisit favorite movies, it can help calm feelings of isolation, boost your mood and provide a sense of connection.

Perks researches binge-watching and media engagement. She says media-marathoning, her alternate label for binge-watching, can be a therapeutic, purposeful coping strategy. Watching movies such as “Contagion” and “Children of Men,” for example, may help you cope with real-life pandemic concerns.

She says when it comes to consuming “comfort food” media, shows like “Friends” and “The Office” offer connection and humor. Stories that show others struggling on-screen such as “The Walking Dead” or “The Hunger Games” can help people deal with stress as they struggle alongside the characters.

“There is this notion that binge-watching is homeopathic – you get a small dose on screen and it can help you deal with real-life situations,” said Perks.

Perks recommends stories that are uplifting like the show “The Good Place” to help restore a sense of faith in humanity. “Harry Potter” movies’ emphasis on love and “The Avengers” series’ emphasis on togetherness and self-sacrifice can meet important needs at this time.