The Rise of The Couch Potato

From the first showing of the Lumière Brother’s “L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat“, film and television has been a fully immersive and collective experience for those watching.  This is the beginnings of the “media audience” -a group that together, in one place, shares an experience with one another.

However, as the medium and definition of film and television changes, so too does the definition of a media audience.  The rise of the Internet has made content much more accessible through online streaming sites such as Netflix and other less legal sites, and we find ourselves far more content to sit at home, alone, bingewatching our favourite shows while stuffing our faces with chocolate and wine – or is that just me?

The point is, this change in access has its positives and negatives.  The good points?  The convenience of online streaming makes it much easier to choose a movie late at night when you and your boyfriend want to find a happy compromise between “The Notebook” and “Pacific Rim”.  It keeps up with our rapidly expanding presence online, allows us to watch on different devices, and provides relief for those of us who finished Season 2 of Sherlock and simply had to start Season 3 (if you’ve seen it, you’ll understand!).

The bad points?  Well, that’s where the word “anxiety” comes into play.  Our population is becoming fatter and spending more time socialising online, true, but despite popular belief this does not mean our TV binging habits are the cause.  Many ordinary citizens take a “causality” outlook to it – that watching media in this new way is causing us to become less social and more obese.  The truth is, there’s far more to it than that.

Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic has stated that it is not so much our watching habits, but the act of sitting which is helping the rise in obesity levels {1}.  “Aha!  That’s proof!” some might say, but they’d be wrong – the two are not necessarily linked.  You could watch movies standing up or running on the treadmill if you wanted to.  Likewise, Yoon Hi Sung’s studies into the effects of bingewatching indicate that those who bingewatch are more depressed and reclusive {2}; however, the rise of online forums, Twitter discussions and the Monday morning exchanges about who died in such-and-such episode of Game of Thrones complicate things.  Just because we no longer sit in the same room, laughing, crying and gasping at the same time as each other, does not mean that we have lost the “media audience” of the past – it has simply evolved along with the media.



Brooke xx



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