- Millennials are using Netflix and TV to cope with burnout, according to a recent survey by YellowBrick, a treatment center for young adults.
- They’re turning to technology to distance themselves from being constantly connected – a relationship they need to learn to navigate, psychologist Dr. Leora Trub told Business Insider.
- Research shows that binge-watching can have negative long-term health effects – but for those who can practice self-control, it’s not a bad coping mechanism, says Trub.
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To cope, they’re turning to Netflix and Hulu, according to a recent survey by YellowBrick, a psychiatric and trauma treatment center for young adults. The survey polled more than 2,000 American millennials between the ages of 23 and 38 about burnout.
When asked how they cope with burnout, 16% of respondents said they watch Netflix, Hulu, or TV. They also reported sleeping and exercise as a coping mechanism (10% each), followed by drinking alcohol (9%), taking drugs (8%), meditation (8%), surfing the Internet (7%), and talking to friends/family (5%).
Watching Netflix isn’t the worst kind of coping strategy, psychologist Leora Trub, Ph.D., who leads Pace University’s Digital Media and Psychology Lab, told Business Insider. It offers both distraction and entertainment as coping mechanisms, she said.
But whether this coping strategy is healthy or not depends on the person, Trub said. Ultimately, it’s all about moderation.
Using technology to create distance from technology
The fact that millennials are turning to one type of technology to create distance from another type of technology is emblematic of an increasingly connected world. And it can become a problematic habit, Trub said. That’s because watching one episode of Netflix can turn into binge-watching – watching episode after episode of a TV show.
“You have to find resources within yourself to take a step back and figure out your relationship with [watching Netflix or TV] and what you want it to be,” Trub said, adding that we have to work hard to develop a healthy relationship with technology because it’s so immersive.
She added: “Generally, the younger people are, the less good they are at anticipating their own responses to things. We’re no longer giving people the opportunity to cultivate skills that have to do with keeping yourself nourished without technology.”
The addiction criteria usually used for drugs and alcohol is now being used for technology, Trub said. But she likens a technology addiction more specifically to a food addiction. Technology, she noted, is “… out there for everyone, everyone needs to use it to some extent for their daily lives. It’s an alluring and compelling thing.”
The key is navigating your relationship with TV
Because Netflix and its peers are so accessible, regulating the use of it calls for an incredible amount of self-control, especially when you’re stressed out, Trub said.
Trub noted that TV has gotten more stimulating over time: Shows in the 1980s didn’t have the level of drama or stimulation that today’s shows, like Game of Thrones and Handmaid’s Tale, do. Now that entertainment has upped the ante, Trub said, moving on to the next episode could be problematic for sleep if you’re not careful.
“It’s hard to control or moderate Netflix use and navigate your relationship with it,” Trub said. “Technology sets it up so that you can binge-watch – the battle to turn it off is up to you.”
Binge-watching can damage your health, reported Lindsay Dodgson for Business Insider, citing a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The study found that binge-watching can lower our quality of sleep and increase fatigue, leading to long-term effects such as changes in performance, cognitive thinking, and immune system, and an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
The researchers who conducted the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study said it’s unrealistic to expect people to stop binge-watching altogether, but suggested drawing boundaries like stopping an hour before going to bed or doing it on the weekends only. However, when being used as a coping mechanism, it’s likely that streaming services and TV are specifically being turned to after a long day at work, before bed – and that’s where self-control comes in.
“For people who are able to behave in line with their intentions, it’s not a bad thing,” Trub said. “Everyone should get to have their own vices and TV is a fine one.”