relaxation techniques

The Sanity-Saving Pleasure of the Background Binge

Photo: Michael Moeller/Getty Images/EyeEm

Oh gosh, we are all so busy. Doing our job, raising our children, taking our dogs outside, making dinner, fighting with our health insurance companies, responding to email, complaining in our group texts, cleaning our bathrooms — it’s too much. It would be so nice to let off a little steam, relax, and participate in the “binge-watch” culture made possible by television streaming services such as Netflix and another example.

Sadly, it can be hard to fit “focusing our attention on a critically acclaimed drama for ten hours” into our schedule. Luckily, there is the background binge, a term defined by Gilmore Girls actress Lauren Graham in a recent cultural diary for the New York Times:

Tomorrow is our last day on set, and Skylar wants a recommendation for something to watch while he packs. I recommend Netflix’s “The Circle,” which I background-binged when I was on a deadline and had run out of “Grand Designs” episodes. Background binge is different than actual binge in that you can leave the house to go to the store or whatever for anywhere from 1 to 17 hours, and when you get home, you’re still pretty much up to speed.

Yes, a perfect concept — something to have on and forget about while you go about your business, still allowing yourself moments of pleasure during which you look at the TV and see that everything is as it always was. The Circle is an excellent example of it. What are they doing? Still typing to each other in some house somewhere? Perfect. This summer I researched apartments, saw potential apartments, packed up my apartment, and moved to a new apartment, all while “watching” the Real Housewives of New York. What are they doing? Screaming at each other at some function? Perfect.

You’re not relaxing during a background binge, but you can trick yourself into feeling like you’re participating in some sort of leisure activity. And isn’t that, ah … pretty good?

The Sanity-Saving Pleasure of the Background Binge