Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The spiritual cost of binge watching 

By JULIAN SAVIANO | Published June 10, 2022

Just one more episode. Counting the perpetual instances I’ve uttered those words is embarrassing to contemplate.  

Young and old, many have spent extra time watching episodes of our favorite shows. Who can blame us? The various streaming services generally auto play the next episode as a default function. But shouldn’t we ask ourselves what is the spiritual cost? Are we hurting our souls? 

Julian Saviano

My undergraduate degree is in media and entertainment. Not surprisingly, the media and entertainment business hyper focuses on continuous viewership. Clearly, our attention is valuable. Between Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, among others, media companies are competing for our attention. Many courses I took involved learning media theories to keep the attention of the viewer.  

Certainly, not every media company has an evil agenda to destroy our relationship with God. However, it is important to be mindful of that impact. I knew something personally needed to change when I could quote “The Office” better than the Bible.  

Often, I would try and rationalize my binge watching by arguing that “I just need some noise on in the background.” I’ve since worked tirelessly to change that habit when I noticed many of my daily tasks lacked intentionality. God speaks to us in many ways. By mindlessly watching the next episode of “The Walking Dead” while folding laundry, for example, I pushed God aside. Further, when I finished folding the laundry, I would watch three, four or five more episodes. Interestingly, I seemed to always feel tired. Sloth, according to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, “is an oppressive sorrow.” He said, “sloth implies a certain weariness of work.” No wonder I seemed to always feel tired.  

This habit was destroying my soul. My prayer life was abysmal, and my phone and television were always playing something. What did I need to change?  

Realizing that noise helped me focus, I began listening to Gregorian chant or worship music while working on simple tasks. Also, when I take walks now, I leave my phone and headphones behind. I focus on the sounds of nature and allow God to take control. Once I formed this new habit, I realized how much I tried to be in control. It was this desire for control that was killing my spirit.  

“For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Rom 14:8) 

Julian Saviano, 33, is a parishioner at St. Joseph Church, Athens.