Film binging an unhealthy addiction

By Quynh Nguyen   August 20, 2023 | 12:04 am PT
Khanh An walks into work with dark circles under her eyes after staying up all night finishing a 16-episode Korean drama recommended by a friend.

This is not a first for the 25-year-old office worker in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City.

"I can’t resist watching because the episodes end on cliffhangers," An says. "I often only finish watching just as the sun begins rising."

Duy Trung, a 20-year-old Hanoian, is also addicted to watching movies till dawn, which began during the pandemic but persists to this day.

While studying online during Covid lockdown, Duy Trung develops an unhealthy habit of watching movies until 2-3 a.m. Photo courtesy of Duy Trung

While studying online during Covid lockdown, Duy Trung develops an unhealthy habit of watching movies until 2-3 a.m. Photo courtesy of Duy Trung

"Even if I force myself to turn off my phone and computer before midnight, I still can’t sleep, so I’d rather watch movies instead," he explains.

This trend is not only seen in young singles. Thu Trang, a 32-year-old single mother who lives in the central province of Thanh Hoa with her family, also binges films from midnight to sunrise after cleaning the house and tucking her 2-year-old son into bed.

She reasons that watching films instead of sleeping is "inevitable" because she already spends her day working and looking after her son.

"The time I go to sleep is dependent on the length of the movie. I don’t really care as long as I get to relax", Trang says.

Film binging and staying up late is not something new among the younger population. Statistics from marketing agency Adsota (part of the entertainment corporation Appota) shows that on average Vietnamese people spend 6 hours 47 minutes online every day.

Some 97.6% say that they watch videos while 61.2% watch vlogs. In another survey, 71% of Internet users say that they watch online videos every day.

All across the country, watching films online is a growing trend. The Ministry of Information and Communications reports that by the end of 2021, the paid cable industry had generated revenues of VND9.2 trillion (US$380 million) with 16.7 million subscriptions.

Statistics from the first 6 months of 2022 revealed that the figure had increased 14% compared to last year.

In an even more telling report by Statista called Digital Media Report Video on Demand in 2022, Vietnam placed the second after Indonesia in the Southeast Asia region in terms of revenue for VoD (Video on Demand), with a number of $187.4 million.

Aside from the growth of online films, the number of people willing to shell out money for better equipment to play games and watch movies has also risen.

A report by the data analysis company GFK in 2022 showed that Vietnamese people were prioritizing purchasing better technology, especially when it comes to smartphones. If a person was willing to spend $257 on average for a phone in 2017, then by 2022 that number had increased to $292.

Many Vietnamese families install projectors to watch movies. Illustration photo by Tuan Anh

Many Vietnamese families install projectors to watch movies. Illustration photo by Tuan Anh

Le Anh Tu, a professor of the Faculty of Public Relations-Communications at HCMC's Van Lang University remarks that these statistics show that film binging is becoming a popular trend.

There are main reasons for this phenomenon. The development of technology and cheaper Internet prices have given people almost unlimited access to an infinite variety of online entertainment. This all fulfills the need of the Vietnamese people to connect with the world through film and media.

But this problematic habit of dedicating their entire free time to watching movies will not only affect the individual but also society at large. Dr. Tran Thi Hong Thu, Deputy Director, and Head of Clinical Departments of Mai Huong Daycare Psychiatric Hospital (Hanoi) says film binging causes human eyes to work beyond their capabilities, constantly exposing them to harmful blue light from devices.

It also causes fatigue and difficulty concentrating, which could affect both work and study. Even more alarmingly, a study conducted by the University of Texas in 2015 found that watching movies for an extended amount of time can lead to depression, obesity, and hormonal disorders.

Khanh An’s problem with binging has made her late for work many times. Her fatigue from staying up late catches up with her throughout the day and forces her to stay overtime to finish her accumulating work.

"I always tell myself to go to bed early. But it’s so hard to do," the 27-year-old sighs.

Le Thu, 29, used to be a certified film addict. She would watch movies till 2-3 a.m. and then wake up for work at 6 a.m. Uncontrollable film binging and snacking has also caused her stomach pains, weight gain, and migraines, prompting her to go to a doctor for treatment.

Recently, Thu has created a healthier schedule for herself. Instead of watching movies throughout the night, she delegates Saturday nights to be movie nights and she sleeps in on Sundays, her day off. During the nights of the week, she only watches short TV episodes that last an hour or less, and then she goes to bed.

"I see movies as a way to help myself relax and feel happier, but I’m more aware of my limits and how to not let it affect my health and work," she says.

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