Why You Shouldn’t Binge-Watch Orange Is the New Black

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Photo: Netflix

I adore the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, and that is why I implore you: Don’t burn through the entire thing this weekend. 

Because a fair bit of psychological evidence reveals the hidden pleasures of a long wait, showing that we’re often happier when we’re anticipating something than we are when we get our greedy little hands on it. As Sonja Lyubormisky, a UC Riverside psychologist and author of the book The How of Happiness, said in an email to Science of Us, anticipation itself “generates positive emotions and helps us savor future positive experiences.”

There’s a lot of evidence to support my anti-binge-watching stance. A 2013 paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research with the on-point title “Is Wanting Better Than Having?” found that materialists — in other words, people who said they believe that buying stuff will make them happy — are actually happier when they’re just daydreaming about owning a new product than they are when they’ve bought and purchased the shiny new toy. Next, a study by Christopher Hsee at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that students were happiest before they ate a KitKat bar — not during or after. (There’s a summary of that study in this later paper by Hsee.) And, as Jennifer Senior recently pointed out, research has shown that this effect also applies to the vacations we so painstakingly plan and fund: We’re happiest before we take a vacation — not after, and not during.

So as much as I am dying to find out what happens to Piper and Alex and Crazy Eyes and Taystee and Pennsatucky, I think it’ll be ultimately more fun to resist the urge to binge-watch and watch the episodes one at a time. Now, then: Will someone please point me toward some research on how to avoid spoilers? Because this is the less-thought-out piece of my plan.