‘I felt absolutely horrible’: the world record-holder for binge watching looks back

By | 4 minute read | March 21, 2018

Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso, left, and Alex Christison, right, setting the record for VR binge watching.

Binge-watching is a quintessential 21st-century pastime, a fact that’s driving video demand through the roof and straining networks. But few have binged like 27-year-old Brooklyn resident Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso.

In 2016, after outlasting two other record-attempters, Fragoso watched 94 consecutive hours of TV—with one five-minute break every hour—to break the Guinness record for TV binge watching . Last year, he and Alex Christison spent 50 hours in VR to set Guinness’ VR binging record. Both record attempts were sponsored by CyberLink, a Taiwanese multimedia software company. “Some people were actually pretty upset that I did it,” Fragoso told IBM recently. “If you look at some of the comments of the news postings or on Instagram, people were like, ‘This is disgusting. How dare the media promote this kind of behavior?’ Meanwhile, other people were like, ‘This is incredible. I want to do this now.’ Other people were like, ‘Four days is nothing. I could totally do a week!'”

A year since his last record attempt, Fragoso isn’t hankering for another binge fest, but he’s looking back proudly on his accomplishments. IBM’s conversation with Fragoso has been edited for length and clarity.

Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso and Alex Christison after setting the VR binge watching record.

Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso, left, and Alex Christison, right, after setting the VR binge watching record.

How did you end up attempting a TV-binging world record?

My friend from high school, Tim Williams, manages the PR account for Cyberlink. I was out drinking with my girlfriend at the time and bumped into him. He told me how Cyberlink was organizing this world record attempt but didn’t have anyone to attempt it and they had two weeks to get everything together. We were like, “We could totally do that!” And he texted me the next day and he was like, “All right, I told my boss you and Molly are up for it.” By then it kind of felt like the control was taken out of my hands.

What made you think you could do it?

I have a really strange ability to just zone out and watch something for a long time. The focusing part I knew I could do. It was really the staying awake part I wasn’t sure about.

Alejandro “AJ” Fragoso during his 2016 TV binge-watching marathon.

Were you nervous before the attempt?  

When they told us we couldn’t look away from the screen—even a glance—or hold any serious conversation while doing it, both of us were pretty upset. We almost tried to get out of it when we found out.

What are your TV watching habits generally?

I would say generally when Netflix drops a series I’ll watch quite a bit of it at once. I think the most recent long-term binge I did was the new Stranger Things season. Molly and I watched that whole thing in a day.

You started hallucinating during the attempt, right? What was that like?

I would liken it to when you take a hallucinogen. Your thoughts are just not quite right. After day two was when things got bad in terms of lack of appetite, incoherent thoughts, the beginning of hallucinations, and just feeling run down. The one example I still remember is being in the bathroom and looking at the wall and seeing the folds in the paint morph into a handwritten shopping list. I remember seeing “eggs” and “milk” on the wall and I remember thinking, “I know that’s not there, but I can see it.”

What happened after you broke the record?

I felt absolutely horrible, but somehow I was able to walk around and be semi-functioning. They called us a taxi. I don’t remember much about the taxi ride. I thought that as soon as we got back home I’d fall asleep before my head hit the pillow. But I was just so wired at that point it took a while for my brain to shut down.

When did the opportunity for the VR binge come about?

It was about a year after. Tim came to me and said, “CyberLink wants to do another of these things. Can you do it?” I thought, “Sure, 50 hours is nothing next to 94. Let’s do it.”

What would make you want to do something like that again?

VR is a really cool technology and I kind of took pride in the fact that I could maybe be part of the movement to increase its adoption.

Was there a moment during either record attempt when you thought of quitting?

Yeah. When Molly was disqualified on day three of the TV record attempt, at that point there was another 24 hours to go, which just seemed impossible. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it.

What kept you going?

I don’t know. I was kind of on autopilot at the time. I figured I’d done it three days, so I could do another one. A lot of people took a lot of time and effort to put the things together, and Molly and I had put a lot in to stay awake. To throw that all away at that point would have been devastating.

Would you do another record attempt?

I said I wouldn’t after the TV one and then a year later I ended up doing the VR thing. They refer to those types of records as endurance records. I’d say I really wouldn’t want to do another endurance record. I think really pushing myself, testing my will power and doing off-the-wall things that people think are outrageous is something I’m interested in, but I really wouldn’t prefer to do something that has me staying awake for too long.

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