Before streaming websites like Netflix became a dorm room staple, students found other avenues to fill lulls in schedules and put off responsibilities. Most twenty-first century college students no longer look to television or books as primary forms of leisure and entertainment sources. Netflix is leading the pack — in fact, 90 percent of HU students polled have access to accounts.
Netflix has worked its way into many Huntington University students’ weekly, and even daily, schedules. Of the 50 Livingston Hall residents polled in a convenience survey, 38 percent said they watch Netflix every day. Most of the daily streamers say they log in right before bed as a means of unwinding.
Roommates Rachel Hart and Caitlyn Chase say they habitually watch two half-hour episodes together before getting some shut eye each night.
Netflix, which began streaming in 2007, costs a college-affordable price of $8.99 a month and offers a plethora of television series and movies.
Like sophomores Hart and Chase, many students either watch a series together or discuss episodes amongst friends. Some long-running series, such as Friends, The Office and Parks and Recreation have developed a type of social currency. In order to contribute to a conversation about popular shows, students must commit to watching them.
Associate professor of psychology Tanner Babb said not watching the most popular series can lead to feeling left out.
“It has stimulated curiosity because everyone is talking about it . . . so you hop on there to watch it.”
Sophomore Conner Kreider agreed that some people watch shows to keep up with culture or because their friends are without necessarily having a genuine interest in the show.
Because Netflix provides entire seasons of shows, it allows viewers to “binge-watch,” or to consume a large number of episodes in one sitting.
“One time, I watched 14 episodes of Prison Break without leaving my bed,” Kreider recalled about his longest binge-watching session.
His binge-watch, which stretched 10 hours, didn’t include any bathroom or snack breaks. Kreider said he only normally watches a half-hour episode each night when school is in session.
Netflix also runs the risk of becoming an addiction to some.
“It’s so seamless,” Babb said. “You don’t even have to get up from the couch. You can just sit there and wait 10 seconds and then the next episode starts.”
Kurtz, who is currently enrolled in a class on addictions required for his major in social work, said his professor, Mary Ruthi, has discussed how Netflix can serve as an escape from reality.
“I think it’s like any other behavioral addiction,” said Kreider. “It just becomes an addiction when it takes priority over academics or even physical needs, like meals or sleeping.”
Babb said binge-watching for either enjoyment or procrastination can only breed more stress, which can in turn cause students to turn right back to Netflix as an escape.
Just like any other addiction, withdrawal symptoms can occur, Babb said.
Students cited feelings of both accomplishment and emptiness when their favorite series ends.
“You find a sense of identity in the show, and when its over, you kind of lose that,” Kreider said.
Some, like Kreider, said they either begin another series immediately after finishing one or they return back again to a favorite series.
Students often try to have the best of both worlds, catching up on their favorite shows while also studying for tomorrow’s exam.
“I think students have in their mind that they can multitask, like ‘Oh, I’ve seen this show before, so I’ll put this on while I’m doing homework,’” Babb said. “And what we know is that the brain can’t multitask in that way.”
According to Babb, what is commonly seen as multitasking is really something called partial continuous action, which means that you are constantly switching between two things, such as your book and the TV.
“Your efficiency goes down incredibly,” Babb said. “Students know this because they’ll go to the library when they seriously need to study.”
Kreider said multitasking doesn’t work for his studying style, even if it’s something he’s seen multiple times.
“I either want to quote it or watch it because I know what’s happening next,” he said.
Babb said that while Netflix can get in the way of academics, he saw no problem with students using it as a study break after a few hours of homework.
Babb said, “It can serve as an incentive and reward to study well.”