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The Netflix effect

Andrew Weir
Student Writer

netflix
photo retrieved from lifehacker.com

Binge-watching is an infamous ritual for many Netflix subscribers, where we sit down with a pizza from the Union and grind through our favorite television shows or Netflix originals.

Binge-watching can be a great way to relax, but it has more consequences than we’d like to acknowledge. So why is our generation so happy to sit on a couch and spend countless hours giving in to Netflix’s prompts to “continue watching?”

In a recent Huffington Post article, Dr. Robert F. Potter, director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University, posed this answer: “Because companies want us to, writers want us to and we want to,” Potter said. “Our brain is hard-wired to monitor changes in our environment as a survival mechanism so it’s hard for us to tear our eyes away. As long as something’s moving onscreen, we’re watching from the couch.”

Messiah students have experienced the binge-watching nudges first-hand. Junior Glenn Ibberson recently watched the entire Netflix original, Daredevil – a total of approximately 13 hours of television.

Glenn_Ibberson
Junior Glenn Ibberson

“I watched the whole season in one day,” Ibberson said. “I planned out my day to make it work. I usually only watch 4-5 hours every binge.”

The binge had negative effects on Ibberson’s physical and mental health. “Mentally I felt like I couldn’t retain anything,” Ibberson continued. “It was hard to hold a conversation with my brother. I remember I told him I needed to get some sleep.”

A lot of us feel drowsy after a good five to six-hour binge because reclining slows down our metabolisms. A Readers Digest article claimed, “Adults who watched more than three hours of TV a day doubled their risk of premature death compared to those who watched less.”

Not only can binge-watching have an impact on your physical and mental health, but it can also affect your social well-being. Too much time spent binge-watching may push you toward antisocial tendencies. In the same Readers Digest article, reporters spoke to Marketcast, an entertainment research firm. They found that 56 percent of bingers prefer to watch alone, and 98 percent watch at home. A good way to counteract this is to watch a show with a partner or a group of friends to bring you closer to other people.

Esther Weidmann, a first-year, said her favorite show to binge-watch is the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. “I probably watched, at the most, seven episodes in one day,” Weidmann said.

However, she usually only binge-watches the show with her fiancé, and the latest she’s stayed up watching was around midnight or 1 a.m. She had a more positive take on how it made her feel: “It actually made me feel better. Being able to get in a few good laughs can always ease a stressful day of classes.”

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Sophomore Joanna Towles

Netflix holds a large variety of shows ranging the decades, but the effects of watching are shockingly similar among students. Sophomore Joanna Towles prefers to watch an older sitcom, Friends. “I’ve probably watched around 12 episodes in a day,” she said. She also mentioned how she felt more tired and less motivated to get her work done after a binge.

As you can see, the “binge” is its own kind of animal, something untamable that has different connotations for everyone. For some it’s therapeutic, and for others, it’s a way to block out reality for a little while. Regardless of how you binge-watch, the late night “why am I still watching this when I should be writing my paper?” is an experience most of us can share and use to connect with each other.

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