Netflix: A Dangerous Pastime

Imagine yourself in the middle of a busy school week.  You have two papers due and a midterm to cram for, but there is something blocking your concentration. A new season of “Grey’s Anatomy” was just added to a magical website.

We’ve all been there in the moment that Netflix takes over.

It is just so easy. Access to hours and hours filled with streaming all your favorite shows is all right at your fingertips, distracting you from all responsibilities. Unless you consider binge-watching the entire series of Dexter productive.

“Netflix is great and all but sometimes I feel like a slave,” said  Griffin Mullen, a sophomore at California Lutheran University.

Both Mullen and fellow full-time student Ryan Zapata hold part-time jobs but still leave room in their schedules for Netflix viewing. Zapata and Mullen each admit to watching at least five to 10 hours per week of their favorite shows on Netflix.

“I guess it depends on what I’m watching. If I’m watching Homeland, then yes,” Mullen said when asked if he’s been affected by Netflix.

Netflix can easily interfere with things in the real world, such as school, work and friends and can quickly make people feel like a slave to their computer screen upon hours of commercial free viewing.

“People are generally more anti-social nowadays so Netflix kind of helps with that,” Zapata said.

While many TV shows are often intended simply to entertain, the effects of binge-watching a series on Netflix or any other streaming site may be harmful. Zapata views the act of binge-watching as getting in the way of human relationships.

The act of binge-watching is not just what makes it anti-social. It becomes an anti-social activity because it is mostly done alone.

Think about it: while binge-watching Netflix you may find yourself in your least presentable state to other people, maybe even wearing footy pajamas and covered in Hot Cheeto dust.

Netflix consuming the time of its viewers is a popular topic among universities because whether we like it or not, many college students can be considered compulsive viewers.

The University of Texas at Austin have conducted research on the causes and effects of binge-watching various shows on Netflix. Their research seems to conclude that the act of binge-watching does not necessarily make us anti-social but is also an activity that anti-social people participate in because it doesn’t require human interaction. The two are closely related but are not affected by one another, indicating that Netflix not only creates but encourages unsocial and lonely behavior.

Dr. Russell Stockard, professor of communication at Cal Lutheran, mentions that there can actually be some educational benefits from watching Netflix.

“It depends on what you are watching, documentaries on subjects you are interested in school can be educational. Even shows such as [“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”] can be educational through incidental learning,” Stockard said.

However, even though Netflix can be educational at times it can take away from the hours students should be spending studying and preparing for class.

While watching a two-hour documentary about a killer whale is very educational, it will not help with the lab report you have due on mold samples the next morning.

“If students are not getting their work done then it’s bad, but it is not bad itself,” Stockard said. Long story short, watching Netflix for an extended amount of time is not a sure path into becoming a hermit. Like everything in life moderation is key to the pleasures we enjoy.

So on a Friday night if you have no plans, take no shame in watching a few episodes of “Friends.” But on episode 17, you may want to consider going outside for a walk to keep in touch with reality.

Heather Tomaszewski
Staff Writer
Published February 11, 2015