Many students moan about oppressive homework loads, but if their wifi use is any indication, they’re spending a lot of time watching movies and TV shows.
Netflix makes up 35% of all web traffic on Eduroam and Chapman Open, the university’s wifi networks. That means the movie and television streaming service is the most popular website used by students, according to Information and Cyber Security Specialist Ryan Tanovan.
General browsing and Netflix rank top two in most visited websites at Chapman. General browsing, which makes up 67% of web traffic, includes websites such as Blackboard, Leatherby Libraries, and MyChapman among other sites. But no academic site is accessed frequently enough to be recognized in the ranking.
Instagram, Apple Services, Youtube, and Facebook follow Netflix in the rankings on most popular sites.
The data suggests that students using campus wifi are spending more time watching Netflix than using the web for academic work, Tanovan said.
“I watch Netflix in the morning when I get ready at 11am, and when I get home from 3pm to 8pm,” said Megan Tu, a junior communications studies major, who admitted to watching Netflix several hours a day.
“Sometimes, I’ll watch Netflix straight from 3 p.m.- 12 a.m., or even later if I feel like it,” Tu said.
Tu simply doesn’t have much homework to use the web for many other purposes, she said.
“I always watch Netflix before I do homework. I don’t really have a lot of homework as a communication studies major,” Tu said. “However, the amount of Netflix a student should watch honestly depends on what major and how busy they are.”
While the act of watching Netflix may seem like an innocent act that students do to relieve stress, often students spend an excessive amount of time watching Netflix, which leads to binge-watching behaviors and addiction.
“Binge-watching happens when the content itself is immediately gratifying, and you’re watching things that are of interest and stimulating to you. This is normal human behavior, we are all drawn to things we feel rewarded by,” said Hillarie Cash, a mental health counselor specializing in internet and screen addiction.
Binge-watching behaviors can lead to a Netflix addiction, said Cash who co-founded reSTART, a residential treatment center for internet, video game and VR addiction
When a person finds a substance/action pleasurable and continuously pre-long that pleasure, they are over-stimulating the pleasure pathways in the brain. The process of addiction begins when the person loses control of their actions. This becomes a vicious cycle especially when Netflix’s content is designed to keep someone’s attention on the screen, Cash said.
So what exactly makes Netflix so attractive and popular among students?
The lure of one’s favorite show is a powerful draw, students said.
“I see students watching Netflix during lectures and in the library a lot, mainly on the second floor,” said freshman biology major Kelly Ly.
Tu even watches Netflix during her classes. “Sometimes the lectures are boring, so I just start watching my favorite show on Netflix. It’s a good past-time,” Tu said.
Students watch Netflix in class because they don’t have the stamina to pay close attention to lectures, because lectures may not be immediately rewarding and stimulating to the senses. If students are not interested in the things being taught, it is easy to get bored and give up, Cash said.
Netflix is specifically designed to draw its viewers in for a long span of time to give them an instant escape from stress and reality.
“Netflix is always offering up the next interesting thing that its viewers are interested in, which is what makes it so addicting. They’ve achieved that by collecting data on individual interests, preferences to shows, and recommending new shows for customers to watch,” Cash said. “College is tiring and creates stress and anxiety, so a lot of people have used watching Netflix as a coping strategy to escape.”
But a use analysis shows that the streaming service is also displacing sleep.
The most popular time for Netflix usage is from 12- 4 a.m., according to Tanovan. “During this time, Netflix takes up 56.35% of all web traffic, meaning that half of everyone who is using the internet from 12- 4 a.m. is watching Netflix,” he said.
“What else would you be doing at 12 a.m.? If you’re a good kid and not out partying, you are most likely watching Netflix,” Tu said. “I stayed up till 2 a.m. watching Netflix last night.”
“All addictions are about immediate gratification, which will interfere with one’s life. When you’re addicted to Netflix, you’re going to be watching Netflix instead of everything you should be doing: sleeping, studying, going to classes, which can cause you to fail your academics,” Cash said.
In addition, Netflix addictions can also have some negative long-term impacts on one’s cognitive thinking, behavior, and creativity.
An individual’s creativity is compromised when they are a consumer of someone else’s content, Cash said. The shortening of one’s attention span, poor ability to think in the long-term, and not being able to pay attention and stay focused are all effects of being addicted to Netflix.
“You have to be able to delay gratification and reward, because working hard then getting a good grade is your reward,” Cash said.
Ly and Paola Portillo, a freshman Biology major both prefer sleeping over watching Netflix.
“I only stay up late to do homework” Portillo said.
While Netflix allows students to relieve stress and relax, students should prioritize their school work and organize their time based on their workloads, Tanovan said.