“Eat. Sleep. Netflix.”

By LAUREN GOLDSTEIN and LAUREN DOLOWICH

With 30 million subscribers and counting, Netflix has caused a rise in “binge-watching,” the act of watching multiple television shows, movies, series, and documentaries in one sitting or over a short period of time. For Jericho High School students, access to this online media streaming service often causes distraction from schoolwork and, in certain cases, social alienation.

netflixPsychiatrist Norman Doidge, as quoted in “The Wall Street Journal,” said that binge-watching is a result of changes in brain chemistry. “We get into something akin to a trance with great storytelling,” he said. According to Doidge, we identify with television characters’ emotions and begin to feel those emotions ourselves, leading to a change in brain chemicals that causes viewers to feel an impulse to continue watching.

“These tend to be protracted states,” he said of people’s strong desire to see what happens next. Watching numerous episodes of a show in quick succession can lead to “a deeper virtual-reality experience of the narrative. It can seem more real, from a neurological point of view,” Dr. Doidge said.

In a survey conducted by the JerEcho, 48% of Jericho High School students surveyed said that binge-watching causes them to be distracted from their schoolwork. Junior Bari Yorke started watching shows on Netflix two years ago, and she has fully completed six television series since then. Yorke says that she watches four to five hours of Netflix per night during the week, and much more on weekends. So far, she has completed television series “Dexter,” “One Tree Hill,” “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” “Weeds,” and “Orange Is the New Black.” She has now turned her attention to “The Vampire Diaries” as well as various television shows and documentaries about the sociology of street gangs.

“Watching ‘One Tree Hill’ took me a month–it’s nine seasons and twenty-something episodes in each season,” Yorke said. “I sit home, and I watch Netflix, and I don’t do my work.”

Junior Sam Newman said that Netflix’s “post-play” feature, which continuously plays two additional episodes following a chosen episode, combined with the service’s lack of commercials and advertising, causes him to spend an excessive amount of time on Netflix every night. Newman has seen his dedication to schoolwork begin to wane. “You constantly say ‘I can watch one more and then another,’ and then it’s too late and you want to rush through your homework because you have to see the next episode,” he said. “It gets hard to balance.”

Similarly, senior Ryan Sandler said that watching shows on Netflix usually takes up half of her afternoon and evening. She comes home from school at 3:40 p.m. and stays on Netflix until 7 p.m. or later, after which she first begins her schoolwork. “I have a lot of free time because I’m a senior,” Sandler said. She spends a lot of time scrolling through the site’s most frequently watched shows and watches movies.

Jericho students also cite a lack of interest in their regular activities as a result of their Netflix “addictions.”

Yorke said that in addition to postponing her schoolwork, she is no longer as physically active. Instead of going to the gym during the week or making plans with friends on weekends, Yorke sometimes turns to watching shows on Netflix.

However, there are students who are able to maintain active social lives and dedication to their schoolwork while keeping up with their favorite shows on Netflix. Newman said that he often sees students interacting and discussing different aspects of Netflix shows that they mutually watch. One JerEcho survey respondent said that Netflix allows him/her to “have temporary pleasure and escape from stresses of life.” Clearly, many students see watching shows on Netflix as a break from schoolwork during especially stressful imes.

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