COLUMN: Netflix needs to take a backseat

For some college students, there are three integral parts of day-to-day life: partying, sleeping and Netflix. It seems that when it comes to free time, these are the three big forces vying for attention. According to techinfographics.com, 68 percent of students binge-watch Netflix. Sixty percent of students nationally drank in the past month, according to niaaa.gov. While this does not mean they were partying, it is related.

According to surveys from NPR, on average students slept for seven hours a night on weekdays.

While seven hours isn’t as low as one would expect, it’s still not the eight hours that college students need. What’s interesting is that even CEOs have noticed this. In fact, Netflix CEO Reed Hasting recently came out with a statement that Netflix’s biggest competition isn’t Hulu or HBO Go. Netflix’s biggest competition may now be sleep. Hastings acknowledged what every college student knows. Speaking at Netflix’s first quarter earning call, he said when you’re watching Netflix, “you stay up late at night,” he said. “We are really competing with sleep on the margin.” As college students, we need to get our work done, but we also need to watch the rest of “13 Reasons Why,” “Friends” or “Bojack Horseman.”

In acknowledging that its competition isn’t another company, Netflix demonstrates the diversification within the streaming industry. With everyone so interested in all of Netflix’s original shows, the streaming service has taken on a wealth of new roles. What was formerly a movie rental service has become a content creator and cultural phenomenon. Even without extensive advertising, Netflix is able to get audiences engaged with its content simply by word of mouth.

All this comes together to make Netflix an astonishing center for culture. With new episodes coming out constantly, movies and comedy specials, as well as shows from other networks, there’s enough content to keep you awake for almost four years straight. Now, that’s binge-watching.

The fact is Netflix is no longer competing with businesses.

It is competing with our physical needs, and for many Americans, shows are growing to be more important than sleep. Which is fair enough, we don’t value sleep the way we should, particularly here at college.

What’s more astonishing is the way Netflix is competing with alcohol as a leading source of entertainment for college students. For a long time one of the most prominent form of entertainment among young adults has been drinking, and somehow Netflix is stepping in and challenging that.

On the whole, however, Netflix is just another form of escapism, much like drinking. So if students want to replace the harms of drinking with the much-lessened harms of binge watching, that’s a step towards better health, but as Netflix admits, binge-watching isn’t completely healthy and still competes with a good night’s sleep.

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