Video-streaming transforms socialization, but not for worse: Netflix brings friends together and provides instantaneous entertainment

Netflix and similar video-streaming sites  have become an indispensable part of the college experience.

Today, almost everyone has an account.

Students use the video-streaming service to watch popular shows like “Breaking Bad,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “House of Cards.”

In my experience, college students spend a large chunk of their time watching shows rather than hanging out with friends or studying.

This definitely seems like a problematic occurrence on the Puget Sound campus, but to what extent is it affecting the socialization between students?

According to Business Week, “Netflix seems to be by far the biggest winner of shifting TV consumption habits. The streaming service now accounts for up to 30 percent of all residential downstream Internet traffic in the U.S. during peak times, and it’s starting to have an impact on college campus networks as well.”

Nick Brody, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Puget Sound, believes that even though the media exaggerates the amount of time spent on video-streaming sites, the levels of consumption of popular entertainment among students have changed significantly.

“The media tends to overestimate the effects of technological changes on social life. That being said, there is no question that students watch television shows and movies much differently than they did even five or ten years ago. For example, they can now ‘binge’ on entire seasons of shows of their choice, rather than having to wait years to get through a series,” Brody said.

People now spend a lot of their time watching entire series in the span of a few days.

While this is great for the self-gratification of the viewer, this reflects a large shift in the way we now spend our free time.

“The question remains—have these changes affected the way students socialize? Some people are always going to view television watching as more of a solitary endeavor. On the other hand, watching similar shows can be a bonding experience and can drive conversation in face-to-face encounters,” Brody said.

For many college students, they use Netflix as their reward or escape after a stressful day.

One junior believes that Netflix should be able to be used either to spend one’s free time or to reward his or herself.

“I know that when I’m overwhelmed with work or am just eating dinner at home, I like to be able to watch Netflix and I think everyone should feel free to do so too,” he said.

“Despite any concerns we might  have about the impact of video-streaming on society, it’s just a reflection of the digital age we live in.”

It is true that Netflix and other video-streaming services can offer people immediate entertainment and comfort.

This is one of Netflix’s immediate appeals, and the reason why places like Blockbuster cease to exist.

It’s easy then, to see the benefits of services like the one Netflix provides.

Netflix proves not only to be a viable source of entertainment, but also a medium through which popular culture can be more easily consumed.

Because of increased knowledge about popular culture, people are more easily able to bond when they watch the same shows.

Freshman Marisa Christensen feels that the services Netflix provide allow the opportunity for socialization among friends.

“I personally have never watched Netflix alone here. To some, it can be a distraction or an excuse to procrastinate, but for me, it’s been a way to enjoy a  movie with my friends when it costs a fortune to go to a movie theater these days,” Christensen said.

While Christensen might be the exception  in comparison to most Netflix-users, she makes a good assertion.

If Netflix truly has the power to bring more than one person to a screen, what difference does it make if students can still spend time and socialize together?

Given all its changes, Netflix will definitely, if it hasn’t already, shift the way younger generations communicate with one another.

Despite the perceived drawbacks, Netflix can bring friends together, provide instantaneous entertainment and inform people about the newest inside jokes from popular shows.

In the end, Netflix isn’t so bad, and regular watching won’t transform our generation into recluses, but rather a group of people that communicate in ways far different from those of our parents’ generation.