Binge viewing: the issue of instant streaming

Thanks to online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, binge watching is an issue faced by many college students.

It’s 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. With heavy eyes, you wake from a hypnotic daze to realize you’ve powered through an entire season of your favorite television series. Against your will you shut your media device, still craving more of the fantasy world you’ve been immersed in for the past eight hours.

Does this sound familiar? If so, don’t feel too bad. You’re not alone. Over the last several years, instant streaming sites such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and many other less popular sites have changed the way we view our favorite shows and movies.

No longer do you need to wait for your show to air at a certain time on some cable giant’s network. No longer do you need to fight the DVR to make sure it’s recording on the right channel at the right time. Now, you can watch what you want, when you want it and on almost any media device you use.

And yet, could there be a downside to this new era of instant streaming? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bestowing judgment. I’ve relentlessly blazed through two seasons of “Game of Thrones” in a slightly more than 24-hour stint. However with the lure of instant and complete gratification, does it make time management harder for the busy student life?

When asked about the affect it has on her academic life Jessica Holloran, sophomore in public relations, said that she could see the correlation between the two.

“Yes it does [have an effect] because the longer I watch the shows, I feel less motivated to get my work done,” Holloran said.

This topic has been the subject of interest in recent news, even bringing the debate down to the neurological level.

“We get into something akin to a trance with great storytelling,” said Norman Doidge, psychiatrist and author of “The Brain That Changes Itself” during an interview with The Wall Street Journal on July 13.

He went on to explain that we make emotional connections with the characters we see, which leads us to continue the feeling. According to Doidge, long periods of viewing lead to, “a deeper virtual-reality experience of the narrative. It can seem more real, from a neurological point of view.”

While there is nothing wrong with being an avid Netflix or Hulu browser, could the easy accessibility and instant gratification they bring pose a potential distraction for students?

“I sometimes put off doing homework to watch an episode,” Leah Smarsh, junior in human resources management, said.

Now, before we all go hit the unsubscribe button on our various streaming sites, let’s venture to another side of instant streaming.

It’s no secret that living on a college student’s budget may leave your wallet a little tight, especially for that extra entertainment cash. But with many of the online streaming websites, most of which charge $10 or less a month, it’s an affordable option for the student budget. Plus, it’s easily accessible for that lazy Saturday night with the boyfriend or girlfriend, and a great way to relieve that post-exam stress.

Now, let’s step back from video streaming as a form of entertainment and look at another one of its applications: education.

Streaming has not only changed the way we view television, movies and news; it’s also beginning to challenge traditional education methods. Video streaming is now being integrated into classroom settings as a way to bring students and teachers together and enhance academic material. According to “The Impact of Broadcast and Streaming Video in Education” by Cisco from March 2012, on-demand video has been shown to impact grades and test performance through a large number of studies conducted by colleges and universities. Additionally, according to the same study, access to video content in the classroom encourages students to improve their problem solving skills through collaboration with others.

Opinions may differ on the subject of binge watching instant streaming material, but all we can say for sure is that online video streaming is changing the way we learn, entertain and interact with one another.