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Netflix and Chill: Analyzing a modern dating trend

By Bri Doherty

When it comes to college dating, gone are the days of men wooing their fair maidens with roses and love notes. Gone are the secret admirers and actual phone calls—on a house phone, no less. Yup, welcome to the age of texting, tweeting, direct messaging, Tinder and “Netflix and chill.”

“Netflix and chill,” is a popular term coined by today’s college generation. The term, when used as a question, is meant as a way to ask someone on a date, inferring that the two will be relaxing and watching Netflix. However, it has morphed into a popular phrase characterizing this generation’s hook-up culture.

“It basically means that someone wants to hook up with you,” said sophomore Allison Kuhn. “I think it’s just kind of our way of making situations less awkward.”

The generation of college students today are terrified of awkwardness—awkward situations, awkward interactions, awkward conversations…you name it, we avoid it. Naturally, this fear changes the game of dating in a college environment. This action of “Netflix and chill” gives students an out. Instead of taking a person to dinner or going out for coffee, an action that requires actual engagement with eye contact and conversation, a pair can simply throw on the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy and lie down.

“Its a good way to hang out with someone and avoid awkward conversations because you can just watch a movie,” said sophomore Mackensey Farina.

Although Robin Hackett, an associate professor of English at UNH, intentionally separates herself from her students’ dating lives, she remembers the dating culture back when she was in college.

“Tradition was you had to ride a bike and have a conversation with one another, you would call someone on the phone, get on a bike, and go somewhere,” Hackett said.

College has been a place of random hookups for decades, but the abundance of new technology and social media has completely changed the culture. Sure, e-mail has been around for decades. But, as the times changed, so did the methods of acquiring a date. Hence, the pick-up line of “Netflix and chill.” However, it has stirred up some sexual connotations.

It is assumed that when someone asks to “Netflix and chill,” it implies, jokingly or not, that the two will not be watching Netflix together, but rather, having sex instead.

Also, with the increasing popularity of the company came the increasing popularity of the term.

According to Netflix’s Third Quarter Letter to Shareholders, as of October 2015, the stream site has 69.17 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 43 million in the U.S. And, Forbes Magazine reported that the company saw 4.33 million subscribers sign up in the fourth quarter, beating its expected 4 million new subscribers. Each subscription allows four members access to the shows and movies provided on Netflix, so, even the number of actual people using Netflix far surpasses its reported subscribers.

Netflix’s largest demographic is Americans aged 16-24—with 65 percent of this age group reporting usage in the last year, according to the Global Web Index. No wonder the dating atmosphere has changed: The popularity of the site is nationwide, it’s fairly cheap, and it provides idle effort with little social discomfort.

“It’s the term that people use if they want to hang out and hook up and they don’t want to just say ‘let’s hook up,’ so they’re like ‘hey, let’s watch Netflix and hang out,” said Brandon Nichols, “which everyone knows means no Netflix.”

Although a majority of students on campus find the term benign and humorous, they simultaneously believe that it is the downfall of traditional dating. As Hackett says, “There is a shift in culture, and that’s perfectly fine.”

It’s new, it’s funny, it’s light and it’s effective. So, are you down to “Netflix and chill” later?

Bri Doherty is a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts.

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