Netflix and will

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Stress, sleep deprivation, and constant pressure can be a drain on even the most hardworking college student’s motivation.

Last November, members of the first-year seminar (FSEM) Willpower: The Science of Self Control, studied ways in which students can manage their workload — and its fallout — by finding ways to motivate themselves. Then, they gave a presentation to members of the Ciccone Commons to discuss their findings.

As part of their project, group members Gabby Yates ’19 of Cazenovia, N.Y., Charlie Rodiger ’19 of Wilton, Conn., Liam Emmart ’19 of Baltimore, Md., and Chris Munoz ’19 of Princeton, N.J., designed a presentation, titled Netflix and Will, to address the problem of procrastination and the distracting powers of various types of media, including the well-known entertainment provider Netflix.

They argued that willpower is like a muscle — the more you put it to use, the stronger it gets. Their contention is that Netflix, and other websites, manipulate users into spending more time with their services by prompting the viewer to watch one more episode or refresh a newsfeed one more time.

While it’s important to stay focused on course work instead of giving in to the many distractions that the internet offers, allowing for quick ten-minute breaks every hour or so while studying can renew focus and prevent long periods of procrastination, the group found.

Keeping that goal in mind and learning to say “no” to distractions helps to train willpower, effectively making it easier to stay motivated in the future.

The group also discussed tips and tricks such as removing oneself from an enticing distraction and being sure to sleep and eat properly. Think about a sweet treat as a reward at the end of a long study session or a trip to the movie theater after a long week. Rewards like these are important because they prevent burnout before the work is complete, and they replace longer, unproductive breaks.

“It was a relaxing and fun presentation, which is the best way to learn,” said Yates.

While showcasing the material that they learned in class, the group was able to utilize communication skills and try their hand at advertising. Flyers, stickers, and pens bearing the presentation’s logo could be seen throughout the commons in the days leading up to the main event.

A movie screening, complete with snacks and good company, followed the presentation as a well-deserved break and a demonstration of the power of a good reward.

The Ciccone Commons — the first of four new residential commons to be launched at Colgate in the years ahead — hosts programming that provides an enriching living and learning environment where students can thrive.