We’ve all been there—watching a show on Netflix and clicking that familiar button: “Next Episode.” We assure ourselves, “just one more episode” (that happens to be the promise I break the most). I used to wonder if I had no willpower. Why couldn’t I just close the tab and get back to work, rather than binging on the newest season of House of Cards? Turns out there’s more to it—my willpowerless brain is actually predisposed to love stories.
Binge watching is an imprecise term, but we’ll define it here as watching at least two to three episodes of a show in one sitting. This is how Harris Interactive looked at it in its analysis of Netflix data. What they found is that among active Netflix users, 61 percent binge watch regularly.
Research suggests that regular binge watching may be attributable to the nature of the stories our shows deliver. To understand why more than half of Netflix users binge their favorites, we turn to the science behind stories.
According to the Melcrum, “facts and figures engage a small area of the brain.” Compare this to stories, which “engage multiple brain regions that work together to build colorful, rich three-dimensional images and emotional responses.”
Our brain chemicals react differently to stories than other forms of communication. Harrison Monarth at Harvard Business Review finds “our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus.” During the happier parts? We get “oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy.”
Maybe that focus and feel-good is why I have so much trouble stopping myself from watching six episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in a row.
Recruiting + binge watching
Okay, so binge watching isn’t so much about procrastinating as it is about loving stories. What’s interesting is how we can apply that to recruiting:
If stories are the best way to keep people engaged, why not use it for recruitment marketing?
Take Facebook’s story, “How We Translated Facebook,” as an example of using stories to illuminate a company’s culture. An engineer named Nico walks us through how he and his team set up a system allowing users to translate Facebook from English into other languages.
In less than 24 hours, the entire site (yes, all of Facebook) was translated into French. Other languages followed soon after. This type of story resonates with Facebook’s mission to make the world more open and connected. It also makes me want to keep watching (i.e., binge watch their careers videos).
Recruiting teams can use binge watching trends to glean insight on how to make recruitment and branding more interesting to candidates. People may not go as crazy for “Why Work Here” videos as Friends, but using stories in employer branding takes content to the next level for engagement and memorability.