Netflix and digital escapism

CS247B Design for Behavior Change: Measuring Me, take 2

To be honest, I think I have a lot of bad habits. It was initially difficult for me to choose one — some bad habits I felt were perhaps “inappropriate” for a classroom setting, and others, truthfully, I didn’t know if I actually wanted to put in the effort to make a change (at least until this pandemic is over, is what I was thinking).

In the end, I chose to track my late-night Netflix consumption — admittedly, largely because I thought it would be a straightforward habit to track + share for this assignment.

Habit models

However, in observing and modeling my behavior over the past few days, I realized many of my bad habits are quite interconnected — in diagramming my habit ecosystem, it became clear that even my habits which seem to be rather benign (i.e. watching Netflix after a long day) do in fact play a meaningful role in shaping my overall behavior.

Connected circle modeling my Netflix-as-escapism habit ecosystem

After constructing this connected circle, I noticed a pretty glaring feedback loop around my Netflix usage:

Reinforcing feedback loop

Reflection + what I’d do differently next time

I actually really appreciated this exercise. It was an interesting opportunity to more critically examine the behaviors I’ve already been thinking about — the habit models helped provide structure to my behavioral analysis, and visually synthesizing what I observed highlighted the reinforcing nature of my “bad” habit.

What I would do differently… I guess the main thing I’m thinking about is — it’s one thing to notice a habit, but it’s another to actually make a concerted effort to change it. Modeling my habit ecosystem was really effective in helping me to recognize and clarify my understanding of how my behavior is interconnected, but the act of tracking my behavior actually did not make me feel compelled to change. Maybe this is just a personal thing, especially since it seems like other people have found the act of tracking to have a profound effect on how they actually behave. But given that I am oh so stubborn, what I would do differently next time is try to incorporate some sort of tangible or realizable incentive (even if the short-term value it provides is actually negligible relative to how much changing this habit could potentially improve my physical and mental health).

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