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How Much of a Digital Mooch Are You?

It all starts so innocently: a shared Netflix account. Then it spirals.

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

It started out innocently enough. You and a buddy really wanted to watch Seinfeld reruns on a lazy Sunday afternoon, so he signed into his Hulu account on your Roku. Laughs were had. But later, after he’d gone home, you realized his account was still logged in on your device. Maybe you’d stream one more episode before bed. He wouldn’t mind — he pays the same $7.99 per month anyway, right?

That’s how it begins. That’s how you become a digital mooch.

This may not be your exact story, but somewhere along the line, many of the internet’s most voracious media consumers stopped paying for all the services they accessed. About a third of Netflix users don’t actually pay for it, according to Quartz. One survey found that nearly half of American adults have shared login credentials for a streaming service with people they don’t live with. Mooching someone else’s HBO is such a well-known practice that Andy Samberg gave out his own login as a stunt at last year’s Emmys.

But at what point does mooching become a problem? It’s all fun and Gilmore Girls until your parents unceremoniously drop you from their phone plan on your 30th birthday, or you’re locked out of streaming the Game of Thrones season premiere because too many digital hangers-on are trying to use your credentials at the exact same time.

It’s past time that all of us take stock of the web of deceit we’ve woven, the hearts we’ve broken, and the laws we’ve flaunted in order to get House of Cards or free two-day shipping. This scorecard will measure your moochiness on a scale of saint to scrub. Assign yourself one point for every act of light mooching, two points for moderate mooching, and three points for shameless mooching (take the hyperbolic descriptions assigned to some of the three-point activities as meaning “much more egregious than moderate mooching”). Then assign yourself a title based on our scoring rubric below:

0 Points: Non-Moocher

You’re a liar who can’t be trusted. Bye.

1 to 11 points: Light Moocher

You’ve had a dalliance or two with a friend’s streaming login, but you’re not an out-and-out digital freeloader. In another life, you would have been the kind of person who happily went to a neighbor’s house to enjoy his bootlegged cable, but wouldn’t have had the gall to steal cable yourself. You mooch out of convenience rather than cheapness — if your buddy changed his Hulu password tomorrow, you’d probably just sign up for it.

12 to 22 points: Moderate Moocher

You get a rush out of finagling your way into logins. You’ve probably said something along these lines to a friend before: “Hey man, watching the football game on Saturday? I sure wish I could, because seeing my alma mater triumph on the field really makes those massive student loans all worth it, but I just can’t afford to pay for ESPN, not in this economy. Hey, now that I think about it … don’t your parents have cable? Do you think I could, like, use their login for this one game?”

23 to 33 points: Shameless Moocher

You have no allegiance, except to the almighty password. You barter with other people’s login credentials as it suits you, able to artfully trade your way up from a lowly Netflix login to sign-in credentials for a fat premium cable package that even includes Showtime. When you meet a new person, you name-drop specific shows to quickly assess how you will exploit their streaming habits in the future. You host watch parties with your mooched login and still make your friends bring the booze. With your uncanny ability to manipulate others to suit your multimedia needs, you do great things — terrible, yes, but great.