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“An addiction to distraction is the death of creative production.”
High quality programming abounds throughout Netflix’s massive library. It is packed with content that satiates our desire to be entertained. There is no doubt that many of the plots are engaging, the production values are top notch, and there is an endless amount of it. Who wouldn’t want to get lost in all of those amazing stories?
I, for one, have spent ungodly portions of my life watching Netflix. It was always a good way to unwind after a long day. Whenever I scrolled through to the latest binge-worthy show, hours would pass unnoticed as I got lost in the complex storylines and characters. I was hooked. Before I knew it, it was past my bedtime, and with great reluctance, I would summon every ounce of strength to pry my body off the couch.
At some point I started to think about the effect this reoccurring activity was having on my mind and body. The fact is, these shows are designed and presented to us in such a way that makes us crave them. We want to plant our butt in the couch for hours on end and binge watch from start to finish. It provides us with an immediate sense of gratification.
That endless stream of programming slowed me down from pursuing what I wanted out of life, created infinite distraction, instant gratification and didn’t really add anything meaningful to my life. In fact, I think it may have been slowly chipping away at the meaning in my life. As a creator, I realized I was spending much more time consuming than creating.
And so I decided to quit. Here are the reasons why:
It Was My Default Activity
Every time I finished a show, and reality reared its ugly head, I was left wondering if, after all that time watching, I had actually accomplished anything. I was entertained, sure. But did I sit and think about what I had just consumed? Did I actually learn anything that the show may have been trying to teach me? Was it even trying to teach me anything in the first place?
In most cases, no. I’d finish one show and move on to the next, without putting too much thought into it. Any message or theme lying at the heart of the content, if it even had either of those things, was lost. It turned out it was nothing but hours upon hours of escapism.
And there isn’t anything wrong with escaping every once in a while. The problem was that I wanted to escape too much. I wasn’t really getting anything out of all the television I was consuming. It was just my default activity, especially after a long day at work, when I was too tired to do anything else. Each week new shows and movies were added to the roster. Each week my queue would continue to pile up with stuff that I would watch…someday.
Binge Watching is Not a Harmless Activity
We all know that too much of a good thing is a bad thing, right? To binge something is to do it in excess. When someone is a binge eater or drinker we don’t joke about it. We hope they’ll get help and encourage them to do so. And yet, when it comes to watching Netflix (or television in general) we joke or make light of “binge watching”.
I’m not saying that everyone who watches Netflix is necessarily an addict. I am saying, however, that Netflix and other streaming providers design their service with the goal of keeping eyes on that screen as often as possible. And if your routine is to plop down in front of the TV each night and watch until you go to sleep, I’d say they’ve accomplished their goal.
It’s become synonymous with our instant gratification society. Watching gives us that dopamine hit; that reward for doing nothing.
It wasn’t good for my body or my mind to spend that much time watching.
It Was Impeding My Life Goals
I have a lot of goals, and in order to accomplish them, I need to be productive on a daily basis. I’ve only got one life. I’d rather not spend it working on someone else’s agenda, especially if I’m not passionate about it.
Netflix, for me, discouraged the lifestyle of productivity that I need in order to get shit done. When I thought about how much time I spent in front of the TV, I knew there were better things I could be doing. So, why wasn’t I doing them? Reading, writing, and learning needed to be my default activities instead of mindless entertainment.
And if I was going to watch something I should at least put in the effort to seek out something educational–something that would stimulate my mind.
Of course, I can’t be productive 24/7. There are days I need to refill the well and just watch something mindless. But I don’t need to spend the whole day doing it, either. I can watch a two hour movie on Amazon or a YouTube video and then get back to work, rather than face the temptation of a day’s worth of binge-watching. There is always the option of keeping Netflix and watching an episode as a reward for doing something productive, of course. But, for me, it would be too easy to say “Just one more episode”, so why put myself through that kind of torture?
Besides, there are already enough distractions as it is. The last thing I need is another one.
I’m Learning New Things
There is always something new to learn. If learning stops after graduation, then a natural inclination exists, it seems, to fill the void with the instant gratification of mindless entertainment while getting trapped in the endless cycle of the daily grind.
But I don’t feel learning should ever stop. I believe that education is a catalyst for change.
Since I’ve quit Netflix, I’ve spent more of my free time away from the TV. The more time I spend away from the TV, the more I open myself up to learning new things. It’s become much easier to prioritize writing, exercising, cooking, getting out in nature, and spending time with friends and family. I’ve even taken up Tango lessons. Before, I would usually make excuses for not doing those things, when the truth was, most of the time, I just wanted to binge a show.
It Opens the Door to More Meaningful Conversations
I realize now that I used Netflix as a means of escape. While it’s fine to do that every once in a while, I think I tended to do it too often.
Since cancelling my subscription, I’ve started paying more attention to social and political issues, and taking the time to educate myself on much of what is going on in the world.
The more I educate myself, the more I am able to participate in conversations that gravitate toward these types of meaningful issues. I am participating more, rather than escaping. And since I no longer have something to binge watch, I’ve got one less excuse to stay in and avoid social interaction.
But that’s just me. Do you watch Netflix? Did you quit Netflix? Why? Let me know.