When did Netflix become a hobby?

A couple months ago I got really into online dating. I never met anyone in person. I mostly just went on a couple of Skype dates and chatted with a few people. I probably went through several hundred profiles and answered hundreds of questions about who I was, what I liked to do and what sorts of things I valued. And you know what I discovered in my search? You know the one thing that started to disturb me as I sat and read through all these profiles? One of the main hobbies that many people shared (myself included) was watching Netflix (or some other streaming service). How freaking lame is that? Imagine what a first date would look like. Hi, my name is Landon and I like to work and watch Netflix. I’m not saying it’s wrong to like Netflix, but if you are on a dating site and spend several paragraphs listing what you like to watch, and say nothing meaningful about who you are as a person, that just seems a little weird (Maybe I’m the weird one). Surely people do more than just watch Netflix.

It’s 2016, and Netflix has become the “hobby” of the masses. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Netflix (And watching things in general). Growing up, Friday nights would often be family movie nights. My family and I would go out to Blockbuster (Remember that place? Netflix put them out of business) and rent a DVD or two (or three or four). Then we would drive home, order pizza (or Chinese food) and enjoy a film together as a family. We had a lot of fun, but you know what? We did a lot of other things too. We played card games, traveled, sang songs together, did volunteer work, hung out at the library and browsed Barnes and Noble bookstore. We’d go on family bike rides, watch plays, go to family events, hang out with friends and cook meals together. We visited museums, spent time camping, talked about life and how our days were going, built things with legos (that was mostly just me, one of my introvert hobbies. Lego Bionicles were my jam back in the day). I could go on and on. The point is, I used to have tons of fun despite not watching Netflix (or spending all my time watching TV).

So how do you want to spend your time? Maybe it currently looks something like this:

According to Time magazine “[an] individual subscriber spent 568 hours watching Netflix in 2015 on average”

Is that you? That was me for sure post-college. But then I woke up because I realized something important. I didn’t want to watch my life away. I realized Netflix was becoming more than just entertainment…it was becoming an addiction. Instead of choosing to go out to do fun things, or work on one of my hobbies (currently working on a web application), or read that book I’ve been wanting to read for the last few months, I would sit down on my couch, turn on the TV with the click of a button, (we don’t even have to get up anymore) and commit myself to a vegetative and blissful state for the next several hours before I went to bed knowing full well that I would go to sleep, wake up for work, and do the same exact thing again.

Then one day I realized that I felt anxious and lazy. There were all these other things I wanted to do but I had neither had the energy nor the willpower to do them (nor the time because I was watching Netflix every day). This isn’t who I wanted to be and yet here I was, day after day doing the same thing. It would be one thing if this was what I wanted to do with my life, but I found it all too easy not to practice self-control. Netflix became my default setting. I watched it because it was there and I felt too lazy to make myself do something else. Eventually, I decided to cut back. I started to make Netflix more of a weekend passivity. I didn’t want my next 568 hours to go to Netflix. I wanted to use that time to better myself, meet people, work on cool projects and write this blog post. These are the things I want to do with my life.

Even so, I still like Netflix. And that is exactly why I choose to give up watching it every day of the week. This is my life. This is your life. Enjoy it and don’t let it go to waste. Why not limit how much time you spend watching the passive stream of lights and colors emitting from your screen. Maybe you choose to watch 5 hours a week or less. Maybe you watch a little bit more. That is for you to decide or not to decide. It’s up to you entirely. I can only decide how I want to spend my life and who I want to be. But let me ask you something, does Netflix bring your life joy? Do you find sitting for hours and hours after work passively staring at a screen fulfilling? Do you want to invest a large portion of your life watching Netflix and other video streaming services? Why not seize the time you have left and do those things you’ve always wanted to do. It’s your life. Do the things that bring you joy.

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Originally published at abileneway.com on August 4, 2016.