My Year Without Netflix
This is what I’ve learned.
About a year ago, I quit Netflix and made a post about it.
To this day, it’s my most-read piece — which, I suppose, means that readers have an interest in Netflix. Or something.
Now, I’m a year older and a year wiser (or dumber depending on your perspective), and have yet to renew my subscription. I thought I’d share my experience as a Netflix-free millennial and some things to think about if you’re on the fence about quitting, as well.
I’ll start by examining television watching behaviors, taking two things into consideration:
How we watch and what we watch.
How You Watch
How often do you plop in front of the TV without even thinking about it?
About 100 million hours of Netflix are watched by 58 million U.S. subscribers per day on average, which is about an hour and 43 mins each day per subscriber.
Millennials watch more than that — about two hours per day.
For me, watching TV — especially Netflix — was always a bit of a routine. Usually, I’d start my day eating breakfast while watching an episode of whatever show I happened to be into at the time. Most nights after work, I’d come home, kick off my shoes and watch Netflix all night while eating microwave pizza and drinking beer. A common alternative was to play video games.
In other words, I spent much of my free time in front of the screen.
Why do we spend so much time and energy seeking out entertainment?
The reasons are as diverse as people. For some, watching TV is something to help unwind after a long day, serving as distractions from the stress brought on by a busy day job. For others, it can act as inspiration for those who wish to write scripts for television, movies, or books.
The act of watching TV is the equivalent of spectating. Where once we’d watch gladiators slaughter animals and people or actors at the theater pretend to be ancient deities, now we can watch those events on a screen from the comfort of our homes, and without interacting with anyone else.
Whether fictional characters or real individuals, watching TV means watching other people do stuff on a screen; getting away from one’s own life for a few hours and watching other lives unfold.
For many, this activity is a daily routine. We watch without realizing how interwoven it’s become into the fabric of our lives.
I don’t think too many of us would say that binge watching is good for you. It’s been correlated with many unhealthy behaviors, like greater intakes of junk food, insomnia and isolation from others.
Binge watching on a regular basis has repercussions, it satisfies our Primitive Mind, but not our Higher Mind. It reinforces our sluggishness, and when we’re done we feel like shit. There’s no real sense of accomplishment in finishing a show. We just move on to the next one.
My personal philosophy is to avoid binge watching like the plague. I generally stay away from addictive, serialized dramas, and stick to movies, which are less of a time commitment; typically self-contained stories that are over within two hours.
If I watch a show, it’s typically an educational documentary series, but these days, the TV is usually on only when I’m doing something else, like making a meal or cleaning the house.
What You Watch
I’m not saying all TV is bad. I still watch it sometimes. In fact, YouTube was one of the things that inspired me to quit Netflix.
I realize the irony of this. “The battle for your attention has simply been won by YouTube,” you might say, and you’d be right — YouTube can be just as addictive as Netflix.
But, I’ve taken steps to curb that, too.
I’ve never watched a YouTube video that explicitly told me to stop watching Netflix, and I don’t watch two hours of YouTube every day to supplement Netflix. Instead, when I go to YouTube I’m intentional about it. I watch videos for education and inspiration.
I’ve also eliminated the Recommended section on YouTube’s homepage with Firefox add-ons, so that helps, too.
Quitting Netflix has helped me realize how much my environment, and the things I put into my brain have a significant effect on my daily life.
Trading Netflix for time has given me a host of new possibilities.
Since I’ve been doing more of what’s important, I’ve never been tempted to renew my subscription. I no longer binge TV shows, nor do I have a desire to. When friends or co-workers talk about the latest episode of whatever, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.
Instead, I’m seeking validation by looking inward, rather than outward, and eliminating my fear of the imagined things people will say or think.
I’m watching my own life, rather than the screen.
I’m leaning in to the things I enjoy, my curiosity has increased, and I’m more open to experimenting.
In short, saying “no” to Netflix has meant saying “yes” to other things.
Time is like a great abyss. We each live and walk along the edges of this abyss, going about our lives, throwing our seconds into it like pennies in a wishing well. We can’t help it. It’s something we have no control over.
Once those seconds have been used up they’ll never come back.
Once that minute is gone, it’s gone.
It’s easy to forget that time is a non-renewable resource, but we can use that knowledge to our benefit, rather than letting it drown us in dread. If I’m going to throw my seconds into the abyss anyway, I may as well do something useful while I’m at it.
Thinking of the abyss analogy has not endowed me with a sense of nihilism, but rather a reminder of my mortality. This attitude has led me to become more productive, self-aware, and energetic. I can now populate those unused time slots with a greater variety of activities.
Where it was once commonplace, now the desire to sit on the couch all day and mindlessly binge is a much rarer occurrence.
Think about something you’ve always wanted to do, one of those “someday” activities. What’s stopping you?
What do you think you could accomplish if you used your free time on one of those “someday” activities?
Lastly, think about this: When you’re laying on your death bed, do you think you’ll say, “My one regret is that I did not watch enough TV”?
Some Things You Can Try
Everyone is different — not everyone has to live a life devoid of television. But maybe examining your viewing habits and not reaching for the remote each night will lead you to a new hobby, side hustle, or social connection.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be considering the possibility that life could improve if Netflix wasn’t such a significant part of it. Here’s some advice if you find yourself spending too much time watching Netflix, or if you’re thinking of quitting altogether.
Watch, but Watch With Intention
I try to be more intentional with my entertainment these days, and typically use it as a reward for doing something productive, rather than as my free time default activity.
If you’re going to trade your time for TV, know what you’re watching ahead of time.
Set a time limit
Bingeable TV is like sweets or caffeine; it should be taken sparingly. Balance is the key. Set an alarm if you need to.
Take frequent breaks
Stand up. Stretch. Go for a walk in the park. Play with your damn kids or cute doggy.
Consider a trial quit
Experiment with a temporary cancellation. Try a week or a month, whatever floats your boat. What have you got to lose? If you decide a Netflix-free life isn’t for you, well…you can always go back.
I’ve come to the realization that a good way to help others is through experience.
Live the experience, write about it.
Which is why I made this post.