Now that I have it, I’d be insulted if a hypothetical date asked me over for the much hyped ‘Netflix and chill.’
It was inevitable that Netflix would disappoint me. For years it has been the buzzword on everyone’s lips, the internet is replete with memes following particular shows and I had noticed too that even the google ads – tailored to suit my needs aren’t they? – that appeared whenever I logged on were pushing the site.
Normally, it would be exactly this sort of aggressive presence that would put me off. The more Netflix stubbornly persisted in my cultural orbit, the less likely I would be in acknowledging it. Had it gone away, quietly and without a fuss, I most likely would have been first in line chasing after it, won over by the allure of its sudden desire to disappear mysteriously.
Last month when I arrived in Paris I found my boyfriend waist-deep in Netflix. He had already watched a single series and suggested another. It was part curiosity that had me agree to do so. We settled on a space-based series and mid-way through our evening I realised I was experiencing full force Netflix. By that, I mean that I was not stirring when one episode finished and the next one loaded, despite not being that taken by the series itself. Four hours passed like that; another series finished over the course of a weekend.
It struck me how quickly Netflix was becoming a part of our routine. I’d finish work, he’d finish work and we’d immediately turn to the television. Perhaps for others it might not read too dramatically, but for us – a couple who have never owned a television and rarely watch anything on a screen together- quite frankly it appalled me.
The speed at which we integrated it into our days and our weekends; the laissez faire attitude with which I allowed one episode and then another to slip by; the fact that we weren’t talking – it all bothered me. It bothered me that something outside of ourselves could so easily change the dynamics of our life together. And we aren’t talking about another person here or a job or even personal ambitions: we are talking about an online platform, a screen.
There were several nights when my boyfriend didn’t come to bed until well passed one or two in the morning and several nights when I could have done similarly. I found it uneasy that I could be so taken in by something. Were the returns on my hours of potential investment in a series worth it?
It made me question the whole notion of enjoyment. Sure, I might enjoy watching a film but was it enjoyment that I needed? Or enjoyment that I couldn’t find elsewhere? If I had picked up a book, perhaps browsed a couple of blogs or went out for a walk, I suspect I would have found them equally as thrilling (or not) as sitting in front of a series.
This could just be me. I’ve never been what you’d call a film or series aficionado and my enjoyment stems more from getting things done than it does much anything else.
I think it was Jiddu Krishnamurti who called into question the idea of man’s dependence and importance on pleasure. To my mind pleasure comes from doing what needs to be done, not necessarily escapism. If I am avoiding something, it is precisely because I am unhappy and no amount of pre-packaged distractions, in the form of Netflix, is going to bring any enjoyment.
Now that I have tuned into the conversation around Netflix with this in mind, I hear it repeated back to me through certain phrases. I watched it just to watch it; I just wanted to disconnect, are among the more popular and ones I could apply to myself too. But there isn’t the sense of something being enjoyable from those phrases. There is a pervasive sense of unhappiness about them. The times I have allowed six of seven episodes of whatever series to go by have been when I have had other work to be focused on and I was seeking a way out, only too eager to be sucked into another world.
Moderation, I guess, is the right way to go about things. In limiting the time on Netflix, in being able to turn away from it, in having control over something that could so easily become addictive – there is enjoyment in that.