30 day challenges

Focused on self-improvement and living a fuller life.


Don’t get me wrong; I admire Netflix, this is not a dig on their service at all. What Netflix has been able to accomplish as a company is extraordinary. They have successfully transformed themselves from DVD by mail to streaming and now into original content. With close to 100 million subscribers Netflix has done a great job building a sticky product. But, as someone who cut the cord eight years ago and has been a loyal customer ever since I needed a break.

It’s too easy to fall into the habit of waking up, going to work, coming home, watching Netflix only to fall asleep and do it all over again. We all need to veg out once in a while, but once you have developed that habit, it’s tough to break. It becomes harder to take that time back for other things that you enjoy doing. When I analyzed how I spent my leisure time Netflix was near the top of the list. To focus on the other things that I enjoy I decided for the month of June to take a break from watching Netflix. To be fair, I did not cut out all television and movies, but I limited the amount of time I spent watching them.

I think it is best to start by analyzing how Netflix views its purpose as a company.

We connect people with stories. Lots of people, and lots of stories. Our hundred million global members are a good start, but someday, we hope to entertain everyone. Entertainment, like friendship, is a core human need. No matter how big or small, dramatic or satiric, entertainment stimulates us, changes the way we feel, and gives us common ground.  — Life at Netflix

When Netflix says that entertainment changes the way we feel, it’s through the release of dopamine which creates a feedback loop. Netflix is now the opium of the masses. It provides people with stimulation and an easy opportunity to escape the stresses of reality. Netflix fills the gap that we experience in our lives caused by boredom and loneliness. With thousands of titles to watch and a low barrier to consumption, it’s easy to see how people get hooked. With shows being released in seasons consumers are bing watching series at a higher rate. With a growing user base and an observational change in how people consume content, the long-term impacts of usage should be measured.

Bringing up more questions such as:

  1. As consumption increases what are the long term psychological effects and societal impact?
  2. What ethical dilemma do these companies face in building highly addictive products?
  3. What responsibility do these companies have to the betterment of humankind?
  4. What opportunity cost could people invest their time in that provide them more meaningful happiness?

So how was life without Netflix? I replaced the time I spent watching Netflix with more quality time with my partner and I read more books. One of the things that helped is that I traveled a lot this month, so my routine was already disrupted making it easier for me to change my habits. I’m not sure that giving up Netflix for the month has made me any happier, but it hasn’t made me unhappy. I think the key here is to live a balanced life in all things, including how you spend your leisure. In regards to watching television:

The lack of physical activity and intellectual pursuits has obvious physical and cognitive consequences. TV may or may not rot the brain, but sitting perched in front of the screen for so long does seem to waste it.  — R. Douglas Fields

As I write this article, I am happily watching Tales by Light, but there is only so much time in our lives. We all have a count down clock so choose how you spend your time remaining wisely, and try not to waste it.