As this summer neared its end, Wayne & I began talking about a radical idea: quitting our Netflix subscription. I was feeling anxious about the transition from summer's never-ending days to the routine & rhythm of fall. Our kids would be in school all day (the girls, at least; our son is just half-days), and then have activities, chores, & piano practice, not to mention squeezing in their accustomed 8 hours of daily free play into what was left!
The truth is that I didn't want their extra time to be spent prioritizing shows, I wanted them to spend it with me. I think this is the kind of sappy feeling parents begin to get when they've left the all-consuming pre-school years and they glimpse how quickly time will pass before the kids are grown up.
But, the idea wasn't just for the kids, it was for us, too. Relaxing at the end of the day by watching something was just such a no-brainer. It wasn't a bad thing, but the bar was very low; it was so easy for hours & hours of life to disappear without my intention of spending it that way. When we got into Suits, we watched an episode or two (or three) almost every night.
I'm no mathematician, but that's like 10-20% of my waking hours every day. My mind felt cluttered from the to-do of this busy season, and I needed margin. Taking Netflix off the table seemed like an easy way to make this decision for my future self.
An obvious question:
Why not just keep Netflix, but not watch it as much?
Yes, this is a good point. Hello, self control? For the first several weeks (we are now 6 weeks into this experiment), I just logged out and pretended we didn't have it. But, honestly, I just wanted to remove the option from my brain.
I figured that if it was off the radar completely, then I would really have to think more about how I want to spend my spare time (spare time... ha!). And: personally, I just am not that committed to my own obligations or best intentions!
So, 6 weeks into our Netflix break-up... some observations:
"I sure hope this is good."
We never said, "no watching anything," so there are still plenty of outlets for finding something to consume! One Friday afternoon, our kids were getting set to watch a movie that they had picked up at the library, and my oldest, R, said, "I sure hope this is good."
When we watch a lot, without much discernment, what does it matter whether it is good or not? When I was in my late teens, I literally watched every single movie trailer for every weird independent film — and rented almost every movie released in those years. Some of them must have been so bad! Now, with more limited time available to me, I am waaay more picky. R's comment revealed the same shift in mentality, which I figure is a good thing.
"Now I just use my brain"
We got into a discussion about fasting over dinner one night, so naturally the conversation turned to our "fast" from Netflix. My other daughter, M, said:
I love having no Netflix! I just do more crafts and have time to play. And, before, if I was working on a problem at school or trying to write a story, I would get stuck; then, I would start thinking about a show we're watching, wondering what is going to happen next and what the characters are going to do. Now, I just use my brain to solve my own problem instead!
From the mouths of babes! It was like hearing a scientific breakdown about why limiting screens is beneficial for kids' creativity. Kind of awkward to ignore that comment!
"Why even cancel, it's only $10/month?"
I heard this a couple of times from friends whom I told about our experiment. It really reminded me how easy it is to spend little bits of money without feeling like it impacts anything. But, all of those purchases add up.
$10 is still money. It's like 2 good coffees! Netflix may be great value for buck, in terms of entertainment; but, as my friend Lisa said: packaged ramen noodles are great value, too — it doesn't make it a good reason to eat it every day!
All the tears.
When we discussed the idea of doing this, my daughter R would cry every time. Then, in September, we realized that she was just waiting for the month to close out so that we could start watching again in October; when I burst that bubble: more tears!
She loves stories and is an avid reader & consumer of tales — both by books & by shows. Doing this experiment has revealed to me how highly she valued shows in her life! This wasn't a surprise, but definitely has got us thinking about healthy ways to have downtime, as well as productive ways to cultivate a love of story.
I miss the brainlessness of background Netflix. A lot.
One of the times that I "watched" Netflix a lot was while I edited kantha blanket photos for dignify. I would put on a comedy special, or an old movie I knew, and it would keep things fun as I plowed through the monotony of editing software & spreadsheets.
I MISS THIS SO MUCH.
I figured that it would be a good time to listen to music, podcasts, sermons, lectures, etc. But, the last kantha collection I prepared was agonizing because I was so bored. Podcasts & TEDTalks — to me — are just not the same; they feel more educational, more informational, more intimate even (in the case of many podcasts, for sure). And in this situation, I just want entertainment.
Photo management will be a big part of my coming weeks as we reach the busiest time of the year, with the most kantha quilt turnover. Suggestions for me are welcome!!!
For now, we are going to continue this experiment indefinitely. I don't like being completely out of the cultural loop, though, so maybe by Christmas we'll have a revival.
What is your relationship with streaming, binge watching, or shows at all? Love it, loathe it, or indifferent? Am I reading too much into this little shift? Any ideas for me? Share your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.