In October, I had a realization: I am addicted to Netflix. I say it in jest but there’s some truthiness to it.
Growing up, I kept the television on while I did my homework. Who didn’t?
Over the years, though, my television viewing fell off. After Gilmore Girls went off the air in 2007, I actively sought not to get sucked into following another series. Besides, between college and then starting on my career path, my life was always in flux enough to never be able to follow television shows because I never knew if I’d be home for prime time viewing.
Netflix resolved that to some degree. Between the two services, you can wile away hours of your life. Not all bad when you can talk Jessica Jones at the water cooler or Breaking Bad on a date.
I got the service and found myself going back to my adolescent self: keeping the television on as background noise. I would try to do some task while listening: some mindless task for work or sorting personal papers or even stretching. Without fail, though, something would catch my eye and I’d end up spending chunks of time watching the screen…sometimes even during movies or episodes of shows I’d seen before, like my beloved Gilmore Girls.
All of this can be filed under “first world problem”. It seems silly to even struggle with.
Multitasking is a pretty common mindset in the modern era. My managers always demanded I be able to multitask and now, as a manager, I’ve expected it of my team.
One day back in October, though, while watching a video on the train about the brain and how we learn, I heard these words: there is no such thing as multitasking, there is only switch tasking. Over the following weeks, everything began to crystallize. I found myself on my living room floor one evening, Netflix in the background while trying to read some papers. I wanted to sort the papers but I wanted to watch the movie. Looking up at the screen after some time, I found that I didn’t know what was going on and looking down at my papers, I realized I didn’t remember what I’d just read.
That’s pretty much when I realized I was switch tasking my life away, never really getting things done and not even fully enjoying my distractions. I went through my viewing history and copied it just to see; my two years of viewing equated to 178 pages of a word document. I thought of all the shows I’d half watched and all the tasks I’d half down.
Since it costs money for the service and I’m cheap, always trying to maximize my return, the fact that I was expending the money would be the only incentive I needed to binge away hours rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So it had to go.
In making preparations for cancelling my subscription, I perused the movies in my queue for ones I’d miss having not seen after I cancelled. Of all the things I’d watched, my final wishlist wasn’t finishing Mad Men or OITNB or any of the shows I’d mindlessly watched for months. It was all documentaries, with the exception of one.
In my last days of Netflix, I finally hunkered down and focused on watching everything I’d wanted to watch but had previously thought I couldn’t give them their just attention and it felt pretty awesome.
Who knows? I may come crawling back to the service when they reboot Gilmore Girls but, for now, I’m looking forward to a more mindful new year.