Technology: Netflix Disorder

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Technology: Sarbani Sen looks at the mesmerizing influence of Netflix and investigates Netflix Disorder in 9 easy steps.

I am actually quite a spiritual person, meditating in the morning, reading a book at night before sleeping, concentrating on my goals in life, praying for my kids to be fine, etc. I used to think of myself as an informed person, with a master’s degree, speaking eight languages and now starting to learn Arabic – so, not the average mass-controlled person. Until I met Netflix.

Netflix changed my life.  It changed my sense of priorities. Now instead of rejoicing about going to bed with my husband, I’d rather watch the next episode of Suits. I’ve never been a TV person. Always hated cheesy uninteresting series filled with bad acting. But here it’s different, and the more I look around and talk to people, the more I realize they have got us all mesmerized. But what is it that hooks us up? What is the miracle recipe? From The Huffington Post to The Guardian and The Independent, and even very serious medical journals, everybody is worried about this new addiction. Some researchers even came up with some remedies. They say soon it might be on the WHO list (as is compulsive gaming disorder now). Here are the nine steps we follow to dig a trap for ourselves.

1. Stairway out of (crappy) reality: Escapism is what they call it – stepping out of your daily stress and uninteresting life to join a family of (more) interesting people and issues. When you are in the middle of routine, or some stress related issues, it is sometimes a good thing to go and spend some time watching others go through that stress – instead of you. Sometimes their romances become yours, and their flirts make you feel alive again.

2. The cliffhanger strategy: When faced with the acute stress of not knowing what is going to happen next, the body produces an excess of CRH, a hormone that mediates the release of other stress hormones in the body. This causes the body to remain alert (our fight or flight response), which can disrupt sleep. So, when you’re faced with that cliffhanger at midnight, you’re suddenly not so tired and you find yourself pushing through the next show. “Our biggest competitor is sleep,” claims the CEO of Netflix. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.

3. Proud to be done: Did you realize how proud we are at social events to relate the various shows we’ve watched to the end? Is it an ‘accomplishment’ (while still having a life)? I even think the latter is the most important: the real achievement is “how the hell do you have a normal working day after those nights finishing season 8?”

Here we are stepping into the reward centre of our brains… welcome dopamine, exit sleep! Bragging about how much we can take in and still be at the top (so we think). I’m not sure the body feels very happy afterwards though. Having lack of quality sleep most certainly will drain us, make us become negative and exhausted. This can surely turn into depression – sooner or later it does.

4. Quality and education: If you look around today, there is hardly anything that competes with Netflix. For ten to fifteen euros a month you can share it with the whole family – you get quality programmes addressing almost any interest in life (from design to travelling, to interior architecture, to Asian stand up, extreme sports, law firms, sex and other addictions). Their acting is amazing too: all these next- door boys and girls stepping into our lives for the weeks or months are either sexy, villainous or bright. They all have something. We almost live with them in our heads, hurrying home to find out what happened next. It’s intelligent scenario writing – it deals with all ages, all styles, and most of the time you even learn something.

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5. The time trick: Apparently, our brain works in chunks of 30 or 60 minutes, say medical studies, whereas Netflix episodes use a 40 min pattern. This does not fit in – hence we usually watch two episodes in a row, and even indulge in a third to make it two hours all told, a round figure our brain can relate to. Sounds familiar?

6. The serotonin boost: What if screen light had a positive effect on our brain cells? According to The Huffington Post, even though it keeps us from sleep it nevertheless makes us happy.

7. Netflix vs Insta:  Is it really true? Well I see it for myself. Instead of going to check what amazing holidays my friends had, or crazy party I wasn’t invited to, you don’t put yourself in danger and it has more quality content. Finish sneaking in other people’s lives, hurting yourself or comparing – here it’s just ‘take in’.

I also realized I actually experience something different from my daily life when watching. For example, with Sense 8 I totally got myself into the personas. The message was totally oriented to the international spiritual crowd as the scenario incorporated various beings in different continents, connecting to each other through their brains or vibrations, while collectively fighting a witch hunt. It combined stress and pleasure of seeing them happily connected (probably a new age soul fantasy).

8. The acceptable addiction: Unlike voyeurism (FB addiction) or hard drugs, soft drugs and alcoholism, Netflix watching is kind of the ‘acceptable’ addiction. You can make fun out of yourself in public conversations, and even share your suffering with fellow addicts. This is how they actually get you into it… you can share your account to new future addicts.

9. The seconds to the next episode: This is how they get us all. I mean how can you say No to the next episode? Unless they messed it up and the last seconds were dull, you probably want to see what happens next. And now you don’t even need to look up the next episode it comes up for you in seconds!

So how to get over it? First of all I’d like to share a sociological fact: we either have an addiction or we don’t. I’m not the addictive type in general. I’ve done pot, and even wilder drugs back in the days but never got addicted. I’ve seen friends who had serious trouble trying to quit, and even today I get angry when my husband cannot spend a day without coffee or a cigarette. I quit smoking quite easily when I was 40 and can leave pretty much anything I decide to.

So, for me, even though I’m writing about a Netflix addiction, I’m actually happy to have the pleasure of watching something intelligent and worthwhile created by another mind. I’ll probably just watch another season of Suits now and then retreat to the normal me again, and go back to bullet journaling and writing on my own topics and books in my spare time. But for more vulnerable people, there aren’t various solutions, I’m afraid. As in many addictions, specialists advise a cold turkey strategy: that is stop for a while, or forever.