Back when my wife and I raised the kids, we made sure to teach them the importance of good manners. “Don’t speak until you’re spoken to”, “respect your elders”, and all the other kiddo commands. We also taught them to use the good words often (“please”, “thank you”) while avoiding the bad ones entirely (esp. the four-letter kind). But the two words with the most challenge back then – ironically – are the ones we still wrestle with today: instant gratification.
“Dad, I want one now-w-w-w-w!” I can’t tell you how many times I fielded a version of that phrase from my kids… then replied with the best defenses. “You only want a <insert item here> because your friend just got one”, or “It’s not Christmas or your birthday, is it?”, and (perhaps the most effective), “You don’t have the money in your savings account to buy one.” Whatever the reason, we did a pretty good job shifting gratification from “instant” to “delayed”.
Oh, if my kids could see me now (er, they can see me – I’m about to be called out on the hypocrisy of this post). For you see, I’m a fairly recent Netflix subscriber. My wife and I finally entered the tunnel to the arena; the one with the overhead sign blinking “Streaming Here”. And boy is that arena vast, addicting, and instantly gratifying. You can lose an entire week of your life in there (all you need is a pandemic).
Netflix is a revelation, especially for dyed-in-the-wool cable peeps like my wife & I. “Cable” has a double-meaning here: a) a monthly subscription of a hundred or more channels (of which we watch like, four), and b) the hard-wired aspect of every one of our components. But then we connected Apple TV and the streaming clouds parted. Our son granted temporary access to his Netflix subscription (which became kinda-sorta permanent access until guilt drove us to our own account). Amazon Prime reminded us our payment for free shipping included a bounty of movies and television. And lately, we’ve been sampling several other apps – the ones that may finally, satisfyingly, get us to cut the cord on satellite tv forever.
Back to instant gratification and Netflix. We never saw the addiction coming until the drug had long taken its nightly hold. At first we tried a few movies – the one-and-done approach you could call no harm, no foul. But then we tried a series (Heartland) and entire evenings suddenly disappeared in smoke. After watching The Crown, we woke up one morning and realized winter had become spring.
Ultimately, I blame whoever recommended Outlander for our full-on succumbing to streaming. Outlander (the violent/racy/but-oh-so-good time-travel romp through 18th-century Scotland) boasts five seasons of sixty-plus episodes; each an hour or more. We became so invested in Outlander’s storyline and characters we started second-guessing any commitment threatening our nightly window (okay, binge) of episodes. When we weren’t watching the show we were talking about it. When we weren’t talking about it I was reading about it online. Not gonna lie – Outlander was a full-on obsession. The producers will eventually drop the sixth season and when it does, we’ll be at the front of the line ready to push “play”.
- Every show Netflix recommends gets a “+ sign” move to “My List”.
- Your dinner-to-bedtime timeframe is a math problem, solved by: “number of episodes” x “length of episode”.
- Unlike New Year’s Eve, you’re not watching and waiting for the clock to strike midnight; it just gets there more often than you’d care to admit.
- You won’t watch the newer shows; the ones with only one season, because, well… there’s only one season.
- Your television screen frequently displays the message, “Are you still watching?” (meaning, you haven’t touched the remote for like, six episodes).
Binge is a bad word by any definition, especially in these pandemic times. Maybe that’s why creative minds now label your Netflix habit an “experience”. And that experience is getting more and more tailored to instant gratification. The commercial pauses have already been removed. Now take away the recap of the last episode and take away the credits. You’re talking about a pure dose of entertainment, rolling from one episode into the next, one season into the next. You want it now and Netflix is only too happy to oblige. Sounds like a drug, doesn’t it?
Man, I gotta get out more.