Ever since the quarantine started, we have had too much free times on our hands, and most of us have squandered it away by sleeping, eating and consuming content. But it’s not just about the lockdown, we’ve been consuming content at paces unprecedented, binge watching shows and movies, even though we might have deadlines in our immediate futures.
And who might be the main reason of us wasting away our time? Well, Netflix is the first to come to our minds. Ever since it has started self-producing content in 2013, it has been pioneering in the streaming industry, and successfully been able to bring about the downfall of the Video-DVD services. Hell, it’s even brought about the downfall of our productivity.
This has given rise to a new term, called “The Netflix Effect.”
So, the Netflix Effect is the act of people rapidly consuming content in a much more personalized manner, and to such an extent that it hampers their productivity, and furthermore their social interactions. And the reason why it’s so successful in its operation is based upon something I like to call the “instant gratification monkey.”
This instant gratification monkey derives worth from short term, instant satisfaction. In terms of Netflix, it derives a sense of gratification from finishing a show and moving onto another, even though you have dark circles under your eyes that look like black holes. But hey, lunch break conversations require that you finish the latest season of Dynasty by dawn.
And Netflix has weaponized this to their advantage, by arranging a host of features that make it more difficult for you to stop watching a particular series. It blocks notifications from social media apps, it provides an automatic option of moving on the next episode, and it even provides an option of adjusting the screen’s brightness without moving away from the tab!
And since Netflix’s main provision is to allow the streaming of movies and series whenever, and wherever you are, it has created an autopilot feature in our brains. It makes us watch content even if we have only 2 minutes to spare, since the suspense is just overpowering. Our brain automatically sends our hands a signal and says, “Hey, we need to find who killed Sabrina’s sister, open that app.”
Netflix has overhauled the entire content-consumption process, transitioning from weekly shows and DVD rentals, to finishing an entire series of 13 episodes of an hour each in a single night. And we’ll grudgingly do it, since our instant gratification monkey also wants satisfaction from lunchroom conversations.
And this need of gratification plays into a debate psychologists refer to as the ‘Addict Vs Connoisseur’. The former derives pleasure from the experience, whereas the latter just needs a fix. When one gets to completion, it’s about the aspiration of completion.
And since Netflix has made this accessible in such an easy form, the value of satisfaction derived from each episode goes on decreasing, and the gratification monkey demands that you watch more shows just to experience that fleeting dopamine fuelled emotion yet again.
So as to provide a bit of perspective, let’s take a look at a few numbers. Netflix gains about 10% of its subscribers every year, with having more than 59 million subscribers from the US alone, with about 182.2 million people from across the world. In India, they have about 2 million subscribers. These numbers just provide a glimpse into how much Netflix influences our lives collectively.
And it’s also impacted our lives drastically. We like to spend more time in front of a blue light screen, rather than go out and chill with our friends. Yes, we do still go out and have fun, but when compared to the amount of time we spend inside our rooms watching Netflix is drastically higher. Majority of the people might settle in for a night of binge watching, rather than go out with their peers.
And since there is a constant stream of fresh content, it becomes hard not to talk about it. Since we as people, tend to talk about stuff that is happening collectively in our lives, Netflix definitely makes it into the top 5 things that everyone is talking about. So, in order to keep up with our peers we have to watch Netflix, since it’s a part of peer pressure now.
And the next best thing is, that we are judged for what we watch. Netflix has ingrained itself so thoroughly in society, that one judges someone’s personality on the basis of what they watch. For example, someone who watches Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl and loves Chuck Bass is a “white girl’’, and someone who watches shows like Breaking Bad or Peaky Blinders means that they possess some “taste’’ and watch “only high-level content” and the kid who watches Black Mirror and History Tv18 is the conspiracy theorist.
Netflix has redefined how we look at people on just the basis of their taste in shows, and has become a defining factor in gauging how much we like that particular person. And since now movies from a multitude of regional cinemas are being aired on Netflix, it has moved on from being a luxury to being a necessity.
Let’s face it: We are more likely to stay at home, call over a few friends and watch a movie while stuffing ourselves with snacks, rather than go to a movie theatre and pay extravagant amounts of money on popcorn and drinks which we’ll finish even before the movie starts.
And with the arrival of other major streaming services in the marketplace like Amazon Prime, HULU, Hotstar, AppleTv+ and a lot more, all of this going away anytime soon. We have officially transitioned from Sunday night DVDs, to midnight sessions of GoT. And it’ll be interesting to see the innovations that come along in the future regarding how we consume our content, since the current model seems like the pinnacle of content consumption methods.
All of us have now been stuck in a never-ending loop of finishing our favourite series in one night, and then crying about when the next season will air. And if you are one of those lucky ones that has been able to break free from this cycle, cheers on being a normally functioning productive person! But for the rest of us, it’ll be life as usual, with a new series every other night.