The Trouble With Netflix
HEART AND MIND - Paulynn Sicam (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2019 - 12:00am

These days, with my work in temporary limbo, I plead guilty to binge watching.

I am usually among the last in my family to try new technology. My computer is for work, the TV is for news, and my cellphone is for sending and receiving messages and taking pictures. I don’t upload movies on my computer or cellphone, and I don’t play online games.

I have other important things to do, like earn a living. You can say that I am a very basic, no-nonsense workaholic.

Until last year, while on vacation with my family in Sydney, when my daughter invited me to watch a movie on a service called Netflix. We had fun sitting on the couch eating popcorn before a big TV screen enjoying movies, many of which I wouldn’t necessarily pay to watch in a theater.

Her TV was so complicated. It had so many features that I could not figure out, and the remote was completely alien to me, so I never tried to watch anything alone.  It was also difficult getting TV time with all seven people in the household wanting time to view their own choice programs.

The traffic was heavy. But I soon realized that I could watch my shows on my computer by going to Netflix, and by the time I left Sydney, I was hooked on Frankie and Grace, a hilarious sitcom about two women who decide to live together after their husbands confess that they were in love and planned to get married.  And when I got home, I discovered that I could continue to access my daughter’s Netflix account on my laptop, in Manila! But my holiday was over and I had work to do.

Short sitcoms and even movies are manageable. They can be watched in small doses. But the major series go on forever, up to 24 seasons with 12 hour-long episodes each that leave the viewer hanging and aching for more!  This is fine for retirees with time on their hands.

I have listened, without a trace of envy, to people my age, retirees all, talking excitedly about Netflix, the shows they follow, and the ridiculous amount of time they spend watching because they have nothing better to do. But I am still working and often have very strict deadlines, and Netflix is a distraction I cannot afford to entertain. 

In Manila, my other daughter was also on Netflix and she gave me access to her account.  Oh, but you have to watch The Crown, my sister said, which I started to, thinking I could take it an episode at a time. But I soon found myself creating downtime from my work to sneak in several episodes a day. 

These days, with my work in temporary limbo, I plead guilty to binge watching. I am on season five of the seven-season (so far) Homeland, a series about the workings of the CIA. When the internet is down or the signal is too weak to open Netflix, I’ve tethered my phone to my laptop to gain access to Netflix. I only stopped when my daughter warned that I was using too much data and it would appear on my next phone bill. The other day, when the internet connection was strong, I started watching at mid-morning, stopped for lunch and resumed continuously until dinner time when I finally had to stop because my head was full of spy vs. spy scenarios, my butt ached from prolonged sitting, and my eyes had turned bloody red. And I had a splitting headache. 

The trouble with Netflix is it is a big distraction. It is cheap, accessible and totally addictive. It can put you in your own world, forgetting what is going on off-screen. Like all things addictive, it can shut out the grim realities we find in the other addictive technologies that rule our lives.  While watching Netflix, I forget to check Facebook and messages on my cellphone, missing out on breaking news. 

Netflix is the last thing we need at this time when our country is beset with so many important issues that need our attention and action — the coming elections, for one, and the importance of putting eight intelligent, courageous, independent, and patriotic men and a woman in the Senate, in order to restore some of its sheen, which is in danger of being more tarnished by a rogue’s gallery of unworthy candidates being pushed by the powers that be.

The work is urgent.  The hour of truth is near. So, drop the binge-watching now and get cracking. It will still be there, when this is all over, no matter the outcome. 

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