As technology marches on, it brings with it a whole new set of maladies. Just as keyboards have given rise to carpal tunnel syndrome, another innovation has created an ailment just as awful. Let us warn you about Netflix Streaming Syndrome.
When VHS was introduced decades ago, buying the cassettes for home viewing was cost prohibitive, so the business model of the video store was created. People would rent tapes, watch them, and then return them after several days. (Yes, it was as primitive as it sounds.) Soon the model shifted and people started buying tapes—and later DVDs—to view in their own home at their convenience. But while this worked fine when it came to your favorite movies or TV shows, it was still too pricey to assemble a vast library of entertainment content.
All of that has changed with the introduction of Netflix's unlimited streaming service, which lets you watch countless movies or TV shows whenever you want to. And not only on your computer. With an Apple TV or a Wii, you can even stream them on your big, fancy HD television. It's basically like being at the movies except there isn't any popcorn stuck in your couch and you don't have some annoying old lady sitting next to you making you stand up seven times so she can go back and forth to the rest room. Or, maybe you do?
While this innovation is great, it's also created a horrendous new ailment called Netflix Streaming Syndrome. Symptoms include:
- Insomnia brought on by watching every episode of a compelling series in a row at the expense of getting a good night's sleep.
- Anti-social behavior as a result of staying in and making it a "Netflix night" rather than going out in public and seeing other human beings.
- Blackouts induced by spending an entire day watching movies back-to-back.
- Pop culture knowledge that is a shade outdated and limited only to topics that are offered as part of the streaming package.
- A glut of intense information about things most people don't care about, like the oeuvre of Meg Ryan or the subversive aspects of the first season of She-Ra: Princess of Power
- A gnawing impatience when you can't watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it coupled with fits of rage when movies are not available for streaming and you must wait two whole days for an actual disc to arrive in a little red envelope in the mail.
These symptoms were avoided in the old days because one had to go to a Blockbuster or wait for a DVD to arrive in the mail, which means spacing out your consumption with other activities like interacting with your family, cooking food, doing laundry, working at a job, paying bills, and, in general, being a human being. With Netflix's streaming plan, your very humanity is in jeopardy.
And it's not just Netflix. There is all of your cable company's on-demand offerings to contend with, which can suck up more time than something worthwhile like, say, remodeling your kitchen. Then there's iTunes with all of its downloadable movies and countless season passes that are inexpensive and readily available. And let's not forget our old friend Hulu, which is like a repository for recently departed episodes of your favorite television shows. Then there is the peripheral and somewhat related black hole of watching music for an eternity on YouTube. Yes, we have become the ultimate instant gratification society, and every new gadget, program, and web service is making it even easier to wallow in our every whim.
What is the cure for Netflix Streaming Syndrome? Well, it's both dreadfully simple and woefully complex. It is something that Americas aren't especially good at: self-restraint. Yes, that means only watching one episode of The Cosby Show at a time (OK, maybe two or three), rather than investing nine hours in the entire season, or opting for one movie on a Saturday night rather than as many as you can squeeze into your bloodshot eyeballs until they fall out and roll across the floor. Yes, it's a blessing to have so much great content available for any itinerant moment that needs filling up, but—like with anything—if you abuse it, it's going to make you sick.
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