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Netflix: The Normalized Addiction

Laila has designed multiple methods for herself and others to kick behavioral habits/addictions and become more productive in everyday life.

Netflix addiction is no joke!

Netflix addiction is no joke!

Let’s talk about one of the most normalized addictions of the 21st century: Netflix. How often do you repeatedly tell yourself “one more episode” when you have an important assignment due or other things to tend to? Do you find it hard to eat, study, or work without watching your favorite TV show or movie? If someone dares you to go a week without so much as clicking on the Netflix app, would you be able to do it? It might be simple for some people to turn off the shows and start reading books or taking walks, instead. If giving up Netflix seems daunting, though, it’s good to acknowledge when a source of entertainment starts to become a stressor.

A month ago, I watched a very funny episode of Brooklyn 99 with my sister. After she left, I decided to watch the first episode of the series. Thus began one of the most stressful months of my life, during which Netflix gradually replaced many aspects of my daily routine as I remained oblivious. I suddenly found it harder to leave the comfortable couch and stop watching the characters that I love so much just to sit at my desk and do a task that had been assigned to me ages before.

There were aspects of my life, such as doing laundry, that I didn’t particularly like to begin with. After I was introduced to Netflix, though, these tasks somehow became overwhelming. It got to the point where I had to have Netflix turned on while putting clothes in the dryer, studying for my midterms, and even during every meal of the day. When I didn’t do that, I constantly thought about watching more shows and how I was only one episode away from figuring out how a cliffhanger ended. My schedule, that month, saw the following transformation:

netflix-the-normalized-addiction

It might seem like an exaggeration at first, but behavioral addictions, such as those pertaining to video games, sex, and social media are widely acknowledged as life-distrupting as well, with gambling disorder being recognized as an addiction in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Two years ago, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) clinic in India treated a 26-year-old man for Netflix addiction.

Behavioral addictions are worrisome because they're hard to identify despite the many negative effects they have over a person's life. Studies show that moderate and severe depression are associated with longer hours of watching TV and that more time spent in front of the computer screen increases the risk for both anxiety and depression. Binge-watching series may also negatively affect time management, causing individuals to avoid positive, rewarding behaviors such as exercise, socializing, and good sleeping habits in favor of watching "just one more episode."

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10 Signs that There's a Problem

It has nothing to do with quantity; you may be watching Netflix all day long but not be addicted to it. It all depends on the effects this application is having on your life. So, how can you tell whether there's a problem? Here are a few signs that Netflix might be negatively affecting your life:

  1. Relative to binge-watching shows, everything in your life seems boring and dull.
  2. You feel like you relate and empathize with TV characters more than the people in your life and would rather watch those characters than spend time with your loved ones.
  3. You find it difficult to concentrate on other tasks because you keep thinking about the last episode you'd watched and how you wish the heroine had ended up with another character.
  4. You've noticed a significant change in your productivity levels after introducing Netflix into your life.
  5. You feel compelled to stay up later in the night to watch more episodes even though you'll get less than 8 hours of sleep as a result, or you have noticed that your sleeping habits have gotten worse due to binge-watching.
  6. You don't skip through upsetting, frustrating, or triggering scenes even though they negatively affect your mental health.
  7. You feel the need to have Netflix playing in the background while doing other activities like exercising or studying.
  8. You took up watching shows as a "hobby" a long time ago and can't recall any other past hobbies or interests. (If there's a black-out, your mind will go blank when you think of things you can do besides watching Netflix).
  9. You're putting off important tasks, often ones with nearing deadlines, to spend some quality time with the TV.
  10. You're actively avoiding people just so you can watch shows without interruption.

How to Handle a Netflix Addiction

Exiting Netflix doesn't have to mean giving it up forever. Here are a few tips you can use so that you can watch all the TV you want without having to face the negative effects listed above:

  • Have a to-do list for every single day ready. It doesn't have to be urgent or last-minute tasks only. Just put down anything you want to get done on a particular day, and don't allow yourself to watch Netflix until you're done with your list. You'll be surprised at how much your productivity rises with this trick.
  • Don't watch Netflix until the end of the day (with a maximum of two hours remaining before your bedtime). That way, it won't matter if you binge-watch, because the day is already over, and you'll go to bed when you feel tired.
  • Don't watch Netflix in bed. This will lessen the temptation to stay up late since that occurs more when you're already in bed.
  • Don't watch Netflix while doing other activities. It's easy for the application to take over your entire life if you include it where it doesn't belong. Eating meals while watching television has always been known to have negative consequences. Watching Netflix while studying decreases productivity. Exercising with Netflix sometimes diminishes the positive effects of your workout. Here's a tip: Make it a choice, either do one thing or the other, but don't do them together. Eventually, when you get hungry enough, you'll opt for a meal instead of Netflix.
  • Disable the Next Episode Autoplay in your Netflix settings, which will make you less likely to binge-watch.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Laila Hashem

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