by Ryan O'Hara
A few months ago my wife went cold turkey on Netflix. As she said "enough already" I was caught off guard. I like Netflix and all, but not enough to watch it alone.
Our nightly show had become a reward of sorts after a long day's work and an eagerly anticipated trip into another world far from the day's troubles. I'm guessing if you have kids (or even if you don't or if you are single), you have a similar routine. Most people I know do.
But at what expense? This was the uncomfortable question that prompted Jill to cut the cord.
What intellectual, emotional, and spiritual effect was this nightly habit having? A little bit each day becomes a lot over time. So the better question is - what effect was a lot of Netflix having?
Dang it. Now that's a good question. And while I don't know the full answer, the little distance I have had from this nightly drip of all things Netflix has given me time to reflect on who has the upper hand. Me or the culture?
The Cultural Side Effects
As you know, the culture we live in isn't happy bedfellows with Christianity. It doesn't share the same aspirations for your life as say, Jesus. Like Chuck Norris, it's powerful, swift, and does its thing without you even noticing. If it was clumsy and uncoordinated we would have it whipped already, but it's not. So we've been tripped up, handcuffed, and tied to the fence post long before we can even say "boo."
Not you? Think you are impervious to the culture's effects?
You (and me) whose mind is marinated in iPhone, sauteed in Internet and shot through with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Our minds (and thus the priorities and decisions that follow) are up for grabs and the culture we live in is playing for keeps. As my Dad, a WWII veteran, once remarked - "you either git or git got." This is the uncomfortable reality my wife's decision forced me to face. For too long I rationalized all the nightly shows as the days' just reward; an irreplaceable connection with my lovely wife.
There's a lot more to it, really.
We are at war.
But not in the typical us vs. them sort of way. The enemy isn't out there as much as it's in here. Our love of pleasure, our unending desire to be entertained, and our general malaise are as much the concern as what's 'out there.' In fact, what's out there is simply capitalizing on what's in here. Targeted marketing. We're busy buying so they're busy selling. Win win. Except, it's not.
So the best defense, in this case, is a good offense. We must see to the right kind of change in our lives, before we "get got." The culture is happy to sweep you off your feet and take you with it. Very few of us put up much of a fight. So, we must be agents of change or be changed.
Here are three things to do as you begin to consider the impact that the daily TV drip is having on you - but first you must turn off Netflix (or Hulu or Amazon Prime or the old-fashioned TV) for at least one week.
Step 1: Replace it with another non-screen activity you'd like to do more of.
Exercise, prayer, book reading, journaling, sleeping, talking with another person... the list goes on. I just shared the things most people want more of in their life. This is a great way to get started.
Step 2: Take note of your experience.
I'm guessing you won't know what to do with yourself at first. That's okay. Habits die hard. Take notice of the uncomfortable boredom that greets you. Resist 'just one show.' You can do it. What do you appreciate about these activities over/against television? How has your life been enriched? Write down the answers to these questions and consider their ramifications.
Step 3: Return, but only with intentionality.
My guess is that if you are like most people you never decided what sort of things you would watch and what sort of things you wouldn't. Not so anymore. You have begun a very healthy process of standing guard over what comes in. A steady diet of creme-filled donuts will have a certain effect on your body; why wouldn't a steady diet of the best Hollywood has to offer have a similar effect on your mind, soul, and spirit? So, if you return, do so with intentionality. Make some decisions about why you are watching and what shows will help you achieve those goals.
I haven't watched my last show on Netflix, but I hope that I won't go back without owning the decision. Not as a default when 9pm rolls around, but rather a choice that fits into the bigger picture of what is best for my mind, soul, and marriage.