It all started at the beginning of the summer semester. I’d heard of Netflix before and had even watched a movie or two at friend’s houses. Then, it seemed all of a sudden I heard the name everywhere: Coworkers gabbing about the new releases, friends arranging viewing parties. I wanted to be in on the hype, so I signed up for the free month. Wholly unaware of what the package included, I anxiously scrolled through the lists of movies and TV shows now available to me, ogling the selection and racking my brain for titles previously mentioned by my friends. I selected “Reservoir Dogs” and curled up to enjoy my newfound source of entertainment.
By the end of the week, I found myself thinking about Netflix. At a given moment, I was brainstorming titles to search, and itching to get home to check them out. The more I watched, the more I rated and eventually Netflix had my preferences down pat: I liked stand-up comedians, but hated slapstick comedies; enjoyed films about strong female protagonists and was picky about romantic comedies; loved horror films; couldn’t stand action movies. Netflix was my dealer and he was doling out some pretty good stuff.
I was riding a high that could only come from the assurance that I could watch an entire season of a show en masse. No waiting, no impatience. It was official. I was a binge-watcher, and a dedicated one at that.
Eight seasons of Dexter, four seasons of Arrested Development, nine seasons of The Office – I blew through them with the stamina of a junkie in their prime. Appointments were rescheduled and coffee dates were postponed. I craved the satisfaction of finishing an entire show in a matter of days or weeks.
The buzz was insatiable.
I justified my “immersive-viewing” habits as a way of maintaining the dramatic integrity of each show I watched. I was finally able to trace motifs, themes, and symbolism across multiple seasons of a show. I now had ample fodder for conversations about popular television. I could keep up with complex plots and revolving characters like never before. I was on top of the world! Until I wasn’t.
One day in late June, I completed the final episode of Orange is the New Black, Season 2. As I scrolled through the queue, I realized I had watched all there was. My palms began to sweat. I quickly moved the cursor upward towards “My List”. My eyes flitted over the titles and I felt desperate. I had watched all of the shows, movies and documentaries I had once deemed interesting! I was out of product, burned out!
I quietly clicked off my monitor and sat back with a look of wonderment. As I walked across the room with a trance-like gait, I spotted an unfinished novel on my dresser. I picked it up and surveyed the cover before reluctantly slumping down in my armchair to read, all the while bracing myself for the imminent shakes.