Think Tank: Netflix

I saw this tweet this morning (from a very good journalist, might I add), and I couldn’t get it out of my head all day.

According to that statistic, more than a third of the internet traffic in North America  is devoted to streaming Netflix television shows and movies. Judging by the hype over old television series coming to Netflix and the curated lists of must-see films, I’m not surprised.

I go back and forth on my feelings about Netflix, and I figured that I needed to parse them out to really start thinking about it.

Googling "netflix memes" will get you many, many hits.
Googling “netflix memes” will get you many, many hits.


You might get to see series and films you’ve never seen before, without resorting to piracy.

I was too young to watch Twin Peaks when it aired live, but I never would have known about David Lynch or the trailblazing show without finding it on my Netflix recommendations. I know other people who have similar stories, so in one respect, Netflix can facilitate cultural awakening for art that’s worth seeing. It helps you wade through all of the crap of broadcast television. And if the overall service is less than $10 for thousands of titles, it seems incredibly reasonable.

It heightens the quality standards for competing networks. 

House of Cards is one of my favorite shows, but I don’t know if I would love it as much if it was on NBC or even AMC. Netflix has the capital to pour into their original content, and you can see it in the overall quality (production values, casting and plot) of the shows. A show like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black gives a series like Game of Thrones a run for its money, and I think that healthy competition ends up benefitting the audience.


It's true.
It’s true.


It makes us really, really, really lazy. 

I will admit, I love to binge watch television series and watch movies when I feel like it. Netflix has made that a normal behavioral pattern, since you don’t even have to get up from bed or off of the couch to hit the Next Episode button anymore. There’s a really great Portlandia sketch that sums up the vicious cycle of binging shows.

Considering the amount of money film studios are making from their blockbusters, the movie theaters don’t seem to be hurting. But can you remember the last time you went to go see a movie in the theater on an opening weekend? I can, and it was last June. It’s just far more convenient to watch a show and multitask.

But I think that also leads into an interesting point. Since it’s so easy to just open a new browsing tab, pick a movie and zone out, I’m not even sure if we’re even getting all of the nuances and hidden meanings in the visual art. It does make the idea of going to a movie theater, paying for it and enjoying the experience seem incredibly precious.

It can limit the content you’re exposed to. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone about a show or movie and they ask me if it’s on Netflix, and when I tell them it isn’t or I’m not sure, they shrug me off. If you just watch the same movies over and over again, you don’t get to see some of the hidden gems that you might end up liking. A lot of people don’t watch live television anymore or go to movies because it isn’t convenient as Netflix, or another service like Amazon Prime Instant Video or YouTube.

It contributes to a growing cultural feeling of “I NEED IT NOW!!”

It has become incredibly hard to wait for an episode or film when Netflix will give you hundreds of other ones in a near instant, which is the spitting example of a first world problem. That impatience translates to and affects other aspects of life (waiting for test results, for example), which I think ruins the elements of patience and surprise that you need.


Netflix has become the ultimate method of procrastination, especially for people my own age.
Netflix has become the ultimate method of procrastination, especially for people my own age. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it’s definitely culturally significant.


It has become part of our lexicon. 

“Netflix” is a very culturally relevant verb these days, i.e. “I’m going to Netflix it.”  It’s also become a significant routine, as staying in on a Friday night and watching a movie at home is a badge of honor for party animals and introverts alike. In the last few years or so, Netflix has become an incredible cultural phenomenon that’s been hard to escape. Try and think of someone you know who doesn’t have it. Even my grandmother, who is in her 70s, loves Netflix for British television series and documentary films.

I was curious to see if other languages call it anything but Netflix, but I couldn’t find anything. It’ll be interesting to see where it ends up in the evolution of our language.

It’s an archive, but a temporary one. 

It’s really interesting to gauge what people think is important enough to be put on Netflix at a particular moment on time. I can’t tell you how many articles I read that were written in light of all nine seasons of Gilmore Girls being added to streaming, which put the show back on the cultural map. But the streaming will eventually expire — even if a movie or show is on your queue, it might be taken down when the contract with the distributor runs out.

I’m still unsure of where I stand with Netflix, but now I’m even more interested to see if it’ll still be a huge thing in the next decade. But I will not be surprised if that statistic continues to soar.

How do you feel about Netflix? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Think Tank: Netflix

  1. I really enjoy using my Netflix account to the max and trying to find any new or interesting series I’ve yet to watch, I even blog about it for my digital journalism class ( While it’s nice to have such a selection of quality television right at your fingertips it seems to have lots of negative repercussions to it. I’ve stayed up all night going through season after season more times than I would care to admit, and once I’m finished I can get so frustrated that they don’t have all the current episodes available for streaming. But it’s a wonderful way to experience shows and film with an always expanding library, I can’t speak for anyone else but I’m willing to deal with the negatives to enjoy the positives.

    1. Cool blog! I do have a question for you though: when you’re binge-watching these television shows, are you able to talk about individual episodes and know exactly what happens in each one, or does an entire season (or maybe series) just kind of run together for you? After I published this post, I started to think about how binge-watching affects our perception of the shows’ narratives.

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