by Caroline Malcolm-Boulton
The good, the bad and the binging…
In 1998 a small American DVD mail group was established. Little did we know that 18 years later it would be a prominent global business. In 2007 this back-seat company, known as Netflix, began providing and streaming a library of films and television series. But now in 2016 it has become a corporate giant, with 83 million subscribers in over 200 countries. In Britain alone, by December 2015, we had five million subscribers, a statistic that has been steadily rising each year.
Of course, we all know that the number of Netflix users greatly outweighs the number of account holders. The Digital Statistics Articles group belonging to DMR found that 30% of people share their account credentials with others and 86% percent of accounts are accessed by one or more family members.
Therefore, it has now got to the point that if you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you still use Netflix, and if you don’t use it, you know someone who does.
But with this entertainment service becoming one of the most visited sites on the internet, the question still remains – what are the pros and cons of Netflix?
Well, on the plus side it is clear that Netflix has changed not only what we watch, but how we view and use it. A pro of Netflix is that it meets modern needs.
Whether contemporary busyness is real or superficial, we like to access everything quickly. Also, with a world which is saturated with choice, we now expect variety and value wherever we go. So, with the evolution of Netflix, we now have a vast range of entertainment options at our fingertips and we can press play and pause whenever and wherever we want.
On another note, it is proving cheaper for customers to access Netflix than to use traditional methods such as going to the cinema, borrowing from places such as Blockbuster, or buying DVDs at Tesco.
With Netflix offering a vast range of material and featuring fresh new releases, viewers are no longer spending their hard-earned cash at the movies, waiting for that precious copy of your coveted DVD to be returned to the renting shop or to be stacked onto supermarket shelves.
We can now view thousands of films and series from a variety of genres for a staggeringly low monthly cost, and all from the comfort of our own homes. No more assaults on our bank balance, return dates or walks out in the rain to get that exact film you need to go along with that bottle of wine and a takeout.
But are there any cons to using this highly popular site? Well, DMR has also found that 70% of those watching series on Netflix are binge watching and engaging with the site on an average of six hours per day and a total of 10 billion hours a month.
As fun as watching House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Jessica Jones can be, does it hurt our general health? Studies conducted by Stanford University between 2013-2015 showed that overindulgent Netflix use is leading to issues such as sleep deprivation, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, and slight brain damage, all of which can cause short and long-term physical and mental health problems.
Also there are the social implications of overusing Netflix. Even although we may spend many a happy hour watching it with friends and family, it stunts the development and practice of our everyday social, interactive and even practical skills. This can then lead to gradual relationship breakdown and a decreased ability to form new relationships or interact healthily.
So, with Netflix taking our leisure time by storm and becoming the most popular medium for indoor recreation, there is a lot to think about.
There is no denying that it is forcing the entertainment and technology industries to reconsider how they create their products to meet our unique twenty-first century needs, and this is in our interests.
However, binge watching is also clearly leading to increased health and social concerns that could have a negative long-term influence on various aspects of our wider life and development.
So as I settled down during the up and coming dark nights with my Death in Paradise or The Tudors – don’t you judge me – I will be thinking twice about the bigger picture of how Netflix is shaping my life and my society.
* First published: September 26, 2016 in Brig magazine.