With season two of Netflix’s breakout hit Orange is the New Black
now airing, I’m struck by a profound change in the psychological
calculus of entertainment. Netflix has changed the game, and I don’t
just mean the game of how shows are served to hungry eyes. I mean the
game going on behind our eyes – the dynamics of restraint and
gratification that our brains have for decades been trained to tacitly
In case you haven’t watched the show, or other shows original to Netflix (like House of Cards),
let me briefly explain. Netflix films an entire season of the show and
then—against every convention inscribed onto the holy tablets of
television—releases the entire season…all at once. When season two of Orange is the New Black aired on Friday, June 6, the whole season aired, front to back.
Hundreds of thousands if not millions of fans waiting for the new
season were free to binge on every episode—and I’m willing to bet that
by now a hefty percentage of those fans have re-binged, with many
warming up for a third gorging.
Before Netflix introduced this format, we were still in the mode of
weekly allotments of entertainment. HBO long ago christened Sunday
nights as the time to receive our weekly dose of quality,
commercial-free shows of choice, whether it’s The Sopranos, Six Feet
Under, Sex in the City, or more recently Game of Thrones (to name just a
few of many legendary shows). All of the major cable and traditional
networks offer something similar, but only the premium channels can
offer the premium prize of hour-long, commercial free entertainment.
For all of those shows, we were (and largely still are) forced by the format to exercise delayed gratification.
Even if you pirate episodes of the shows online, you are still, for the
most part, restricted to imbibing only the shows that have already
aired. Is that because HBO and Showtime and other networks are busy
shooting the shows as the season rolls along? No. With few exceptions,
seasons of those shows have already been shot from start to finish. The
imposed restraint all of us viewers must obey is exactly that—imposed.- Forbes
Instant gratification. This is something that many of us have become accustomed to. We have grown to be very fond of convenience and the speed at which our lives move. While this may not be a bad thing, I would pose the question as to whether our practice of patience in our lives has diminished.
In this particular case there is nothing wrong with streamlining our lives, with developing technologies and processes that reduce the time we spend on doing certain things. Just imagine if we still had to travel by foot or horseback to every place - any opportunity to improve our quality of life should be taken and investigated. Certainly there may be side effects to progress such as the existence of car accidents - but the reality is that only some of those things are unavoidable, all of the rest are caused by "the human element" - take drunk driving as an example, or even manufacturer faults - most of the terrible things that happen in this world are man made, humans had an active part in bringing them about.
So, how do we turn instant gratification from something that improves our lives to something that makes us worse people? We start to think that every part of our lives should give us instant gratification. We want everything RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. Our lives become shaped around convenience, how convenient something is for us. It doesn't just change our conscious thoughts and choices, but also seeps into our very natures, every part of our lives gets evaluated according to how convenient it is, how soon we can experience rewards. Our rewards become everything and our lives become just one series of movements from one reward to the next, wanting to feel good now without consideration for how it may affect our futures or the lives of others. We start to ignore the plight of others, especially when their plight is a requirement for us to get our instant gratifications.
When I was young my dad would tease me whenever I nagged him for something, he's tell me how I had the "Gimme's" and would tease me until I was laughing with him. The thing is that if we get everything we want the moment we want it, we tend to develop a sense of entitlement because we have always gotten everything we wanted. I'm not saying that no one should get what they want, but the moment this changes you and your behaviour becomes entitled and demanding then you need to re evaluate yourself and decide if that's really who you want to be. Is that the example you want to set for other people? Not everything in life can be delivered instantly, some things take time and practice. Some things require discipline and commitment. If our love for convenience leads us to forget how to be patience or dedicated then we need to remind ourselves of who we want to be. We don't have to remove our conveniences, we only need to adjust the way we live our lives and make our choices.