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Replace your Netflix addiction with a better life

Oct 01, 2020 · 7 min read

Isn’t it ironic that Netflix launched The Social Dilemma to educate the public that social media platforms use algorithms to addict their users to their platform?

It’s kind of like the pot calling the kettle black so it can get more love (read: more $$$).

For most (if not all) of the reasons that people watch Netflix today, the better and seemingly harder solution is outside of Netflix.

Why do you watch Netflix?

Is it to fall asleep or unwind after a long day of work?

It’s tempting to snuggle into bed with your favorite series to lull you to sleep.

But did you know that the artificial light from the screens can weaken your body’s ability to naturally produce melatonin and therefore, make it harder for you to fall asleep? Also, while you may feel like you’re only passively watching tv, your brain is actually engaged and in a state of arousal while you’re watching your show and for quite a while later as your brain continues to process everything it just observed. So even if you do get sleep, the quality is greatly reduced.

In contrast, the best way to fall asleep quicker and get a higher quality sleep is to create a relaxing environment. I still have a lot of days where I’m not able to fall asleep easily, but I’m starting to have more higher sleep quality days than poor ones now. This is my routine that I’ve trying to maintain for the past 6 months:

1) Put away your technology for the night (I put it right next to my bedroom door). Whether it’s notifications from my phone, or reading ebooks, or watching tv, I find it a lot harder to stop doing it while my phone or laptop are accessible. If they’re put away, then it becomes that much easier for me to fall asleep faster and deeper. In fact, the only low sleep quality days I have now are when I can’t convince myself to put away the laptop earlier.

2) Try out the US Navy Pre-Flight School’s 2 minute sleep routine. It took their pilots 6 weeks of practice, but it works even after drinking coffee, with gunfire noises in the background, or even if you need to sleep sitting up!

Based on my experience, it works 95% of the time after I put away my technology for the night. The remaining 5% is when I took a really long nap during the day and so, even if I want to fall asleep, I’m not actually tired.

Do you watch Netflix to distract yourself or cope with boredom?

If Netflix is your escapism strategy, then you can figure out what you’re missing in life by reflecting on the kind of TV shows you watch, the people in them that you resonated with, and why. Find ways to get those benefits in real life instead and your desire to distract yourself with Netflix will dissipate.

For example, my wish fulfillment fantasy is around having a clear path to success – I love watching people starting off imperfect, and becoming better with hard work and the support of people around them. So, when I take little steps towards getting better and can visibly see that, the value of TV diminishes drastically.

Do you watch Netflix to socialize with your friends and family?

When you watch Netflix with someone else, it’s like Netflix is the main conversation partner and the other person is on the side. When you can devote more time to the other person by engaging in an active experience like walking or playing a game, it’ll drastically improve your conversations and relationship.

We often depend on pop culture to fuel our conversations because it’s the easiest way to find common ground with the other person. But, what do you learn more about the person by what they watch? Or is it by what they say and do? And what do you remember more? That you both watched Stranger Things or that you both took long walks out in nature together?

Pop culture is just filler. What matters is your 1:1 connection with your people.

Replace Netflix with your better alternative

Even if you have a better behavior to replace it with, it can still be hard to make the change. A lot of habit psychology literature boils down to this simple principle: make the habit you want easier than the habit you don’t want.

The two ways we are going to make that happen are: (1) make the better alternative easier and (2) make watching Netflix harder.

Make your better alternative easier

Mold your environment to make the better alternative more convenient.

If you watch Netflix in bed and your better alternative is exercising, then you can earn Netflix time by exercising. You can pick something small like 3 crunches and either do these 3 crunches before, after, or during every 30 min of watching Netflix.

You might discover that you like exercising more than Netflix and stop watching Netflix. Or you might get too lazy to exercise and so you don’t watch more Netflix. Either way, it’s a win-win.

The key to making this work is:

1) Pick something small. 3 crunches, not 50. 5 pages of reading, not 10 chapters. 1 sentence of journaling, not a 1000. 2) Make the alternative easily available where you are. If your better alternative is jogging, then place your running shoes where you watch Netflix. If your better alternative is reading, then select your book and put it by your bedside.

Make watching Netflix harder

There are three main tricks that you can employ:

1) Disable autoplay When you watch an episode in a series, Netflix auto-plays the next episode in the series by default. This makes you more susceptible to forming a pseudo-addiction to the show as your brain will continually produce dopamine and make you more likely to binge-watch.

By disabling autoplay, you’re forcing yourself to be more intentional and make a conscious decision on whether you want to watch the next episode.

2) Log out every time Log out of Netflix after each session. Bonus points for not using a password manager to remember the password for you and also to use a long password.

That way, you can use the time it takes for you to log back in to decide if it’s worth it.

3) Find a dull moment between bingeable content and cliffhangers

Every TV show, on Netflix or off, ends each episode with a cliffhanger.

Why? It’s to keep you on the edge of your seat and curious on what happens next.

TV series producers are becoming better at delivering addicting content all time, but they’re not perfect. Also, as we (the users) get used to higher content quality, we develop a higher threshold.

There will be a dull moment or two in the middle of each episode. As soon as you feel the lull, stop watching. Don’t watch the episode til the end.

A slightly better way to do this is to set a timer to end 10-15 min before the end of the episode and stop watching then. Don’t worry – Netflix will remember where you left off and let you pick it back up on another day.

Thanks for reading :)

I wrote this article in part to help me when I slip up occasionally. So hopefully these tips help you out just like they do for me. Let me know how it goes! If you want to read more articles like this, then subscribe down below.

This article is a part of the Tech with Intention series that starts with Quarantine your time spent online. The next article in the series is Be more active on TikTok, become less addicted.

Thanks to Jake, Carolina, and Sasha for reading early drafts of this.