The (Vastly Emotional) Cost of Quitting Netflix

What I was paying for with Netflix was comfort and predictability.

Here’s what happened: I sat down to eat an enormous salad, opened my computer, and one of my jobs was gone. Cue meltdown re: the fragility of freelancing, followed by an existential crisis, because why not. After I recovered enough to finish my salad, an expensive purchase I would not have made if I’d checked my email before I went to the grocery store (but whatever), I cancelled Netflix.

This felt like the most clear headed, responsible move I could make at the time; after all, I was eliminating a frivolous expense. I’ve cancelled Netflix before, but for different reasons, mainly that I’d put too many things in my queue, never watch them, and then feel like a failure when I continue to only watch crime drama and Gilmore Girls. (It’s my $9 a month, Netflix. I’ll do what I want.) So I cancelled, and then proceeded to spend the rest of the time I had until my subscription ran out pretending that it wasn’t going to happen, until it did, and then I realized the full weight of my decision.

It turns out that I’m totally dependent on being able to stream TV, so adjusting to a world without Netflix, or something similar, has been more difficult than I’d like to admit. For the last month, I’ve tried YouTube — good for listening to things I don’t care about/have seen before, but not for things I want to actually watch, Daily Motion — good for watching new stuff, but it doesn’t stream, and various websites where you can watch one episode of a show at a time. Where I’ve landed, for the time being, is podcasts and the approximately eleventy billion episodes of Say Yes to the Dress that you can find on YouTube. (Please don’t take these away from me, YouTube.) I don’t want to talk about what will probably happen when I get sick of listening to people fight about the necessity of a ten thousand dollar dress.

So, in short, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to find a thing that is free to replace a thing that costs what might be an inconsequential amount of money, but actually, for me right now, there is no such thing as an inconsequential amount of money. What I was paying for with Netflix was comfort and predictability, and it’s weird that you can buy those things, but hey, capitalism! It hadn’t occurred to me to quit something else that would be equivalent to that $9 a month, because Netflix has always felt like an absurd luxury to me, like getting my laundry done by someone else or ordering Seamless or taking an Uber. This isn’t to say I haven’t done those things (except for the Uber, which I can’t do because I don’t have a smart phone), but whenever I have, I’ve had this intense feeling of danger, as though this one act that it seems like everyone else does on the regular was about to lead me down the path of financial ruin. I haven’t constructed my financial (or, as it turns out, my emotional life) around many things that make life, in some ways, easier, and so doing them will probably always feel like a risk.

It is also possible, that in that moment when I learned that a not insignificant part of my income would be dissolving, I wanted to punish myself for choosing a life of such inconsistency by eliminating something that brought me joy. But just like there’s no such thing as an insignificant amount of money, there’s no such thing as genuine stability, even if we don’t want to admit it. There is more stable, and less stable, but nothing of pure, everlasting durability. Even Netflix, when you’re deep into bingeing on a show, asks if you want to continue streaming.

Chanel Dubofsky’s work has been published at Previously.TV, Cosmopolitan, Rewire, The Frisky, and more. You can find her on Twitter at @chaneldubofsky.