By: Lauren Vella

A couple of months ago when I was living abroad, I noticed that my brother had logged onto my Netflix account and made himself a personal profile. At first I thought nothing of sharing my account with my brother. He probably had innocent intentions and wanted to binge watch the latest episodes of House of Cards. But then, as I began to ruminate on his actions, I became a little uneasy. I began to unpack my feelings and my thoughts began to race about what Paul could gather about me if he saw which Netflix shows and movies I was watching. A part of me felt like my brother was infringing upon a secret of mine- a kind of motion picture Narnia where I could escape after a long day of work or training. After a brief moment of panic, I collected myself and decided that my neuroses were illogical. I had nothing to hide. My brother was not going to think I was trying to find the best way to dispose of a body if I binge-watched too many episodes of CSI Miami.

Although my conscience was clear on my end, my neuroticism persisted. I then began to think about what kind of things I would find out if I perused my brother’s Netflix queue. Would I expect him to watch the same shows as me? Would this tell me something about our interests and our compatibility as brother and sister? What was my brother trying to accomplish by watching different shows on Netflix? Were they for entertainment? For learning purposes? While these thoughts were racing about in my head, I began to realize I was staring blankly at my computer screen for thirty minutes. It was late, I had missed my window to watch Modern Family, and it was time to go to bed. I fell asleep that night after concluding that I was overthinking this debacle. My brother and I would co-exist harmoniously on one Netflix account. However, in the months to come, I continued to think about the ways in which Netflix could serve as an online portal into our personalities and consequently our identities.

Have you ever thought about what your Netflix account says about you or your friends? In a world seemingly bereft of employment (or maybe well-paying employment), most millennials try to scrimp by using each other’s Netflix accounts. Many people can relate to asking for a password and logging on to a friend’s Netflix because there is no other way to find out what all the fuss is about Orange is The New Black. When you log on, what do you discover? She already gave you her password, so she is clearly generous and likes to share with others. On her profile you see she has recently watched High School Musical because you know that was her tween obsession. From this one decision, you might be able to conclude that your friend is sentimental and nostalgic. Also on her “recently watched” list she has The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt which suggests that she is quirky and enjoys a bit of silly comedy every once in a while.

There are also more practical uses for a Netflix profile analysis. For example, would we be able to tell if this person uses Netflix for a “Netflix and chill” date? Can a Netflix profile tell us about someone’s sexuality? Could access to a Netflix account possibly let us know about our compatibility with friends, family, or potential partners? Let us think about the latter question. Maybe the person you’re dating has watched Planet Earth or Cowspiracy and (like you) cares about environmental issues and animal rights. In a matter of seconds you have just found a commonality between you and your date, and will have something to talk about during dinner later. With access to a person’s Netflix account, Tinder becomes slightly irrelevant because you’ve found a more efficient way to learn about the person’s interests with a scroll of your mouse. Conversely, you may rule out that person altogether if he/she doesn’t have an online streaming account. Let’s be real- they’re not as plugged into the world as you are.

It is interesting to think about the ways in which online streaming has become an integral part of our culture and sense of self. The film and show choices we make on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Fire etcetera can tell us a lot about ourselves and others. More importantly, online streaming sites have brought us new slang phrases such as “Netflix and chill” and “binge-watching”, giving us yet another new addiction on the internet along with social media. The Netflix culture is everywhere, whether we are aware of it or not. The only other question is, as the online streaming space evolves, how will we see our culture and our notion of our sense of self evolve with it?

What are some of your experiences with online streaming? Do you have the same views on this pervasive online streaming culture? We would love to hear it! Take a wack at the comment section below. 

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