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The Greyhound

Streaming services can’t replace TV

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Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I no longer have a television in my dorm room this semester. I had the option to bring a small, boxy TV with me but I told my parents there was no need. To quote myself, “Not having a TV will be less of a distraction so I can focus on my schoolwork. If I really want to watch something, I could probably find it online or on Netflix.”

It is true that I can find a plethora of shows online. As most are aware, you can find childhood favorites, old seasons of your current favorites and original content on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. On Amazon Prime and iTunes, I can purchase the most recent episodes that air during the current season. If you have a username and password for your cable provider, you can even watch some stations live or the episodes the next day for free. Except it is almost always the next day. I had to avoid all forms of social media and entertainment news sites the night of The Mindy Project’s midseason finale to prevent hearing spoilers. The first thing I did the day after was log onto a generous friend’s Xfinity account to watch it so I could freely check Twitter again without fear.

The truth is, sometimes I just want to watch TV, not Netflix, not Hulu, TV. I don’t want to see the same commercial repeatedly play or have to wait for the video to buffer. Watching TV is an experience that seems to be almost archaic for college students. Except, with my current predicament, I’m realizing that streaming services should never entirely replace TV.

Television revolutionized the world. It influenced presidential elections, changed the way we receive news and created a whole new category of entertainment. Then came the Internet and following that, Netflix. According to Netflix’s website, they have over 40 million members globally. The number could be even larger if friends and family didn’t share passwords. Netflix is cult-like. It sucks you in and you can’t imagine ending your subscription. While there are so many benefits, it just isn’t the same as turning on your TV.

Most college students don’t have the time during the week to watch their favorite shows. I have dropped many series from my watch list simply because I missed one too many episodes. This leads to students binge-watching television series when they find the free time. I’m guilty of finishing entire series during winter and summer break thanks to Netflix binge-watching. Except binge-watching takes away from the social experience of viewing television. You no longer walk into a living room or common room and join in on whatever is playing. Laptops are propped onto people’s laps as they lie in bed or on the couch with headphones in their ears. If your Friday night isn’t out with friends, it’s normally spent with Ben, Jerry and Netflix.

TV provides more than social entertainment; it is a nice distraction. You don’t always need to be paying attention, but sometimes it makes good background noise. If there is one thing I have learned from having my own dorm room, it is that it can get awfully quiet. There is no glowing screen behind me that I can glance at to see the score of the game or what the Kardashians are doing. No, instead I open a new tab and spend 20 minutes scrolling through Twitter to see what is happening. In a way, not having a TV has become a bigger distraction from homework than actually having one.

Netflix and streaming services are also isolated. There is no channel surfing or switching between shows during commercials. You pick one program or movie and you have to stick with it. Besides my incapability to make decisions, I’m now missing out on the chance to discover something new or even hearing the top stories on local news. Instead, I just keep watching the next episode until I reach the end and wonder what I’m supposed to do with my life now.

While I can’t imagine my life without Netflix, I also can’t imagine my life with never having a TV.  With the Winter Olympics currently happening, I’m relying on kind friends to let me crash on their couches to enjoy the Games. Luckily, it seems like this TV junkie will have a television set in her room by the time Jimmy Fallon takes over the Tonight Show on February 17 because that is certainly an event that cannot be missed.

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Streaming services can’t replace TV