How streaming services teach us gratitude

You can’t have it all–and you don’t need to.

So+many+to+choose+from%2C+so+little+time.

Ella Jennings

So many to choose from, so little time.

Jon Kratzberg, Staff Writer

How many streaming services do you have? Such a question can be frightening when looking at the monthly bill, especially when a new streaming service seems to pop up every day. Then with each new service comes new exclusive shows everyone says are a “must-see.” In the end, creating the accounts, managing the prices, and keeping up with the newest shows make streaming services resemble a chore more than a form of entertainment. However, it’s of no use to dwell on how suffocating the process may be, because that’s just the way life is. Or is it?

With advertisements constantly claiming that we need every new platform, we easily forget to ask ourselves, how many streaming services do I need? I am a huge movie and TV person, it’s true, but it seems unrealistic that I could ever watch the tens of thousands of titles across Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Maybe, just maybe, I should try something a little more realistic and stick to only one service. 

Now this idea may seem drastic to many of us in the twenty-first century. Only one streaming service — that’s like asking someone to choose between watching TV or TikTok, rather than doing both at the same time! For most of modern society right now, the mindset isn’t to enjoy what one does have, but rather to see how much “stuff” one can accumulate. 

This never-ending cycle starts with being told that we need more stuff and then continues as we do whatever we can to get it, ultimately robbing us of joy. Such a cycle forces us to constantly look to the next thing rather than enjoy what we currently have. As we continue in this way of living, we end up forgetting how to enjoy what we do have. No longer is each new acquisition a joy, but merely a reminder that we don’t have everything yet. With each new thing we obtain, we are reminded that we are still unsatisfied. In the end, this cycle robs us of our humanity and turns us into mere consumers who believe they can have everything.

The truth is, we are finite beings. We have a limited amount of time, money and space for “stuff.” This means that we have to choose which “stuff” we say yes to and which “stuff” we must sacrifice and say no to. Only after we start picking and choosing are we able to regain our humanity and live a life ruled by enjoyment rather than constant desire. 

So how do we reclaim our dignity and cease to be beings of sheer desire? Well, we can start by being grateful, which simply means appreciating the beauty of each individual thing we possess. Furthermore, one way to really appreciate something is to limit ourselves to it and experience the fullness it has to offer rather than just waiting for the next thing. We can practice this with our streaming services. More specifically, we can limit ourselves to one service at a time.

Interestingly enough, by practicing the art of saying “no” to a good thing, in this case all the other streaming services, we can step into a tradition that has not only been around for thousands of years, but is close to our faith as Christians. I am, of course, talking about the tradition of fasting.

Fasting was a practice and a command given to the Israelites where they would abstain from something, often food, and use the pains of hunger to turn their focus to God and lead them to pray faithfully. Then when their fast was over, they would rejoice and offer praise and celebration. In other words, when their fast was over they would enjoy what they denied themselves of with new gratitude. To many today, this idea seems foreign, especially in any context outside of Lent. However, many people today still engage in this practice and use it to focus on God, which results in living a more grateful life. 

If we really want to change the narrative woven by marketing companies and become people who are grateful, we can choose to actively limit ourselves.”

So if we really want to change the narrative woven by marketing companies and become people who are grateful, we can choose to actively limit ourselves, or fast, like Jews and Christians have throughout history. Then after we begin to limit ourselves, the things we do choose to engage in will be all the sweeter.

With all of this in mind, the choice is still yours. However, it is not a weightless one. We are told daily that money can solve our problems and that if we aren’t satisfied it’s because we don’t have enough yet — thank you for that one, Ariana Grande. It is up to us whether we buy into such a narrative or if we fight against it and choose to live in gratitude. We won’t do this on a whim. We do it through practicing and changing our heart. 

For you, this choice could look like canceling your subscriptions to almost all, or just one, of your streaming services. Then take some time and really reflect on how you were using that media outlet. Were you using your TV as background noise? Maybe now you can listen to the sounds of nature, or a good, free podcast. Were you using it to procrastinate working on your essay? Now you can find a nice quiet spot and get to work. With less things you “need to watch,” you can start really enjoying what you do watch. In fact, you can even start to enjoy the time you spend away from media. 

So why not start now? Turn off all but one of your streaming subscriptions, join the fast and, who knows, you might just become a little more grateful.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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