While the pastimes of old involved going down the park with friends and playing football and interacting with people face-to-face, advancements in technology seem to be dampening the basic human need for social experiences. In 2019, Netflix had upwards of 158 million subscribers worldwide, making nearly $16 billion in revenue in 2018 (Statista). Streaming TV and films has now replaced more active and social activities as one of the most popular pastimes among younger generations.
If you don’t have Netflix and remain in the loop with the latest shows, you fall behind your peers in terms of conversational opportunities. Unfortunately, the vast majority no longer even discuss their favourite TV moments face-to-face over a coffee, but through the screen of a phone via apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Unfortunately, while each and every person has the right to choose their own pastimes and hobbies, TV streaming is often a solo experience for the most part. Rates of loneliness among Millennials and Generation Z have increased in recent years, which is largely down to the rise of the internet, social media, and streaming (Forbes). The emphasis is increasingly being put on staying inside and living one’s life through a screen, rather than making memories and relationships through physical human interaction. Staying inside rather than meeting up with friends and meeting new people leads to loneliness, which in turn leads to depression, and worse.
Netflix have taken steps recently to increase user interaction in their TV shows and films, allowing audiences to choose the path that certain characters take.
So, how can advancements and innovations in TV streaming help to solve a problem that it has had a huge hand in creating? Netflix have taken steps recently to increase user interaction in their TV shows and films, allowing audiences to choose the path that certain characters take. The prime example of this would be Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch story, which allowed viewers to make decisions for the main character. This increases user engagement with the content they are watching, rather than mindlessly consuming it as if it were as essential as oxygen, food, and water. Perhaps an even better example of increased social activity within the TV streaming sector is Facebook’s new Watch Party feature. This is a valiant attempt to transform TV from a solo experience to a shared and social one. It allows people to join a video chat in order to watch certain shows and films together, interacting and conversing as they go. This maintains the popularity of the TV streaming pastime, while also urging people to remain active within their social circles.
However, more still needs to be done to combat loneliness in the younger generations. Technology will only progress further and the youth of today will only regress further into their own solo worlds if the trend is not addressed. Companies like Netflix and Amazon should be pushing people to interact with friends and family through the apps with similar features to Facebook’s Watch Party. There should also be regular messages within the apps that remind people to go out and get some fresh air when they have been watching for extended periods of time. At the end of the day, free will is always going to prevail and these youngsters will always have the right to choose TV over social interactions. Perhaps parental intervention is the best chance of breaking this trend. Parents should be restricting their child’s time on social media and streaming sites, urging them to get out of the house and engage in social interactions instead. The links between loneliness and streaming should also be well publicised in the press.
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