Bettering the Netflix Solution
The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, told the Wall Street Journal in 2016, “Fundamentally, we’re about eliminating loneliness and boredom.”1 What is lost, when the “solution” to loneliness and boredom is entrusted to entertainment?
Reed Hastings is right: solitary confinement, for us humans, is torture, because we are more than rational beings: below our reflective, rational sides, we are lovers. We love laughter, sunlight, a few friendships, sports, beauty, dogs, maybe cats . . . And we don’t think about those - we just love them. Thus depression sets in when we have a disconnect between ourselves and these things we love. Depression is a torture because we feel disconnected from experiencing that which is most basic to us - to love.
So then, the solution provided by Hastings is . . . TV watching. TV watching eliminates loneliness and boredom, according to Netflix. And it does, temporarily. We get a taste of the transcendent, watching Iron-Man soar through the air.
Then we turn the TV off. That temporary, false transcendence then only cements the reality that we are not transcendent; we are earthy. The loneliness remains; the boredom has been paved over.
Worse: when used to “eliminate” boredom and loneliness, entertainment trains us to neglect our ability to contemplate the truly transcendent. The entertainment-as-refuge habit trains within us an appetite only for the earthy, the common and the profane. Our highly achievement-oriented society recoils from boredom, and entertainment is right there to help. But what if God created us to get bored, for a purpose? What might that purpose be?
After all, I see nothing in the Bible that condemns boredom. Laziness, yes. Neglect of love, yes. But not 15 minutes of boredom. That’s not a sin. What might God’s purpose be in allowing pockets of time, where efficiency stops? Is that really dead air?
I offer one answer; I invite you to reflect upon it. What if God designed us to get bored, in order to consider the truly transcendent? What if, by letting in thoughts of God, those moments of “boredom” are training our hearts to love a better Thing? A God Who leaves us always full, never empty? What if God designed boredom to train us to actually learn delight, by contemplating Him?
If this is true (and I believe it is), we are then better poised to reach out to the lonely around us - much better than Netflix. We have something truly delight-full to offer others. What we do with our boredom determines whether we are useful to a lonely, bored world.