Many of our childhood memories are filled with nostalgia-packed episodes of our favorite cartoons, whether it be Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly OddParents,” or Cartoon Network staples like “Adventure Time.” And we mainly found them in one place: cable TV.
But times have changed.
Every day, I turn on my TV and scroll through the numerous streaming services at my disposal. I desperately look for something to watch, but after hopelessly sifting through endless options, I land on “South Park,” a series I’ve watched at least a dozen times.
There are roughly 2.2 million minutes of content on Netflix alone — and thousands more on other streaming services like Hulu, HBO Max and Disney+ — ensuring everyone can find something to watch. But having too many choices can be daunting, and getting lost in these services’ libraries can make picking what to watch much more difficult than before.
Think about it; before streaming, what you watched was what was on TV.. You might have had a handful of go-to channels that played your favorite shows, but you didn’t get to choose freely; you had to decide quickly, or risk your program ending or going to a commercial.
This is why streaming services prevailed. Streaming services either didn’t have commercials, or had tiered memberships with no-commercial options, and it could all be set up right from your laptop. No more waiting around for cable employees to come fix your television. All you need is a device with streaming capabilities and an internet connection. And with so many options, it couldn’t be easier to find your fill of quality shows and movies to watch.
But this feature is also the problem.
Streaming services have overwhelmed its consumers with choice, sometimes called “choice overload.” When people are presented with too many options, they are less likely to make a decision.
While self-choice is imperative to humans, it can become counterproductive when there are too many options, according to an article published by Barry Schwartz, a professor of Social Theory and Social Action, in the American Psychological Association. This is because we will begin to worry about what we could be missing out on when making our final choice.
“You may do slightly less well objectively, but you’ll feel better about the results,” Schwartz wrote, explaining that when we can worry less about trivial things (such as what to eat, what to wear etc), we can better prioritize, and, hopefully, experience less anxiety.
And although Schwartz was not specifically citing “choice overload” regarding my Netflix queue, I still cannot remember the last time I picked something to watch in under 20 minutes.
And streaming isn’t just wearing me down emotionally; it is also draining my wallet.
Many of us subscribe to multiple streaming services. Some accumulate passwords from friends and family, while others choose to pay for them all on their own. But this is exactly what streaming services want. I already have HBO Max, and I love its diverse selection of movies and television. But what if my favorite show gets moved to Amazon Prime?
I find an Amazon Prime password, or shovel out the $12.99 a month for my own membership.
But by doing this, streaming services have no need to worry about competitive pricing, since people will buy their services regardless of competition.
With this in mind, an individual who owns every major streaming service (Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Paramount+) at its lowest possible prices, would be paying just under $60 a month! This is about 15% more than the average price for most cable services, which at their low end average out to $49 a month.
Coupled with the impossibility of using each service regularly or equally, it becomes clear that being subscribed to every service is extremely fruitless.
While I don’t see myself cancelling my Netflix subscription or taping back together those “cut cords” from the cable era, cutting back on the amount of services we subscribe to might not be a bad idea, both for our wallets, and our minds.
Alex Falter is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Falter is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.