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How Canceling Netflix Saved Me Time & Made Me Happier

Netflix is great. But it’s also a bit of a time-suck. Here’s why I canceled my Netflix account and what I learned along the way.

By now, it’s no surprise that the end of 2019 was a stressful time for me—personally and professionally. But now that we’re in 2020 and I’ve declared it the YEAR OF ME, I’ve committed to spending my time more productively. And on more of the things that make me happier.

Netflix is a big part of our lives and has been for a long time. I had a Netflix subscription way back when, when DVDs came in the mail in those flat red envelopes.

But in the past few years, Netflix had become so much a part of my daily routine, falling asleep to TV reruns or re-watching movies I’ve seen hundreds of time.

In the last few months, I realized I was spending hours each day watching Netflix (or Hulu, or YouTube, or Amazon Prime, or HBO Go). Sure, it was fun and relaxing, but it’s also sedentary and, after-a-while, kind of boring.

Don’t get me wrong: film and TV are great, and they’re still some of my biggest interests. But Netflix takes a lot of the joy out of the experience.

So, in November, on a spur-of-the-moment decision, I changed my Netflix password, logged out of the website, deleted the app, and set out anew.

Part of my decision was because of my break-up. I was feeling it hard and knew I would sink further into depression if I spent my days and evenings moping at home in my pajamas, in bed, watching Netflix show after show.

It seemed like a very high probability, so I shut down that opportunity before it was even a possibility.

Now—full disclosure: at the time I didn’t actually have my own Netflix account. I was using a family member’s account because—well, because we all do that, don’t we? So it was just a matter of signing out and forgetting the password.

Canceling my Netflix was easy in that way.

But, truthfully, I also get a free Netflix account with my current T-Mobile phone plan as one of the gazillion perks that they always seem to bundle. So, while I still have a Netflix subscription, I am actively avoiding it.

What happened after canceling Netflix

One: my mood changed pretty quickly. I felt forced to be more productive and do more things, things away from my computer and screen. That was almost immediately noticeable.

We spend so much time staring at computer and phone screens. It’s physically exhausting and also somehow emotionally draining. But when you remove opportunities to start at a screen, you’re suddenly encouraged to do other things.

I used to regularly read books, mostly back in my college days when I worked at a Barnes & Noble. And since shutting down my Netflix access, I’ve started reading more.

I’ve also started listening to more podcasts more regularly, and just generally keeping busy with other physical activities away from the computer.

I’ve even lost 10 lbs. from regularly going to the gym (an equally useful habit to pick up post-break-up).

Berlinale International Film Festival

How to cancel Netflix

Well, since I didn’t technically cancel Netflix, it’s hard to say. In your account settings, it’s relatively easy to find the help in settings to cancel Netflix, but truthfully: I didn’t want to 100% cancel Netflix. I simply wanted to limit my access.

If you have an iPhone, it’s possible to use the Screen Time app to limit how much time access you’ll allow yourself to view the Netflix app on the iPhone. But other than that, you have to try and force yourself from *not* using Netflix in your web browser. The easiest way to do that was to simply “forget” my password and log out.

Once I created that extra step to have to log in to Netflix to access it, I simply just stopped using it as much. It’s funny how a few clicks of a button can turn us off so quickly, but it does actually work.

Since I went through the process to cancel Netflix, I’ve been happier and more productive. That’s not to say that movies don’t make me happy. Since deleting Netflix from my life, I’ve also been to the cinema more often; I even went to the movies alone!

That extra step and cost of seeing movies in a theater makes the habit more interesting and somehow, also, more important. Seeing a new movie in a theatre is somehow more exciting, more interesting than when you see it on a tiny computer screen on your computer or a TV in the living room.

Most cinema was originally conceived to be consumed on a large screen; and as most of my generation and friends increasingly watch movies on Netflix and Hulu from our laptops in bed, a lot of that grandeur has been lost.

Now that I’ve made a conscious decision to consume these big-picture (and big dollar) productions in a bigger venue, it’s easier to respect the art and understand the process.

Of course, since I didn’t *totally* delete or cancel my Netflix, just simply made it harder to access, I can still open a movie for a Netflix and Chill kind-of night. But those are few and far between. And I’d rather have a date in an actual movie theater, anyways.

Red curtain at theater/cinema/kino

Should you cancel your Netflix account?

Listen: it’s a new year and you can do what you want. Personally, I’m keeping my Netflix account but severely limiting my access. Even if or when I start dating again and looking for those Netflix and Chill moments, I don’t want to rely on Netflix for those spaces between intimate moments. In hindsight, that is and was boring.

I’d rather make space for more interesting encounters, more engaging conversations, and better moments to share.

Movies as art are fantastic, but they too easily become a crutch—especially in lackluster relationships or lonely moments.

If you can, I’d suggest shutting down your Netflix access and allowing for your time to be spent in more creative, more outgoing pursuits. Cancel your Netflix account. Embrace the physical world. Make your own art.