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Why I Refuse Automated Digital Services, Streaming, and Subscriptions

Why I Refuse Automated Digital Services, Streaming, and Subscriptions

Netflix has about 260 million subscribers around the world. Disney+ boasts 111.3 million subscribers, and Amazon Prime has millions of viewers to match. Across such platforms, Americans spend, on average, over three hours a day—or over 21 hours a week—streaming online content.

At the same time, over 60 percent of adults in America use digital voice assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon’s Alexa. Clearly, automated digital services have taken our modern culture by storm. The convenience, immediacy, and accessibility that all these digital services offer is unparalleled in history.

But have we stopped to consider whether this is a good thing? Do we actually want to live with these things? What are we trading in order to acquire such convenience? Perhaps our very humanity?

Consider life before streaming and digital subscriptions. We, as a society, had to exert effort and energy to acquire things like information, entertainment, or consumer products. All through history, we had no choice but to think through and question what we wanted and whether it was worth expending the energy to get it.

Even as recently as the early 2000s, we had to go to the video rental store, pay $5, and bring home a movie for the weekend—and then return it on Monday by 5 p.m., of course. How many of us would put in all that effort and energy to see a film we were only vaguely interested in, or worse, one we knew wouldn’t be good? Very few of us. But how often do we let Netflix keep playing the next episode of a series we don’t really care for?

This is how most automated digital services work. We pay a small fee to have constant, uninterrupted access from our own living rooms, kitchens, or bedrooms—or anywhere at all on our phones. It’s so easy. It’s so convenient. And it demolishes our standards of consumption. Rather than turn it off or do something better, isn’t it just easier to let the bad movie play in the background while you do something else “just to see how it turns out”?

We might not need to check our messages or socials, but it’s so easy to simply ask Alexa to do it that we go ahead and check them anyway. We don’t need to do more shopping, but Amazon no doubt has a good deal on something vaguely intriguing—and shipping is free, of course.

When access is so easy, we don’t have to assess whether the product is worth our time and energy or money. This is not just a slippery slope to blind consumerism; it also opens up the perfect avenue for promoting social and political agendas.

Political and social propaganda runs rampant across streaming services. Consider the sexual content, pointed monologue, or even product placement in the last show you watched. A huge majority of commercials, movies, TV series, and other content contains targeted suggestions and agendas to repeatedly inundate and inculcate consumers.

Psychologists and advertisers have long known that repetition is the key to desensitization and easier acceptance of new and, especially, controversial concepts. This is called the illusory truth effect. Suffice it to say that this scientific principle states that repeated information is more readily accepted as true than is new information.

Corporations—Amazon, Google, Disney, Netflix, and other Hollywood and tech companies—know this and are going all out to put it into practice via digital automation.

If consumers see one or two “diversity” ads, anti-family messages, or anti-Christian statements, they probably wouldn’t budge on their own values. But if they see these messages 20 times a day? For years? In their own homes? It becomes “normal” due to the high frequency of repetition and thus accepted as true, but it’s an illusory truth.

What is familiar becomes synonymous with what is true, even if we logically disagree. This is an especially effective strategy for use on young and developing minds. Do we want to invite this highly effective psychological programming into the sanctity of our homes via streaming and subscription services?

Consider what we trade for the convenience of automated digital access. We no longer control what pops up on our television, computer, or phone screens—that’s decided by the algorithms of the companies we subscribe to. AI chooses what we see in advertisements, TV series, and movies.

We are freely inviting anti-family and anti-traditional voices and messages into our daily lives, accessible at the click of a button. We give up the shield of protecting our children from these messages, and we sign away the chance to teach them how to use leisure time well.

The illusory truth effect will take root somehow in our homes and families simply because of constantly repeated mantras hidden in our daily consumed media. All for the sake of automated convenience.

That’s a price I am not willing to pay. As a result, my little family fully embraces putting in real effort to access entertainment, information, or consumer products. It forces us to reflect on what we are consuming and, more importantly, whether we should consume it. This is a very good thing! We reject digital automation because it and its messages do not align with our traditional values.

So, how should we go about re-evaluating our automated services? Here are some easy and effective ways:

  • Evaluate your subscriptions. What do we have coming in to our homes, and do we get enough use from them to offset the massive downsides? We all have differing jobs, needs, lifestyles, and families. Let’s scrutinize what we’re using to see whether these services are benefiting us or whether we’re just mindless consumers. (Don’t forget your email inboxes! There are tons of bots and spam lists out there with our email addresses, and we can “unsubscribe” or “mark as spam” any of these at any point.)
  • Hit “pause” on your existing subscriptions and streaming services. Most have a 7–30 day pause option, and we can use these as an experiment to see whether we truly need or benefit from these particular services. Try living without these things. You might be surprised at the freedom it brings.
  • Swap out digital services with analog (or alternative) options. Instead of Siri or Alexa or Google calendars, we can use paper planners, alarm clocks, or the good-old-fashioned kitchen timer. We can sign up for Bentkey instead of Netflix or own our favorite movies on DVD. We can go to the store instead of shopping on Amazon.
  • Delete whatever streaming, subscriptions, or digital assistants you can do without. We need to remember that these things are optional. As stated, let’s keep in mind our individual circumstances first. For instance, I have a blind cousin who relies on Alexa for reading aloud his text messages and other things. He obviously has a need for this service, but myself? I’m fine without it. (Remember, if we truly miss something, we can always resubscribe!)
  • Consider sharing the services you actually want with friends or family. Amazon Prime and Disney+, for example, rely on logging in with a particular user account. A few friends can share the same account, even if they don’t live together! This offers us streaming bonuses without everyone individually signing up. Piggybacking this way can help us think of streaming services as a “borrow and share” within our communities, rather than as a home necessity.

Now for the elephant in the room. If we delete these services, what are we supposed to do when we get bored? Here lies the real beauty in this: We can do anything we want. By not giving ourselves default media to consume, we open our time to be truly free time. We can really live exactly how we want to with this freedom from technology. Any of us can do it. Reject the growing norm of digital automation, and live life for real!

Image credit: Unsplash

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