There’s someone around you right now. They’re screaming across the room, “Toss me a fresh beer!” They’re telling a long-winded story about the girl who was out of their league that they “cuddled so fucking hard.” Their chest is puffed out as they scan the room, eyeing down everyone as they level who’s good enough to hear their story about the internship that’ll definitely turn into a full-time position. This person is confident, but they also don’t pay their own Netflix bill. They know this, but they’ve kind of forgotten.
A few years back, their dad gave them the account information. Dad gave them the keys to old episodes of The Office that they loudly referenced to their friends before screaming for that beer over their approving laughter. Pops gave them the secret combination to Orange Is The New Black, which was the basis of conversation for that hot chick they cuddled. Daddy paved the way to him watching the first half of Blackfish as well as his semi-informed opinion on whales held in captivity. He got an A when he referenced that movie in his public speaking class. He gave himself a pat on the back. No thought of his dad who paid the Netflix bill. He’s the man. He’s got Netflix confidence and he doesn’t even pay for his own Netflix.
You may not think this is a problem. You may be the person I’m talking about. You might have passwords to a number of streaming sites, collecting them like some sort of street hustler with ten fake Rolex watches under your trench coat. You have your buddy’s HBO GO and your girlfriend’s Hulu and your friend’s friend’s parent’s Showtime account. There might even be passwords with unknown origins. It somehow found its way to you and that’s just fine, because last night you hooked up with a girl under the guise of watching “that new show on Crackle!” But it’s a huge issue right now, because we all forget that these things cost money. That money comes from some sort of trade of goods or services. That Netflix costs $8 a month and YOU cannot afford $8. That’s right. You are not able to put together $8 on a given month and there’s never a time where you realize that you’re a deadbeat. And I mean that. If you had a friend come to you for $8 a month, you’d start to ask him questions. You’d wonder if he was doing ok. You’d talk to friends and discuss an intervention. You’d ask about his family. You’d start to give him advice he didn’t ask for like, “You should get a better job.”
But we lose the connection between money and these accounts. It’s completely normal. I was on my parents’ cell phone account until I was 30. At first, everything was totally fine. I used my phone the way people drink water from a hose. Some in my mouth. Some on the ground. Some on my shirt. Who cares? It’s just water. The hose has an unlimited amount. I was the same with my phone. No idea why people turned on WiFi. No clue what “data plans” even meant or cost. There was a point where I was 28 and had no idea what the thing I used most even cost. Then Snapchat came along and I’m getting calls from my dad. He’s wondering how I was spending this much money and what the hell I was doing. Then I was told to leave. Excommunicated from my own family plan. Sent adrift into an unknown marketplace of cell phone plans. I walked into a Boost Mobile and it may as well have been Haiti. I found a home at Verizon and my whole life is different now. My lifestyle has changed because there’s a dollar amount that goes with every time I open Snapchat without a wifi roof over my head. I’m aware. I’m less brazen. Most importantly, I aspire. Maybe I’d be somewhere different if that had started earlier.
You see, I believe great human strivings are incentive-based. Respect, money, women, promotions, tenure, fame, love. Netflix may be a small luxury in life, something easily worth the $8 monthly expense. And you may rationalize it that way: “I COULD pay for it, so it’s philosophically irrelevant.” But you add these things up – Netflix, HBO, Hulu, music streaming, movie rips, cell phone plans – and you start to erode one’s understanding of COST. Maybe it’s small, but as we millennials fight to prove our understanding of the world, it might be time to start asking what it is exactly we don’t understand.
Put aside Netflix; what’s the cost of food every week? What’s the cost of your wardrobe? And of course, what’s the cost of success? Your grandfather bagged groceries for years so he could afford a T-Top Thunderbird, debt-free. You just graduated from a liberal arts school that cost 50K a year, your starting salary is dick, and you just blew $150 you didn’t have at the bar. The bubble is real. And sure, Netflix is small, it’s inexpensive, and maybe you can live without it. But if you can’t afford a phone bill on your own, then maybe it’s the canary in the coal mine.
Oh, and did you know that Netflix is actually $9.99 a month if you watch it in HD? If not, you may start to wonder if you know the cost of anything..
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