‘Channel Clutter’ Is a Real Thing, and It Could Be Ruining Your Netflix Experience

Your brother keeps sending you True Detective theories, your S.O. just asked if you finally started Game of Thrones and all your BFF wants to do is gab about creepy stalker Penn Badgley from You. Maniac? The Crown? Did you see Schitt's Creek yet? Haunting of Hill House? The Fyre Festival docs? What about Sex Education? Finally get around to Salt Fat Acid Heat?

Phew. Just me, or is it becoming extremely hard to keep up with all the new shows and movies provided by the rise of streaming sites? If you're feeling the content crush, you're not alone.

Dubbed "channel clutter," the rise of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu has given way to more than just seemingly unlimited scrolling and hyper-specific show recommendations. Whole season dumping is ending the era that saw families and friends clustered on couches to watch the same show each week.

And it could be damaging down the road, especially when the last thing society needs is more polarization. "This is my show, and that's your show," instead of "We all love The Office!" It's a bleak dystopia, in my opinion. Or, to quote Michael Scott, "I don't hate it. I just don't like it at all, and it's terrible."

"If Netflix thrives on subscriptions, and it’s the buzz around individual shows and movies—ideally an escalating hum of media coverage, advertising and word-of-mouth endorsements—that drives signups, what’s the point of churning out more programming than you can effectively promote?" writes TV critic Judy Berman for Time magazine.

In fact, the experts have weighed in, and it seems this entertainment fatigue comes from the over-proliferation of content (and not, in fact, our worsening attention spans). Although, according to a recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, teens who spend a lot of time on digital media showed increased symptoms for that, too.

"This year’s Netflix release schedule made television feel overwhelming in the same way that the 24/7 digital news cycle has been since the advent of social media," Berman writes. "And a similar trade-off applies: It’s wonderful that the medium is making space for a broader range of voices, ideas and approaches to storytelling than ever, but those hyper-specific programming lanes isolate every kind of viewer (or, to use Netflix jargon, 'taste cluster') in their own bubble."

So how do you beat the channel clutter (not to mention, break out of your 'taste cluster')? In my case, I've doubled down on my absolute favorite shows (oh, hello, Bodyguard), kept a list of must-watch recommendations on my phone and let the thrum of the rest fade into background noise.

I've also started reading reviews of shows that I haven't watched—and most definitely won't have time to—just so I can keep my water-cooler chat up to date (and branch out of my lane in case I discover something I previously shrugged off that now I'm dying to see).

Exhibit A: My coworker loves The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, so I pride myself on being at least the teeniest bit informed of what's happening with Midge. Think of it like reading the inside of the book jacket. Sure, you don't get any bang for your buck, but you also don't blow that buck on something you didn't have time for in the first place. Win-win.

Yep, I'm Tidying Up my channel clutter (alright, Marie Kondo, you can come, too).

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