What To Watch On Netflix Is The Hardest Choice On Earth, So Here Are The 13 Emotional Stages Of Trying To Decide

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It is a well-documented fact that no matter how smart or decisive you are in other areas of life — no matter how many prestigious degrees you have earned, no matter how many people you boss around at work, no matter if your day job involves making actual life-or-death decisions — it is pretty much impossible to decide what to watch on Netflix. So much so that there are actually now a number of Netflix decider apps that exist solely to help you pick between a documentary on sushi and a "documentary" about the Loch Ness Monster. On the one hand, what options! What possibility! What a time to be alive! On the other: Didn't you think we'd all have friendly, affordable robot butlers by now? Do we not have the robot butlers (or a cure for the common cold, or the ability to teleport) because we're all wasting so much time trying to decide what to watch on Netflix?

Not that Netflix has created a wholly unique situation — the difficulty inherent in  picking something to watch is simply an element of what sociologist Barry Schwartz called "the paradox of choice." Schwartz documented the stress people feel when confronted with endless choices, calling it a hallmark of modern human existence. This is why something that should feel like a miracle of modern technology, like choosing a place to order dinner from or a show to watch on Netflix, seems to require more energy and effort than, say, taking the LSATs or building a small shack in the woods and spending the rest of your life there living off the land and naming all the local chipmunks.

So the next time you agonize over picking something out on Netflix, know that it's not just you being personally indecisive; it's a metaphor for the modern human condition! But also, seriously, pick something. We don't have all day here.

1. Relaxed Excitement

Ahhh, a free afternoon! No errands to run, no emails to return, and no appointments to totally forget about, remember at the last second, and then arrive at super late, forcing you to make up some weird lie about traffic on the highway. Nothing to do but kick back and watch something on Netflix! I am truly a queen, and the Internet is my castle.

2. Ambitious Curiosity

What should I watch? There are so many options! The world is my oyster! (The part of the world that is available on my computer, anyway.)

3. Denial

Now is probably the right time to watch this six-hour Finnish documentary on anchovy canning that I saved to my list, right? I mean, when could be better? Summer afternoons were truly made for subtitled documentaries about contemporary ethical issues in the Scandinavian fishing industry!

4. Second Thoughts

I'm totally going to start my new life as someone with informed opinions on Scandinavian fisheries in a sec — right after I finish checking all the movie listings on here, to make sure that I'm not forgetting any more pressing movies. You know, like an even more important documentary on an even more impressive topic. I will definitely come right back to this documentary. In fact, I will watch one second of it and then stop it, just so that it's in my "Continue Watching" queue. Then I have to watch it. I mean want! I want to watch it!

5. Frenzied Comparison

Wow, they've been adding a lot of stuff lately. A lot of stuff. I mean, waaaaaay more than I thought. Every TV show I watched as a child and remember warmly through a veil of nostalgia! Also, every prestigious TV show that I said I was "totally planning on watching as soon as I'm done watching the same five episodes of Friends over and over"! Plus, all 67 seasons of that acclaimed British sci-fi series that I always kind of meant to get around to. Wow. Wow ...

6. Feeling Overwhelmed

But if I pick any one movie, I can't watch any other movies! The sheer act of committing to watching one movie renders me unable to watch any other movie, forcing me to spend the whole movie obsessing about whether the other movies I could have theoretically chosen might have been better. Oh my god, I'm trapped in some kind of undergrad philosophy class essay question, aren't I?

7. Deep Shame

It's like Netflix is a living monument to every aspiration I've ever had that I didn't live up to. Every time I tried to get more cultured and failed. Every time I aspired to lead a richer, fuller life, and then got distracted by a bowl of pretzels and forgot about it. Every time I lied to a stranger at a party about having seen The Wire. I have let everyone down. I have let myself down. Most of all, I have let that bowl of pretzels down.

8. Rebellious Entitlement

You know what? Why should I even have to live up to someone else's expectations about what makes a person smart and cultured? Why should I feel pressured to spend my one precious afternoon of free time this entire week watching some pretentious movie that other people think is important? What about me? What about my needs? What about my desires? What about my overwhelming interest in eating some cheesy bread and watching episodes of Ancient Aliens until it's time to go to bed? What gives anyone the right to judge me about that? If I don't get a handle on the ancient aliens and what they demand from us, who will?

9. Distraction

Huh, viewers who were interested in Ancient Aliens are also interested in Van Wilder and Roman Holiday? Well I'll be damned. This is an interesting look into my own subconsciousness, right? Wouldn't I be betraying myself if I didn't check out all 50 recommendations here, just in the interest of knowing my inner self more fully?

10. Netflix Love

"Your taste preferences created this category: Wry, ironic horror movies with a strong female protagonist"? Netflix, why do I sometimes feel like you're the only one actually paying attention to me? Everyone else just takes me at surface level, but you really look into the heart of me. And through careful, thoughtful analysis of how often I watch Pretty Little Liars, Scream, and Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, you see the real woman behind the mirage. Our connection is more satisfying to me than anything I have with any of my coworkers, most of my family members, or the last 19 people whom I met on Tinder.

11. Commitment

Your faith in me has lifted me up, Netflix. I can do this! I'm just gonna pick something. I'm not gonna overthink it any more, or obsess over all the other things that I'm not watching when I choose to watch this. I am just pressing a button and watching some tiny people on my screen do something.

12. Fear Of Commitment

Oh wait. All of these movies are like two hours long. I don't have two hours now. In fact, now I only have ... 29 minutes until I have to leave the house, actually.

13. Acceptance

OK, fine, "The One Where No One's Ready" it is.

Images: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; amenclinicsphotos ac/Flickr, Giphy (13)