Escaping Escapism

I have never given up anything for Lent before but this year for some reason I decided to give up Netflix, I thought it would be a walk in the park but it is felt more like a walk in the Sahara desert. The embarrassing truth is, the only thing I consumed more than food was Netflix (not Instagram as some of you might have assumed, I do love posting on Instagram but I don’t enjoy using it beyond that).

The thing is life truly felt harder without Netflix. I thought I would be more productive, I thought I would read the books I bought to read, I had high hopes for what I would do with my time. Instead though, I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, miserable, irritated and sad. I’m sounding like a true Netflix addict right now aren’t I?!

It’s not even like I missed a specific show, I didn’t feel any fomo about getting behind on any series – I don’t watch what most people watch anyway. I’ve never seen Love Island, Money Heist, Bridgerton, Breaking Bad, RuPaul’s Drag Race, The Crown, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, 13 Reasons Why, you name it I probably haven’t seen it.

I wasn’t addicted to a show, I was addicted to escaping reality. It was never about what I was viewing on Netflix and more about what I didn’t want to face in the world, in other people and in myself. It was my way of muting reality and turning up the volume on fantasy. Of course I didn’t realise this when I began Lent earlier this year, if I did know that I had made Netflix my crutch, the thing helping me through life, I would not have took a break from it. The pandemic was hard enough as it is, I did not want make it harder or challenge myself at that time beyond my 20 minutes a day of Duolingo.

When I switched off Netflix for 40 days, it was like I turned on a horror film… actually no it was like I was inside a horror film with a different monster behind every door – Covid-19, systematic racism, extremism, natural disasters, anxiety, murders, a dying economy, disappointing people, unresolved trauma, analysis paralysis, unmet expectations, negative crippling thoughts and the list goes on.

A crutch is supposed to help you walk, take off the pressure, give your body time to heal and gradually get stronger. Escapism can’t be a crutch. Escapism is a problem not a solution. It always has to come to an end and the longer you ‘escape’ the worse reality seems and can be. The crutch that I had given myself, Netflix, appeared to take the pressure off but I wasn’t healing, I was numbing and it wasn’t making me stronger, in fact my muscles were deteriorating so now I couldn’t walk – metaphorically speaking.

The Oxford dictionary says ‘escape’ means to “break free from confinement” and defines ‘escapism’ as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy”. I would like to break free from the confinement of the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy – aka the title of this blog.

As you know reality is hard, we need something, we need someone. Something that can’t be switched off, someone that won’t walk out, something stronger than us, someone who isn’t afraid of the monsters behind the door, something that lasts longer than an episode, someone that is better than our favourite character.

I have found that someone and He has that something, His name is Jesus and His love sustains and remains. He isn’t the helicopter I expected flying in to help me escape, He is the anchor I needed stopping me from being consumed by the waves.

When asked if his faith is a crutch Bear Grylls said: “Maybe. But what does a crutch do? It helps you stand and makes you stronger. So, yes, I need a bit of that. And as time goes on, there’s no doubt I need that strength more and more, every day, to tackle the battles of life and climb the mountains we all face”.

These days Netflix isn’t a crutch for me – it’s just Netflix.

Even to your old age and grEy hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – God

Isaiah 46:4

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