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I Went 30 Days Without Netflix — & Here's What I Learned

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    Here at Refinery29, we love personal and social challenges. Whether it's wearing different lipsticks for 30 days or going a month without using credit and debit cards, we're never afraid to try new ways of simplifying our lives.

    For me, it was a no-brainer what kind of 30-day challenge I needed. In all of my circles (other than the R29 entertainment team), I'm always the one who watches the most TV and is constantly pestering people to try new shows. (I'm still trying to get my parents into Broadchurch, and my fiancé to finish the first season of Superstore — we're working on it.) I stream TV shows in bed, at the gym, and sometimes for entire Saturdays at a time. I usually watch more than one episode of TV every single day.

    So, it was only natural that giving up TV and movie-streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and the Comcast Xfinity TV Go app (I use my fiancé's login for that one) — would be a worthwhile 30-day challenge for me. I agreed to do it.

    The fine print? I was still allowed to watch TV live, as it aired. I don't have cable, but I get public networks like ABC, so I could still watch shows like Scandal at their original air times. I could also still watch clips on YouTube.

    When I first went over the assignment with my editors, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would I start reading more? See a ton of movies? Actually start having dinner with other humans? Some of these things did happen — but the whole experience was definitely different than what I'd anticipated.

    Ahead, here's a breakdown of what I learned from my streaming-free month.

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    Day 1

    I started this challenge on a Friday. After leaving work, I took the subway into Brooklyn and got my first tattoo. One day without Netflix had made me a true rebel. (Not really — I'd been planning to get it before I knew I'd be doing the challenge.) It did keep me occupied, though, so I didn't miss streaming services yet.

    When I started the no-streaming month, Shonda Rhimes' new TV show, The Catch, had just started. If I had been able to go home to Hulu, I probably would have watched the first couple of episodes (though I have to say, I wasn't terribly compelled by this trailer). I'm really into Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, though, so…

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    Day 2

    I should note here that I'm a true introvert — social activities tend to require energy from me, rather than providing me with it. A few lunches, dinners, and phone calls a week are enough for my social needs, and the majority of the other times, I'm watching TV. That is to say: Day Two was a Saturday, I had nothing planned for myself, and not being able to stream anything was alarming.

    My Saturday mornings are typically spent enjoying a leisurely brunch at home and watching Hulu or Netflix. Since I couldn't do that, I decided to see a matinee showing of The Boss. I won a fairly generous Fandango gift card in a contest last year, so I've seen a lot of free movies in the last few months.

    When The Boss was over, I was dismayed to see it was still early afternoon. What was I going to do with the rest of my day? I panicked and used my contest gift code to buy a ticket for Zootopia at the same theater. The sad part was that my fiancé and I had already seen Zootopia a couple weeks earlier.

    It didn't take much contemplation on the walk home from the theater to second-guess taking on this assignment. The "I Have Friends" song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend came to mind. Was this article going to read as a cry for help from a TV addict so lonely she had nothing better to do than keep seeing a children's movie? (When I got home, I proceeded to fall into a rabbit hole of watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songs on YouTube, because Rachel Bloom is a true genius.)

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    Day 3

    The Zootopia situation was a true wake-up call. I needed a plan for this whole month-without-streaming challenge. I realized I had been looking at it all wrong. I didn't have to become a social butterfly, per se — I could use the TV streaming time to pursue other entertainment interests.

    I almost never read for fun these days, and actually working through some of the books in my bookcase sounded pretty satisfying. So, that morning, I started with a copy of How to Be Single that I'd taken off the free table at work. (It's not a great book or a great movie, tbh.)

    Later that day, I went to the Met Breuer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new space at the former Whitney Museum — something I definitely wouldn't have done had streaming been an option. While I was there, I saw Allan McLeod, immediately recognizing him as Paul from You're the Worst. I have no shame when it comes to celebrity sightings, so I asked him for a selfie, and he obliged. I couldn't rewatch any old episodes, of course, but seeing him in person was almost as good!

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    Day 4

    When I started this challenge, I honestly believed The CW was a cable channel. I usually watch Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the Tuesdays after they air on Hulu. So I missed this week's episodes, even though I later realized I could have watched them on a local New York channel. I could have actually seen what happened at Jane's bachelorette party, after all! But alas, I did not.

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    Day 5

    The next day at work, I overheard a few of my coworkers debating whether "Oh My God I Think I Like You" was the best song to air on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, yet. I watched the video — and the one for, "I Gave You a UTI" — on YouTube later that night. I wish I'd seen the context of the episode, but it's a pretty great song. (My personal favorite, though, is still "Put Yourself First.")