The Internet and watching things

Since I’ve been mostly indoors the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of watching TV and streaming services (naturally).

I have since realised that I am now unable to give a show or movie my undivided attention and enjoy it for what it is.

Sadly, there are a couple of things with my personality that makes it worse.

One, I’m the kind of person who will sometimes read the ending of a book first, because I like seeing how things would fall into place.

Two, I’ve never been able to handle anything scary, suspenseful or remotely uncomfortable. I don’t like seeing people humiliated or hurt, whether that’s physically or emotionally. I can’t watch horror movies, suspense movies, movies that are too emotionally charged, or violent movies. Heck, I can’t even watch ice skating, gymnastics or diving competitions because I’m worried the athletes will stuff up then get into an accident or have the cameras zoom into their disappointed faces.

Marry that up with the Internet, streaming services offering on-demand shows with heaps of choice and I can no longer enjoy shows and movies the way I used to.

First, choosing what to watch. It’s not just about endlessly scrolling Netflix, it’s also searching online what people are recommending, and their reviews about the movie.

Second, instead of waiting through any boring or slow bits, it’s so easy to say, “I don’t like this, what else is there?” and going back to Step 1 and searching for something else.

Third, if we do get through it, but there are some boring or uncomfortable bits for me, I can’t just sit through it and accept it as part of the experience. I’m on my phone, Googling things about the show or movie, searching wikis about how the show or movie ends.

Finally, at the end of the show or movie, I end up Googling things. What did other people think about it? Are there any fun factoids? Was there anything I missed? Sometimes, I feel like I’ve lost the ability to really absorb a movie, to try to figure it out and make sense of it in my head, because I know that somewhere out there on Reddit is someone who’s thought things out a little more thoroughly.

Watching a movie in a theatre is slightly better. I don’t use my phone at all when watching in the theatre. But at the end of it, I’m back on my phone, looking up things about the movie.

So anyway here’s to… putting my phone in a separate place when trying to watching things. Hah!

Yesterday, we watched Sherpa on Netflix. I thought it was going be a feel-good documentary about Sherpa culture, but it turned into an expose of their working conditions and struggles highlighted during the 2014 Mount Everest ice avalanche.

The documentary started off by touching on the relationship between Western tour operators and Sherpa workers. It initially seemed like a mutually beneficial and respectful partnership. After the avalanche, the Sherpas decided to cancel that year’s climbing season, and it’s clear that what’s really happening is exploitation.

The Sherpas were grieving and discontent with their poor working conditions, yet somehow they had to put it aside because they needed to fulfill foreigners’ dreams of climbing Mt Everest and the foreigners would be devastated. An operator claimed some Sherpas had threatened violence when there was no evidence of that shown in the doco. An American went as far as asking the operator who the “rebel” Sherpas “owners” were, and later called the Sherpas terrorists, because he’s an American who’s lived through 9/11 and clearly the Sherpas were at that level. (That was sarcasm, in case I needed to spell it out.)

The worst argument for me was that the Sherpas had to go through it because they had to support their families. Growing up in a country where there was plenty of cheap labour this is something that I struggle with. Yes, it’s good to provide opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t have found ways to support themselves or their families. But there’s a line between providing for others and exploiting their situations by justifying that “without me, they’d be much better off” and paying them a pittance compared to the risks and labour they have to undertake.

It was disappointing to see some of the entitled foreigners and how dispensable they saw the Sherpas. There were other foreigners though who seemed more compassionate. When it was clear they would have to go home without climbing Mt Everest some Asian ladies hugged the Sherpas, clearly having built a connection with them other than as objects “owned” by the operator. (That comment about “owners” makes me so angry whenever I remember it. Mate, if you really want to climb Everest then do it yourself without the help of Sherpas carrying all your supplies for you.)

I know someone who’s climbed Everest, so it’s hard for me to be entirely critical of those who choose to… but when does the price become too much to pay?

(Anyway… Five posts down. Two more to go.)

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