With thousands of movies and tens of thousands of television episodes to choose from, it can be a daunting task to choose what to watch on Netflix and other streaming video platforms. Choice paralysis, or choice overload, has become such a prevalent phenomenon among streaming users that sociologists and psychologists now study the issue. To help remedy this issue, Netflix is testing a new random episode feature which will choose something for you to watch. Who knew giving the last vestiges of human agency to the machines would be so perfect for late night binges?
Back when we all watched linear TV, it was common to get stuck channel surfing, or flipping endlessly through channels in the vain attempt to find something actually interesting to watch. Now that we’re all watching streaming video where we must consciously choose what to watch, it can be all too easy to find ourselves paralyzed looking through endless menus of content. What if you choose a movie and a better one lies just around the next ribbon? What if you miss a new release?
Netflix’s new random episode feature will help combat choice paralysis through letting users choose a series and then let Netflix choose a random episode of that series to watch. Some Netflix users may have already seen the feature appear, as Netflix is currently conducting experiments with selected users. “We are testing the ability for members to play a random episode from different TV series on the Android mobile app,” a Netflix spokesperson told Gizmodo. “These tests typically vary in length of time and by region, and may not become permanent.”
Will Netflix users take to this new feature? If they’re anything like me, than it’s bound to be one of the best new Netflix features. Still, as with many recent developments in the streaming world, this one leaves me to wonder: are things starting to become more TV-like? This new random episode feature seems a lot like the typical TV experience of turning on a channel and watching whatever happened to be on. The more things change, the more they tend to stay the same.