On Netflix: I can stop any time I want, man.

By Jamie Balke Explore Big Sky Columnist

I try to spend my time in meaningful ways. The glaring exception to that rule is the horrifying amount of time I spend watching Netflix. Living in Montana, a place with overwhelming natural beauty and the possibility of adventure at every trailhead, the guilt is acute when I find myself browsing the “Watch Instantly” selections.

I tell myself that everyone needs to check out and relax sometimes. That thought is usually followed by a self-congratulation for not spending time on Facebook. However, these rationalizations swiftly fall away when a Netflix prompt appears on the screen two or three shows into a series to ask if I’m still watching.

Apparently even Netflix, which automatically starts the next episode at the end of a show, doesn’t believe that anyone should watch as many shows in a row as I do.

I like to think it’s not my fault. If there wasn’t so much stand-up comedy available, I might actually spend my time more productively. But there are tons of irresistibly bizarre shows to check out. Apparently, I have to watch every survival show with the word “wild” in the title. And let’s not forget anything involving middle-aged British women solving mysteries, as well as completely unscientific shows about predatory animals.

For example, I recently found a show call River Monsters, where the host pours unspecified blood into a pool occupied by piranhas and climbs in. How am I supposed to stand firm against that kind of delightful nonsense?

Currently, I’m weighing River Monsters against a reality TV show about an extended family of modern-day homesteaders called Alaska: The Last Frontier. When last I tuned in, winter was relinquishing its hold on the land, and the frantic hunt for fresh food and supplies was beginning. I’ll understand if you need to stop reading in order to log on and check it out.

I tried limiting myself to one episode at a time. This effort lasted for less than a week, and I’m realizing that what I considered relatively harmless entertainment may actually be a brain-rotting addiction.

I can remember a time when I had to check the TV Guide in order to make sure I didn’t miss the latest West Wing episode. Now, I receive emails alerting me when Whisker Wars is available. Given my limited willpower to resist the absurd, I don’t stand a chance.

In the face of my ever-growing queue, it may be best to quit cold turkey. Then again, as I was perusing Netflix options in the interest of research, I stumbled across a movie called Sharknado, so maybe not.

It is possible to find substantive programs that allow glimpses into fascinating places and cultures, but it’s also possible to waste entire afternoons. I’ll never get back the time spent watching Toddlers & Tiaras.

While writing this column, Jamie Balke realized she should probably cancel her Netflix account immediately.