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The guilty truth: There's too much content

How is any fully-functioning human being supposed to keep up with everything they're interested in, online and off? They can't. And it's having psychological consequences.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
The nice blond dead man from "Downton Abbey." ITV Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It all started when I was at a bar and accosted by three women: a Stanford Hospital resident, a UX designer, and a wine distributor.

With faces more appalled than John Boehner's when he has to meet the president, they simply couldn't believe I'd never watched "Downton Abbey."

"But you have an English accent," the wine distributor offered, as the UX designer ordered a sixth beer.

"I have a bald head, but that doesn't mean my house is full of Patrick Stewart posters," was the best I could counter.

The truth, of course, is that I felt ashamed.

All the supposedly intelligent, NPR-listening, Bluebottle coffee-drinking people are watching "Downton," (as they intimately call it) and I had no idea who has been killed off and why it's so terrible.

The guilt doesn't stop there.

I admit that some Netflix envelopes gather dust by my TV for months, not weeks. They're like neglected puppies, bleating for a little attention.

And talking of Netflix, there's "House Of Cards." Everybody's seen it, except me. I watched a preview, but where am I going to snatch the 13 hours required to bathe in its twisted intrigue?

What am I supposed to give up? Books? Movie theaters? LOLcats? Am I supposed to take an iPad with me everywhere and watch some neglected work of art, while I'm simultaneously having dinner with, say, a client or a girlfriend?

During last week's Oscars, I realized that I'd only seen one of the "Best Picture" candidates. I just hadn't had the time. In any case, I've seen Daniel Day-Lewis in a beard once or twice before.

After the Oscars broadcast, I disappeared to my local sushi restaurant for respite and viognier.

This was rudely interrupted by a man who saw I was reading Dave Barry's new Miami novel, "Insane City" and decided to interrupt with: "Tom Wolfe's last Miami novel was terrible, wasn't it?"

I'd bought the Wolfe novel but still haven't read it.

Just as I tried to ignore this man with a polite grunt, the world's greatest sushi bartender, Windsor, causally said: "You've been reading that book for weeks. I've never seen you take so long over a book."

I couldn't sleep after that.

The guilt just gets worse and worse. In the middle of night, I tried to make myself feel better by reminding myself that I keep up with "Girls" and "House Of Lies."

But then I realized I've never seen "Boardwalk Empire" or "The Wire." I only watch the occasional online clip of "The Daily Show." I've never seen "30 Rock," "Sons Of Anarchy," "Community," Breaking Bad" or "The Walking Dead."

And if one more person tells me how great "Game Of Thrones" is, I swear I will poke them with a chopstick.

I do have a vast box set DVD of "Borgen." I haven't unwrapped it yet.

Please believe me, I've tried to make time. I have cut out what I used to call guilty pleasures. Yes, "American Idol" doesn't even get a look-in on fast-forward.

I did that when I realized that pleasures such as that merely added to the guilt I felt about never having watched "Parks And Recreation," "Treme" and "Justified."

I have no idea how the people who claim to have seen everything actually manage to see everything.

Naturally, I have a suspicion that they don't see everything. They go to IMDb or Wikipedia, read up on the synopses, perhaps watch a 3-minute clip online and then come over all superior.

Has there, ever, though, been a period of history where so much stuff that so many people say is good is missed by so many?

Have people started watching movies on fast-forward or reading only every third chapter of books? It's not as if a Kindle makes you read any faster, is it?

Do they stick to online dating and spending interminable hours on Facebook, because they can simultaneously soak in movies and recorded TV shows?

What am I missing? Please, tell me. What am I missing?

Because I know I must be missing something. Something more than sleep, that is. You see, I've just spent three whole days watching three seasons of "Downton Abbey." That was around 30 hours.

In case you wondered, they killed off, you know, that nice blonde man Matthew. Oh, wait. Did I spoil it for you? You mean you haven't seen it yet?