No FRIENDS required

Person holding tv remote selecting something to watch.
Photo by Erik Mclean / Unsplash

In 2015 FRIENDS came to Netflix, and from that point I am sure I have watched it multiple times.

You may be thinking that I started watching FRIENDS on Netflix, and liked it so much that I just rewatch it a lot. But you would be wrong. I watched FRIENDS when it was being broadcast on TV with new episodes during the early 2000s. Latter, when I was in university, I bought all of the seasons on DVD, which I still own to this day and will probably never part with. FRIENDS coming to Netflix just made my rewatching of one of my favourite shows a lot more accessible. When the option comes of either pressing play on an episode of FRIENDS on Netflix, with it’s super convenient (and binge inducing) automatic play next episode feature, or putting in a DVD and waiting for it to load and pressing play for each episode, the choice is obvious. Cause I’m a lazy shit and damnit I love convenience.

I love background noise when I’m doing stuff, be it working, studying, or cooking. I hate total silence, I need some murmur to know that I’m connected with something else happening in the world. When working from home for 3 years during the pandemic, I moved home to parents house as I didn’t want to live by myself and work by myself and have zero interaction with the outside world. I deliberately set myself up in their kitchen, the hub of the house, so that I would have the general comings and goings of people (and eventually a mad puppy) to keep me amused.

During those times of working at home when no one was in the house, I would play music. But during lunch, music didn’t cut it. I needed something visual to glance at. Something that I found comforting and cosy and familiar. Something I could have on in the background as I prepared lunch, focus on whilst eating, and easily close and get back to work whilst needed, knowing that no matter where I stopped, I knew the storyline so well due to my many rewatches that it didn’t matter.

FRIENDS even became a distraction for me when I wanted to nap. I would hit play, lie down on my bed, close my eyes, and listen to the dialogue, visualising it all in my head as I drifted off. Could I have napped without using FRIENDS? Absolutely. But again, I like the background noise. And the extra cosiness.

With the pandemic becoming more of a very recent memory, and office spaces opening up again, the time to return to work was upon me. And that also meant returning to the city. Living at home with my parents was ideal – background noise, dinners cooked for me, laundry done – but I didn’t fancy a 2 hour round commute every day. I wanted as short a commute as possible, and luckily for me, there were some lovely apartments right across from the office block, so I secured the tenancy for one of those and moved in.

I was alone.


And so, for background noise, I did what I usually did. I put on Friends. When cooking, tidying, building furniture, doing the laundry, even unpacking the groceries. Having the familiar nearby was like having an extra bit of comfort.

I didn’t think too much about rewatching FRIENDS until recently. I just love the show. A podcast I listen to (Finding The Funny) declared that FRIENDS hasn’t aged well. I disagree. I think it’s aged very well, and still is one of the funniest things to watch on TV. Whilst also being a nostalgia trip.

I started to think about my rewatching of FRIENDS when I came across a post on OCD Excellence instagram account. I was diagnosed with OCD many years ago, and whilst there are definitely bad days, I am very fortunate that my diagnosis is highly manageable. The post in question drew on people with OCD rewatching old tv shows as a way to address their anxiety. This blew my mind. I had never thought that I was using an old tv show for not only an unapologetic nostalgia-hit, but also as a way of avoiding anxiety.

The more I thought about this, I came to realise this was actually the case.

Since moving into my new apartment a couple of months ago, I have definitely been rewatching FRIENDS a lot more. I am living by myself again, and in the past I have linked this to causing me to get anxious. One of the reasons I wanted an apartment so close to work was to increase my desire and habit of going to the office every day. This relates to the principle in James Clear’s Atomic Habits book, where he speaks of creating a habit by making it as easy as possible to achieve. My commute is now a 5 minute walk door to door. This is fantastic during Monday-Friday 9-5, but what about evenings when I have no plans, had a stressful day at work or just want to relax. Netflix makes it so easy to just resume my FRIENDS binge, which in turns feeds my need to get cosy and be comforted and (hopefully) not be anxious.

For anyone who knows anything about anxiety, this is the very opposite of what I should be doing. I should be doing things that make me feel anxious, that put me a bit on edge, and go through the process of getting on with it (I’m being very blunt here, but in a nutshell that is the point).

I think it’s important to caveat that this isn’t a Netflix problem or a FRIENDS problem. This is a me problem. Only I can address this.

Also, this isn’t a FRIENDS issue. If FRIENDS wasn’t on Netflix, I am confident I would easily find another show to re-binge, such as The Big Bang Theory or Downton Abbey or even Mr Bean. The fact that I have watched these shows, know what they are about, and don’t present me with anything new to think about is why I love to watch them, because they enable me to be cosy and comfortable, asking nothing of me except to rewatch and enjoy, knowing what is going to happen next.

But this isn’t real life. I will never know what is going to happen to next. And that is the point. Rewatching a TV show where you know what is going to happen next is so comforting because it asks nothing of you. You don’t need to be prepared for the sudden death, the unexpected natural disaster, the scandalous twist, or trying to solve the murder one step ahead of Poirot. Because you already know.

In real life, and with a new tv show, or a new book, or a new movie, you have no idea what is going to happen next. And that is terrifying. Or, it can be. To some people, the not knowing is truly terrifying. To others it’s exciting. And to most people, it’s inevitable and they just roll with the punches and see what happens.

I think everyone loves a bit of nostalgia. I will definitely watch FRIENDS many times in the future. I won’t even lie and say based on my newfound understanding of what I’m doing by rewatching it that I will never rewatch it again. But I will be more determined in watching, asking myself what am I truly trying to avoid or deal with by watching FRIENDS. Chances are it’s something that I’m avoiding such as writing a blog, or taking out the rubbish, or just trying to destress from a day at work. I don’t need FRIENDS to do this. FRIENDS is just the distraction at this point.

Rewatching TV shows isn’t a bad thing.

Getting a nostalgia hit every once in a while isn’t a bad thing.

Using the rewatch and the nostalgia to avoid what is happening in the here and now can be a bad thing. It’s a coping mechanism. But in the end, it provides no solution to the issue at hand. The issue being ‘I want to avoid feeling anxious.’ I can’t avoid the feeling. Feelings and emotions come and go all the time. All I can do is acknowledge the emotion, the feeling, the mood, and continue to learn in time that it will pass.

No FRIENDS required.