Welcome to the real Netflix and chill.

What’s the most mind-numbing televisual experience you can think of? Seemingly endless footage of riders whizzing past during the Tour de France? Four hours watching the wedding video of an internationally obscure Spanish royal? Or maybe a long, visually minimal lecture on Quantum Theory? All of these and more feature on Napflix, a new website put together by two Spanish developers whose curated content aims to be as soporific as possible. (Check out a gripping, ‘60s-era documentary about Tupperware, above.)

The site sells itself as “siesta video platform”—a channel whose content is so banal that it either lulls the viewer into peaceful, semi-hypnosis or renders them unconscious. The idea really isn’t such a bad one. We may tend to view falling unconscious in front of a screen as a sign that someone’s daily routine is hitting them too hard, but there’s actually some evidence doing so can actually improve your sleep quality.

While some of Napflix’s video choices are pure trolling—I don’t see what’s so sleep-inducing about a documentary on Einstein, or Terence Malick’s Tree of Life—there’s still something useful going on here. Many people are attracted by the idea of (increasingly popular) ASMR videos as a way of switching off the brain and relaxing. When it comes to trying them out, however, some are understandably spooked by a soundtrack of mouse-like scratching and creepily intimate sweet-nothings whispered by a stranger. Napflix offers funnier and less disconcerting alternatives to classic ASMR footage—still soothing but less uncanny.

Some of the videos aim no further than this, being designed to straightforwardly trigger relaxation with soft repetitive sounds such as waterfalls or cars splashing through rain. And while footage of someone fiddling with an old stamp collection doesn’t sound particularly soothing, the delicate rasping sounds as tweezers remove each stamp from its pocket is a more organic equivalent of classic ASMR scratching.

Elsewhere, the channel comes across more of a satirical celebration of banality as seen through the eyes of its creators. Are they fair? Call me a curmudgeon, but I’m completely at one with their idea of presenting an eight-hour British cricket match as the height of soporific inanity. Still, I’m not sure Luciano Pavarotti would be thrilled to see his 1981 San Francisco production of Verdi’s Aida presented as a sleep aid.

The soporific videos are as much a symptom of something as its cure. Napflix is just the latest addition to a cultural wave of products and experiences that seek to shelter users from media overload. Norway’s Slow Television trend (which has included such delights as a 24/7 livestream of birds feeding in a doll’s house) placed relaxation over stoking viewers’ interest. Meanwhile, millions of internet users have been curating their own versions of this audiovisual catnip for years, in the endless, undying popularity of cat videos that have been shown to be correlated with decreased anxiety. Napflix is really trying the same trick—helping people to step out of the loop of constant media stimulation by, er, using media.

This makes sense. When images, information, and strong opinions are instantly available to you wherever you go, it can be a relief to find something that’s the audiovisual equivalent of plain, unsalted gruel. But for people old enough to remember pre-internet days, however, it suggests something more exasperating. Many of us have already become so overly media-connected that we have forgotten how to make our own fun. Napflix’s arrival suggests this phenomenon has gone one step further: Nowadays, some of us can’t even make our own boredom without media assistance.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Maps

    Mapping the Growing Gap Between Job Seekers and Employers

    Mapping job openings with available employees in major U.S. cities reveals a striking spatial mismatch, according to a new Urban Institute report.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

    The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

  3. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  4. A photo of a design maquette for the Obama Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
    Design

    Why the Case Against the Obama Presidential Center Is So Important

    A judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by Chicago preservationists can proceed, dealing a blow to Barack Obama's plans to build his library in Jackson Park.

  5. Multicolored maps of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Tampa, denoting neighborhood fragmentation
    Equity

    Urban Neighborhoods, Once Distinct by Race and Class, Are Blurring

    Yet in cities, affluent white neighborhoods and high-poverty black ones are outliers, resisting the fragmentation shown with other types of neighborhoods.