Television is such a strange bifurcated creature these days.

In July of 2022, streaming platforms outperformed cable TV for the first time. Streaming, once a ‘cord cutting’ and cost-cutting option, looks more and more like the new cable, with a Netflix here and a Disney Plus there, not to mention Hulu and Amazon, AppleTV, Peacock and HBO’s re-christened MAX.

I watch plenty of television these days, but most of it is on the internet, with my singular streaming subscription and a YouTube watching habit. It’s always a little jarring to watch television on a television, complete with expensively produced advertisements during the ad breaks. The ads are the most jarring part of the experience, with campaigns that have long-running characters and amusing hooks to keep you watching.

I see plenty of advertising, but most of it is through social media, where I get the same seven targeted ads for a few months for obscure clothing brands or dog treat subscription boxes, never products I’m especially tempted to purchase. Or I see ad reads on YouTube from YouTube creators, a mini infomercial in the middle of a 20-minute YouTube video, and typically much less entertaining than the kind of well-produced ad spots for insurance and new cars and chain restaurants that run on television.

What seems most strange about this age of television viewing is the bifurcation, niche shows finding niche audiences. No longer does everyone watch the same show all season and talk about the new episode at the start of the work week.

The most watched American series finale was M*A*S*H in 1983, with 105 million viewers, 77 percent of television watchers tuning in. Can you imagine 77 percent of streaming subscribers all watching the same series finale? Much less watching it at the same time? That’s essentially impossible—especially since the different streaming packages separate what someone can tune in to, in a much more segmented way than cable packages.

There are several buzzy series I have yet to watch, because they belong to streaming platforms that I have no subscription for (and none of my friends are subscribed to).

Instead, it’s a question of binge-ability. Have you seen all of season four of You yet? Or watched the latest season of The Mandalorian all in one weekend? By the time you get the new season, it’s hard to remember what happened in the last one.

This segmented audience experience does make it easier for people to find cool video or television that fits their niche interest and makes it simple for anyone to make something.

No, Netflix probably won’t pick up your television series idea (although maybe. They have produced some strange shows—see “Is It Cake?” a game show where contestants bake cakes meant to look like real objects, then judges try to determine what is cake and what is not cake. The show is more ridiculous than it sounds). But you can make your own scripted comedy on YouTube (and it might even get placement on Netflix after getting picked up by Xbox Live Marketplace of all places, like Felicia Day’s 2007 comedy web series The Guild).

Everyone and anyone can claim their 15 seconds of fame, sometimes with life-altering positive outcomes. Nathan Apodaca capitalized on his 2020 viral video of skateboarding to work while drinking cranberry juice and lip-synching Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Apodaca went from living in an RV with no running water to guest starring on a Hulu show, “Reservation Dogs.” Although, more often it seems like viral attention transforms into unenviable internet infamy.

Much of social media serves a very similar purpose to traditional television watching, only on a fast-paced scale with more amateur creators making skits, commentaries or dance videos from their backyards or bedrooms instead of in a multi-million-dollar studio equipped with expert sound and lighting.

Instead of channel surfing and clicking to the next show during a commercial break, TikTok will change the channel for you, auto playing the next six-second video, pulling you into an endless quagmire of mediocre video watching. Only a little more addicting and bizarre than a traditional couch potato experience.