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A week without YouTube

Two weeks ago I started an experiment. I decided that I will not watch YouTube for an entire week. Instead, whenever I have the urge, I will jot the trigger of the urge in my diary.

Here are the reasons why I had wanted to open YouTube—

Many a times I found myself humming a really silly tune (like this [1] or this [2]) or recollecting a silly scene from a TV show or movie (like this [3] or this [4]). I could find some of these songs on a music streaming service but it was usually the visuals that I usually found funny. For some of the songs for which I did not care about the visuals, I ended up going to Amazon Prime Music and streaming the audio instead. For those I cared about the visuals, I still streamed the songs on Amazon Prime Music and recollected the visuals (again, usually silly ones like this [5]) in my head.

There were times when I wanted to share something that I had already seen. I faced the reverse situations a couple of times when a friend or a family member of mine would want me to watch a video. The subject matter of these videos ranged from cats to geopolitics; from memes to religious history.

Often, I opened the YouTube app on my phone out of sheer habit. I realised that I had developed the habit of fiddling with my phone when I am bored. I made a note of the suggested videos and realised that they have no coherence at all. There were videos about analysis of music from Rick Beato [6] or Adam Neely [7]; educational videos of Tom Scott [8] and Rare Earth [9]‘s excellent videos; clips of shows like Monty Python, South Park; and anime clips from Nichijo, Non Non Biyori, and Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon. There were videos from cooking YouTube channels like Alex the French Guy [10], Joshua Weissman [11], Pro Home Cooks [12], Bon Appetit [13], etc. Then there were completely random videos about ASMR, solving sudoku puzzles, cats, etc.

There were times where I wanted to know more about a subject or a person about which or whom I have read in a book. Sometimes it was about the analysis or opinions about the book itself. The problem is that these videos often do not add substantial information that might enhance my already-gained knowledge. The small morsels of information I receive are a horrible return on investment of my time. More often than not, they fail to change my viewpoint. And this is a dangerous place to be. It’s a trap to create an ideological echo-chamber.

The last one is linked to a bit of intoxication. There are two things that my body craves under the influence of alcohol—even the milder ones like wine or beer. The first one is junk food and the other one is mindless entertainment. The fix for the latter craving is switching on the autoplay on YouTube and let it run. In the end, neither am I entertained, nor have I learned anything.

In the end, this experiment reinforced something that I had already known—YouTube is mind-numbing. There is so much content that I would need a multitude of lifetimes to finish all of it; and this is discounting the fact that every minute for the rest of YouTube’s life, a few lifetime’s worth of content would be uploaded. It is an antidote to boredom. Actually, the cheapest one; the one where escapism is deemed to be the cure. It is a form of modern consumerist behaviour where we are consumers of digital entertainment. There is another antidote to boredom—to be useful and create value to yourself, your family and the society. I can only ask this question to myself—what am I producing?

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