On YouTube

I have been practicing not watching YouTube. YT has become my final regular social media distraction, after ditching Facebook, Instagram, Discord, Twitch, Twitter, and Steam. I kept consuming YT because I had convinced myself it was more enriching than all the others. It is less personal, even with the comments section, because the follower/followed dynamic is a background rather than foreground element. The quality of the content, on the mid to high end, is better than the other platforms. And the YT algorithm is lightyears more robust, to a fault. Diligent use of the like/dislike and curation features results in an endless feed of videos that precisely cater to the user’s tastes. And there lies the danger. With such a finely tuned conveyor belt of content there is little reason to ever step away. It was only this morning that I realized that my Recommended feed had turned into an even worse hypnotic devil than old television ever had been. I think the cold turkey solution to reclaim the hours I am bleeding daily is to unsubscribe and walk away.

I had a thought as I was wrestling with the above: how many content creators on YT—and elsewhere for that matter—have given up on producing because I had stopped interacting with their stuff? There were some YT channels I had fervently supported; always liking their latest videos regardless of their impact or quality and leaving thoughtful and positive comments. The Recommended feed has a function where it will remind you of past videos you have engaged with by collecting them with similar others in “mixes”. The video they use to head these playlists is always one you interacted with. One of these reminded me of a small music producer’s channel who I had enjoyed and supported for months before losing interest. They had since stopped uploading.

I had a super supporter of my own during my livestreaming career, and it got to the point where I was only producing content and tweeting because I knew they would interact. That alone extended my lifetime on the scene—for better or worse—by months. When used this way support can be detrimental to an artist’s health.

Speaking of interest, I had stopped watching new uploads from channels I subscribed to. I would scroll past updates in the feed without even registering the videos. This is a subconscious mechanism that urges me to find content that is more enjoyable in the moment rather than something that could be holistically enriching overall. This is the same thing that makes a three- to six-minute video more attractive than a ten- to twenty-minute one.

I had a dream that an ex-streamer and long-lapsed Internet friend was staging a comeback. Their dormant Twitter account had started posting again with images of them in prime physical health, alongside messages like “stay tuned, ‘streams coming soon”, and in the dream I felt just awful for them. I could see the engagement numbers and knew that their long-neglected audience wanted nothing more than to see them return. But I also knew that the act of livestreaming would destroy all their hard-won physical and mental gains. The anguish I felt was so heavy that it lingers even now, hours after waking.

I would be better off not having an account at all. I have struggled for years to trim the fat from my life, both physical and metaphysical, and I feel like if I can just close off this last spigot of distraction I might regain near-total control of my time.

There is tremendous value in using YT as a tool and the result of intelligent searches. As a dopamine and procrastination machine? Not so much.


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