I watch a lot of YouTube. It is the form of media I consume at least once every day, with Spotify and webcomics being a not so close second.
(I listen to music on Spotify, mostly Kurzgesagt soundtracks, on my way to and from work.)
[I read two daily webcomics every morning during breakfast.]
How do I consume it?
While I do own more than three devices I currently only use three, and only two are multi-purpose internet-ready media managers. Those two would my my linux desktop and my android smartphone. I use Firefox on the desktop to watch YouTube without being signed in, and with NoScript and µBlock Origin enabled. On my smartphone I use the NewPipe app since it is so, so much better than the actual YouTube app in performance, and, most importantly, allows the user to play videos in the background while they’re doing other stuff. (If I’m not listening to Spotify on my way to/from work, I’ll definitely be listening to a video on NewPipe.) For most of my YouTube watching I do not use a vpn (perhaps carelessly) so my unique IPv6 address given to my by my provider as well as my shared IPv4 are probably definitely used to recognize me and my viewing behaviour. (Strangely, ever since I signed off, my viewing experience has improved, and I very rarely see videos that are totally not to my interests (like sports compilations) like I would do before when I was signed in. About 90% (I’m guessing here) of my usage of NewPipe is with videos in background, and this behaviour has replicated on the desktop, meaning I mostly don’t watch the video, but am playing a browser or other video game instead.
Where do I consume it?
On my desktop, just in front of my computer, sitting mostly dressed. Since I live alone and have almost no social life the hours when I watch YouTube are mostly dictated by my job. On my job I obviously cannot be watching YouTube, and depending on the shift I have my YouTube viewing sessions are in the early to late afternoon til evening, and early to late evening.
On my smartphone, apart from occasionally listening to specific videos or series on my way to/from work, most of the YouTube sessions are just before I fall asleep, as I am a heavy user of ASMR videos. Those of course keep on running after I have fallen asleep. Unfortunately, or perhaps luckily, I recently turned off statistics in NewPipe so I now longer know how long or how often specific videos are played.
What type of content?
Timewise, given how I fall asleep, ASMR videos are probably the biggest timesink. After that I mostly watch video essays about tv, films, video games and other stuff by the likes of hbomberguy, Lindsay Ellis and Sarah Z. Of the ongoing series I watch the most prominent would be Jim Sterling’s The Jimquisition, and of finished series the most prominent is TotalBiscuit’s and Jesse Cox’ Terraria series (Three seasons and a special). I sometimes watch content from regular TV stations like Channel 4 in the UK, PBS in the United States or arte in Germany.
Is what I watch influenced by what is going on right now?
To a certain extent, yes.
It is a cycle that feeds itself, though. The YouTube algorithm mostly shows me videos from creators I already watch or those that are very similar the topics covered are usually the same. (Speaking very generally.) Some political events, like Brexit, make it into my bubble when otherwise I probably wouldn’t be searching for them, but others, like the Friday for Future movement, a movement which I, as a planetary suicidialist, oppose with vicious hatred, don’t appear at all. These are just examples, but it regularly happens that I am asked on my opinion on a certain political or societal event by colleagues or friends, and I have to ask back “What is that? I never heard of it.”.
These are the moments when I realize that my bubble is not all good.
Is there an escape?
Sure. If I could stop going to the site. My biggest problem might actually be that I don’t own a TV and that my browsing habits are focused around keeping tabs open as long as possible. A closed tab is a tab you’re not getting back. This leads to me always having multiple tabs of YouTube open where I can continue to watch a video that I started earlier, or jump to a different video from the reccomended. As I’m writing this there are 10 YouTube tabs open in Firefox, 9 are specific videos, each with a tab history of 10+ videos, and 1 with the main page.
Sidenote: 10 YouTube tabs isn’t a lot. I currently stand at 46 tabs in total, and this is the lowest number of tabs this year, a number I have steadily fought to decrease since I recognized it as becoming a problem (a mental one, not just browser performance). In 2018 I easily had 50~70 YouTube tabs open during a single session, and carried them over when I restarted Firefox. (I’ll write about the pros and cons of resetting your browsing history after each session another time.)
What should I watch more off? What should I watch less off? Who should make the decision for me?
The decision will only be made by me. I might talk about it, and subconciously other people might influence me, but on a more direct level nothing will change if I don’t conciously enact it.
The likelyhood of my mind being changed on my YouTube consumption is very low. Even for things that would be good, like watching or listening to a daily news episode by a German news media (since I still live here), is something I probably won’t do. And I get shouted at by my parents every time the topic of how few news I watch comes up. (More so shouted at by my dad, my mom also doesn’t watch too much news. (To be fair and balanced, she mostly reads them.))
As I try to change my browsing behaviour to fewer, more purposeful tabs, I will also try to change my viewing behaviour on YouTube. This might include jumping on a vpn more often or even to create one or two Google accounts that I’ll only use for specific things. My biggest fear is that I will not stick to anything that I start, and eventually will use everything to watch (or listen) to everything equally, thus rendeing the use of multiple accounts and vpn endpoints meaningless.
No one, including me, knows what the future will bring. I hope to revisit this in a year to reflect on how well (if at all) I improved, or how much I fell short of my own expectations.