For quite a while now, I’ve not had cable television. Now, don’t get bent out of shape: I’m not one of those dbags that virtue-signals that he/she rejects crass consumerism and instead chooses a “life of the mind” by investing in hours of reading beautiful literature and informative articles about the social and political issues of the day. Those people are insufferable. I just got rid of cable because I was watching everything online 90 percent of the time anyway. The only thing I miss are sports, and that just gives me an excuse to go hang out with friends during game time.
When I was growing up, many a pearl was clutched over the fact that kids and adults were watching so much damn television instead of doing anything actually productive. People were(are) spending 5 to 6 hours a day watching tv, it’s just that now they surf the internet while they watch tv too. Such fears were aligned with the decline in social organizations and gave rise to books like Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone that bemoaned the gradual decline of society. I just think watching flashing lights and living by proxy in imaginary worlds is just far superior than actually have a real conversation with another human being: I mean, we’re not cavemen. Come on.
But these days, I too watch a lot of tv, sort of. I spend at least 2 hours a day watching YouTube channels. Usually, I have some YouTube on in the background. It’s my new NBC. It’s my new HBO (especially since HBO charges).
For the uninitiated in full-time YouTube watching, it’s not the same network television. It’s more like a micro version of a network if literally everything had a low-budget and was all reality television and only last 15 minutes or so. Sure, there are a few things that will go an hour or so, but the production value rarely gets that high, I guess, because if it did, they would just end up moving to a tv network. Indeed, some channels have found fame that have transcended multiple types of media. My Drunk Kitchen, a show about a woman getting blasted while cooking some dish while urging you to “butter yo shit” was so charming, Hollywood took note, and the show’s host Hannah Hart became a recognizable star in her own right, while her show started hosting outright movie stars.
The weird thing about my YouTube obsession is that I’m more attracted to that certain je ne sais que about the host/hosts more than the content of anything they talk about. For example, I watch one channel of a Vegan woman mainly because she’s just so naively upbeat that there’s something kind of almost on the edge of cringeworthiness about her, yet she remains charming. I watch another channel of a woman who does movie reviews, and while I don’t agree with some of her reviews, regardless, there is just something calming about her measured tone in presenting material. One guy’s coding channel is all about being goofy while coding, which is a nice change of pace when you spend a lot of time with monotone coding instructors. There’s no one thing that unifies all of them, there’s just something about each of them.
It really is the personality on the channel that is primary for me. Many network shows will have a so so cast but a good story and compelling content allowing me to get into the story. But, often, to be honest, I don’t even care about half of the content I’m watching, as the personality of the host is really what it’s all about. For example, one channel I watch is of a hooker that espouses bizarre theories about life. I don’t know if she has brain damage or just kind of odd in general, but I simply can’t look away when she’s on the screen. And often, YouTube videos are little more than two personalities having a conversation at length, sometimes even with stand in graphics that don’t move while they utilize standard Google Hangouts for streaming “content” (read: a regular conversation like any two people would have). It’s like someone wanted to start a channel of tons of talk shows on PBS, with some of them being awful and some of them, by virtue of the sheer number of them, being quite good.
My list of channels made me quite proud when I looked over it the other day. If you were to look at it, you would have a hard time deciding who the hell I am as a person because my channel interests are all over the place. Movie reviews, hookers, buddy channels, coding channels, martial arts, comic books, stand-up comedy, bizarre porcupine channels….it really is all over the place. I guess you might assume I’m an ninja-like prostitute that does his own website from the ground up while entertaining my porcupine with humor before the start of a superhero movie I’ve heard about, but really, I don’t think that really defines me well (it totally does).
And it’s now part of my daily routine. Like how most people go, “Hey, there’s a new episode of Mr. Robot on tonight,” that’s how I am with a new video put out by some content creator on YouTube. I literally have to configure time into my day as I know I’ll be stopping now and then to watch, so much so that I finally just started setting aside a couple of hours to go ahead and watch the day’s videos all at once.
I’m continually fascinated by the fact that some people are just mesmerizing while other people are totally forgettable. There seems to be nothing quite unifying about the channels I hate versus the one’s i don’t. I like some channels that are really low-budget, with rarely even a microphone, while some of the most loathed channels are from people with really high budgets (for YouTube anyway). It’s just something I can’t quite put my finger on, but you know it when you see it. That’s really interesting to me.
Anyway, my secret’s out now, so I’ll undoubtedly be giving you updates on my thoughts about different YouTube issues from time to time. I realize watching YouTube like this isn’t a big stretch for anyone anymore, but it’s actually quite reinvigorating for my faith in humanity that ordinary shmucks were able to collectively eat into network tv’s budgets and create a legitimate revenue stream for themselves with little more than their ideas and conversations. There may just be hope yet.