To start, I want to say that I don’t have an overly addictive personality. I have started and stopped bad habits in days and never thought twice about it. But the first (and the most difficult) step to stop an addiction is to actually admit that you have an addiction.

Today I admit that I’m addicted to YouTube, and more generally constant audio/visual stimulation.

But before I talk about my YouTube addiction, let me paint a picture for you:

Wake-up at six, you’re already late and you know the traffic is going to be hell (let’s admit, it is always hell). You force your body into the shower, forcibly push food in your mouth (because someone somewhere said you can’t skip breakfast) then rush for the 7:30 bus. Hopefully today you will get to the office before 9:00. You got that important meeting in the morning.

Now after that sprint, you sit on the crowded bus, and you just, wait.

If you’re lucky it would only take an hour and half to cross those 30km (18miles) of highway. You stare out of the window, you read a book, or at least try to. Someone is chatting loudly, the lady next to you is coughing non stop. Someone bought cheap headphones form Alibaba and the entire bus now knows that they like French RAP music.

You put your overpriced noise cancelling headphones, pull-up the phone and read the 100th Medium article introducing Blockchain or the latest JavaScript framework all over again.

It all gets very repetitive very fast.

Five days a week.

48 weeks per year.

For the rest of your life.

One day you decide to open YouTube to check a randomly cut scene from a random TV-show. Auto-play picks another random 5 minutes bit for you. Then another. Then another…
Eventually it becomes a habit, you leave the book home, you put your headphones on before leaving the house, and the YouTube app is open.

Somehow, it is always open.

You get to the office and you put YouTube in a tab on the background, you tell yourself it’s to hide the noises of the open-space. You don’t like the ads on Spotify.

It runs for hours, like that old forgotten TV that kept you company when you used to do your homework late at night.

Slowly, but surely you start staring at your phone more and more. Even when people are around. Your phone has a monopoly on your attention.

They comment on your behaviour, you show them this awesome video, you think they will sure love it. What is it this time? Family Guy, a clip from Silicon Valley or random 2 minutes cut from Mounty Python or Rick and Morty.

It doesn’t matter. It never does.

But it also can be news, or tech and you convince yourself its important, more important that the disappointed looks you’re getting (but obviously not noticing).

Data

We have to remember that YouTube marks a video as viewed if you watch more than 10-30 seconds, but since I very rarely skip videos, this shouldn’t be a problem with our overall numbers.

Google has recently announced their “well being” initiative. It is already available in YouTube mobile application where you can set a “take a break” popup that shows every X minutes of videos played.

🥁 … I average around 25 hours of YouTube a week.

That is a lot of time spent watching randomly cut clips of Family Guy and College Humour sketches with just enough React talks to pretend that I’m actually learning something.

Mitigation

Now that I confirmed there was a problem, what kind of solutions are there for a video-addict constantly exposed to internet all day?

The “well being” initiative seems like a step in the right direction. “Time watched” gives you hard numbers to quantify your viewing habits.
However, I have an issue with the UI, as it makes it seem as if Google wants you to keep watching and not leave.

I have to admit that I’m getting very conflicted messages from this screen:

The main action button “Blue and highlighted” encourages you to just “dismiss” and continue watching, while this feature is marketed as a tool to help you get out of the app after a given period of time.

More tools are apparently coming, but still not here, and I seriously doubt that Google is willing to be effective in this action as it is effectively decreasing their revenue.

Conclusion

As for me, I purchased a Spotify account, that way I can listen to music without having to look at a screen.

I bring my laptop with me so I can write and produce something instead of just consuming content.

But on the long run, I’m more concerned for the YouTube-native generation. I remember vaguely a time where getting bored was not uncommon. They were born in a world where it is a business opportunity.

space_cowboy