It is hard to remember a time without Youtube. Ever since I’ve had smartphone, there’s been a Youtube app on it hooked up to my Google account. It has been a constant in my life for a long time and something I turn to for entertainment often.
Youtube has changed over the years, but one thing that hasn’t left is the ‘Watch Later’ folder. I discovered this feature sometime around 2013 and was immediately hooked. It is too easy to say “Oh, that looks interesting. I’d like to learn more, but not right now. I’m a thoughtful guy, though… I’ll save that for later.” Like any tool for procrastination, the ‘Watch Later’ folder can be abused. And abused it, I have.
Over the years, I have saved hundreds if not thousands of videos to the ‘Watch Later’ folder, ne’er to be seen again. For years, I’d lay in bed and just let them play, regardless of if I was watching or not. The warmth of the screen would help lull me into a deep if not fitful sleep. This was a habit that I kept for most of my twenties. At some point, I made the mistake of wanting to clean out my ‘Watch Later’ folder, as if you could de-junkify a junk drawer. In doing so, I deleted all the videos that had been marked as “watched” even though most of them had been “watched” in my sleep. What a terrible waste.
That brings me to today. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it has been a lifestyle altering year for many of us. I spent much more time on a couch this year than expected and ran out of ways to fill my free time months ago. I once again feel the urge to clean out an uncleanable drawer.
There are 68 videos left on this list. Most of them are somewhere between 12-18 minutes long, which is likely why they are still unwatched. I know it’s not as intimidating as the hundreds of pointless videos that used to populate this list… to be honest, when I sat down to do this, I was quite sure that I had 462 unwatched videos. But that is no reason to quit! I set aside this time to do this write-up and, by Jove, I’m going to do it! With the power of my new Chromecast (thank you Amazon overlords for Prime Day) I will watch my videos and record my thoughts on this sunny Sunday morning. I’ll even open a nearby window for fresh air.
Here are the rules: I have to watch everything. No matter what. Do you remember that scene from Matilda where the plus-size kid is forced to eat that entire chocolate-so-brown-it-might-be-moldy cake? I’m doing the audio-visual equivalent of that.
Side note: I did add all of the most recent SNL skits to the list before I began. What do you want from me? John Mulaney was hosting. John Mulaney is hilarious.
At three hours into the project, it was becoming clear that I had not properly trained for a marathon like this. It was pure hubris to think that I could just up and sit down to watch videos all day like I was young again without any warm-up. My adult sense of inadequacy brought with it a hyperactivity that could not be contained, even on this laziest of Sundays. Still, I set out with a goal in mind, and I wanted to accomplish it. I took a break to prepare a large and greasy breakfast with a side of pancakes. This hefty meal plus a cup of chamomile helped me re-fuel and get back on my ass.
I reached hour six and found myself to be truly exhausted from so much do-nothingness. On top of the lethargy I was going insane with the prospect of never escaping this Youtube hole which I had dug for myself. In a last-ditch effort to save myself, I broke my only rule and began to look ahead to delete any videos that I just couldn’t deal with. Why would I save so many Ted Talks on theoretical physics? There is a reason those videos will forever remain unwatched.
Seven hours in and I am sure that I am dying. There’s about one hour left. The videos are getting so bad and… so… irrelevant to my current life… must… go… on…
As I watched my final few videos, I began to think about the Japanese concept of tsundoku. Tsundoku is difficult to translate into English, but it essentially describes the act of letting books pile up on the shelf without reading them. At a certain point, the books just become about show, and not about actually enjoying the book and accessing its secrets. Tsundoku, to me, describes a sort of gluttony of knowledge, resulting in a waste. I cannot help but feel that I have committed tsundoku with my ‘Watch Later’ playlist.
It is a silly thing to do, to burden yourself with so many things to ‘Watch Later’. If I don’t have the time or interest to watch this video now, is it really worth saving? Some of them were interesting, to be sure, but mostly these videos have only served as another distraction in a long list of things I’ve done to waste time. Then again, isn’t that part of what Youtube is for?
This experience has forever changed my Youtube viewing habits. Like the boy who ate too much cake in Matilda, this lesson in over-indulgence has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Too bad they discontinued the Whopperito.