If I were to count the number of two-A.M.-youtube-binges I’ve gone through, you would be disgusted. It’s so much easier to watch the world through a 6 inch screen, than to live in it yourself. You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon at least once. It’s late at night, you’re tired but not tired enough to sleep. Your mind races, and to calm it you watch senseless videos and read meaningless articles on clickbait websites like “Buzzfeed”. If you’re feeling lonely you might spend most of the wee morning hours scrolling downward through the endless pile of rubbish that is your Facebook “newsfeed”. So if we all do it, there must be some reason right? What is it that drives us to this obsessive behavior? I think we should go back in time.
When you were 5 years old, what did you spend most of your time doing? I for one had a collection of smooth rounded pebbles whom I would appoint as the Judge, jury, and courtroom of my imagination. My best friend had a stick that was a magic wand; he could conjure massive beasts and command them to destroy my rocket ship with the flick of his wrist. Even still, at 10, 11, and 12 years old, I believed that my back yard was an underground fighting pit. I had an extraordinary gift in my youth: I could imagine. I could build entire worlds out of thin air. My worlds, invisible to my mother peering out the kitchen window, were as real as could be. Creation, pure imaginative creation, was my life. We humans crave this sort of creation. Our brains are hard wired to build, draw, sing, dance, and create. All the while we expand our minds and the minds of those around us. Unfortunately it seems we have devolved into an age of non-creation.
Let me rephrase that, some of us have devolved into a state of non-creation. By the end of 2017, youtube.com will have accumulated over 82 million videos. The new-age online entertainment giant “buzzfeed.com” receives 7 billion hits monthly. The online consumer craves articles ranging from cute cat photo albums to “How to Cut a Watermelon the ‘Right Way’”. Fun fact: The aforementioned “how to cut a watermelon” article was completely made up by me… or so I thought it was until I (20 seconds ago) found Buzzfeed’s article entitled “You’ve been cutting watermelon wrong your whole life!”. Clearly, there is no lack of creativity in our world. Right?
Wrong. Think about how many people you know make entertainment or creative content online. According to socialblade.com, an online social media analysis website, there are essentially 175 million youtube channels with upwards of 1,000 subscribers. In other words, thats how many people are making videos that people care about. There are 7 billion people in the world. That means 2.2 percent of the entire population of the united states, is making content on yo utube. Now, I will admit, 2.2 percent of 7 billion is pretty impressive! (go youtube!) however, that is NOTHING compared to the number of people who watch youtube. Lets take a look at the generally accepted (and researched) 1% rule of the internet. The 1% rule states that 1% of the people who regularly access a website, are active creators for that website. That means the 99% left are simply lurkers. Those 99% are the late night, cook-out-milkshake-Netflix-watching-snuggie-clad lurkers. Given this information it is safe to assume that the majority of the population is watching, not creating. This presents a very real, and very imminent issue to me.
Do you remember when you stopped imagining? For me it was when I realized the tv people did all the imagining for me. I was changed when iI played my first video game and realized that my underground fighting pit was real, and someone else built it for me. It was so much easier to sit back, relax, and let the creative people do the imagining. All I had to do was press ‘A-B-Left-Right-Left-Right’ to knock my enemy down! As I got older, the influx of virtual stimuli began to permeate my existence. I remember nights I refused the chance of a camping trip because I preferred my computer screen to a warm winter fire. We as a people have crash landed on a planet of mind melting time wasting media. It’s time for us to take back what was stolen from us. The next time you feel the internet grasping at your throat, try writing a letter to your closest friend, or draw a fairy in the woods, or experiment with making your own herbal teas. It’s not impossible, I promise. If it was impossible than I wouldn’t have been able to stop watching that Jimmy Kimmel video and start writing this. Long I know, but necessary, for my sanity, and yours.