Breaking the YouTube Addiction

I made it half way through the latest Boogie2988 video this morning.  I was able to finish a DramaAlert, but then… hit the unsubscribe button. I flitted through a few more videos trying to find something for my morning routine.  For a year now I’ve wandered up to my computer at around 8am with my cup of coffee and oatmeal cooking in it’s thermos jar. I’ll watch a few videos as I finish the coffee, and then watch a longer one as I eat my oatmeal.  For an hour or more I’ll learn about video games, the latest Marvel movies, and way too much about Jake Paul.  That’s been the routine… but today I flipped on some music and just sat staring at a wall instead of heads on a screen.

I feel like I’ve become addicted to YouTube the way I was addicted to alcohol.  It’s more of a habitual addiction rather than an actual need.  I really never drank much alcohol until my first backpacking trip to Europe.  In my early twenties I just didn’t see the point. I didn’t particularly like alcohol, I didn’t like how it made me feel, and I was awkward enough sober that adding inebriation on top wasn’t exactly something that seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately for me I didn’t realize how much most people needed it. My early twenties were very lonely because I was reading at coffee shops while my peers were getting blasted at the club.  When I went to Europe I went with the flow and the flow always ended up at the pub.  I drank because that’s where the people were at, and after a bit you just get used to drinking as part of socializing.  When I focused myself on business I found the bar was where to go after a long day. At some point drinking at the end of the day was just what was done.  Not for the need, but because it just seemed normal.

About 2 years ago when I was in Seattle I realized that alcohol was screwing up my sleep, and decided it wasn’t work it. More or less over night I just stopped drinking.  For years I had thought about stopping, or cutting back.  Sometimes I’d stop for a month or two, but it just seemed so normal to drink that I would always go back.  A stressful day, a beautiful night, something would ping and I’d pick up a six pack.  But after that night in Seattle I was done. I’ve drunk a few times in the past 2 years, but just lost the craving for it.  There was no great “I AM STRONGER THAN THIS” moment.  Just a quiet, “this isn’t fun anymore”.

I think about that in relation to YouTube. When I came to YouTube I simply saw it as a platform.  For a few years I barely watched anything on it.  A few years ago I decided to see what other creators were up to and found Ze rank, Vlog Brothers, WheezyWaiter and a few others.  I’d watch their videos until I got to the end of their library and be done.  It was about this time last year that I became a habitual addict of YouTube.

Things were changing on YouTube and I was trying to figure out how best to position myself.  The referral algorithm wasn’t working how it used to and my CPM’s were crashing.  As a good geek should do I started seeing what the other creators were doing.  I wasn’t interested in their topics, but more how they were presenting and what they were doing.  This is when I started watching TheKnow, ETC Show, Phillip DeFranco, Bearing, Boogie2988 and many others.  It was like my homework.  That’s how the breakfast habit started.  I would watch when I was eating breakfast and didn’t have anything else I could do.

This then morphed into actually following the channels and watching all of their new videos.  What had started as an hour a day turned into 3.  It became normal not just at breakfast, but a lunch, and then anytime I say to drink a cup of coffee.  At some point it started to seem a if I needed to know what RiceGum was doing… The mystery of the Poopie Pants became important…

The thing is… just like with alcohol… I don’t really like the content…  the referral engine pushes this stuff to me as if it matters, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t.  YouTube videos have become more refined in editing over the years, but the core content actually seems to have gotten worse.  The creators seem to have become far better at graphics, and SEO optimization,  but the content is rather schlock.  Is this worth an hour of my time..? or 3..? 10 videos talking about whether the Han Solo movie has gone off the rails, or 20 talking about Team 10 pooping their pants… am I really watching this..?

A couple of years ago I gave up Facebook because I realized it was not making my life better.  I really found that the feed made me feel worse about life and the world. I’m now feeling that way towards YouTube. It seems like there’s race to create the lowest quality content, and as the big channels do this the new ones figure that’s the way to success and pile on.  How many movie reviews, identity politics criticism, gadget unboxings and drama channels do we need? It’s not just that I don’t want to make 100 videos about graphics cards, it’s that I don’t want to watch them either.

I think today I broke my YouTube addiction. Not just as a creator, but as a consumer. I’m not telling anyone else what to do.  these are just my thoughts, but it’s one of the reasons I’m growing more sure that #YouTubeSinking is real.


  1. Hello Eli… I have never been concerned about being a content creator like you have been in your past… but I understand the addictive nature. YouTube for me is a tool. How to fix a leaky faucet, a broken lawn mover pull cord… and yes… even computer tech stuff. And great stuff for learning. I am glad you are re-inventing Eli… but please, for some of us, don’t give up what made you great in our minds. A video here or there is OK. If you are looking for some creative ideas let me know. I will not put links or references here (with respect to you). I’ve been a fan and it would be an honor to be part of the reinvention.

  2. Eli, I am older than you by a third so I have some perspective. You are forgetting how good you are. I found you on you tube when I needed to learn more about computers and tech. I am the guy/business owner that writes the checks you referenced in your videos. The only difference is I started my business from scratch after changing my direction from direct sales management. I had no funding from the outside, no snowflake angel investors. I boot strapped the whole thing from my garage almost 18 years ago. I had to earn every dollar I spent and weeded out the BS from the “tech” department. Here’s a general observation: 1) Everything gets “old”. If you or I don’t do things to keep it fresh, things get stale. 2) In my opinion, The cheese moved with You Tube. (you can find some pirated copies of “Who moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson on You tube)( Yeah, I know the addiction post… you can relapse for research) Or buy the book and check out the audio version. My cheese was moved a few times, or outside influences completely and unfairly threw things off track. I think your voice and your knowledge have great value. Your input on YouTube gave me sound and valuable advice on how the “cheese” was/is moving.

  3. I am severely, severely addicted to YouTube and other media services. It’s the first thing I do in the morning, I go to sleep by it at night and it fills most of my days. I cancelled my YouTube Red account a couple of months ago, but I didn’t even make it a whole month before I joined again. I can’t stand the ads, or not being able to turn my phone’s screen off while the content keeps playing.

    I’m starting a new job in IT on Monday. I wasn’t looking for it, it just kind of happened, but I’m definitely happy to be going back to work. Discovered this YouTube channel last night, and what can I say, I was charmed. I hate YouTube so much, but I just keep coming back to it. It’s not that I don’t have any will power, over the last two years I quit meat, dairy, eggs, cigarettes, and coffee (though I eventually came back to coffee. Fuck it, coffee is great), but YouTube is just in my head. It’s comforting to know there’s people that feel the same way about it that I do, that it’s just a sink hole that sucks you in with endless low quality content and miserable humanity. I want out too.

  4. I’m about a year younger than Eli, and until I read this, didn’t realise I’d been slipping into a similar routine.

    Music IS great though, and I’ve recently got back into it more (listening and playing). Also have to admit that, if I wake up shitty, I tend to watch things I can get angry about lol. Not healthy..

    Thanks for the wake up call Eli (no pun intended)

  5. I recognize myself in your story. I had it a while ago on Quora. At a certain moment, I instantly deleted all my social media accounts. A few weeks later I created a new Google account, but never ever Quora anymore. It’s just not worth the time and energy that you put into these things.

    For now, I keep my activity below a certain threshold. Good or bad, but my social media activity is focused here on failed normal and also on your YouTube channel specifically in the comment section, trying to blow a fresh and positive wind true all the snarkiness. But that’s it, really and that’s more than enough.

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