Overdosing on the Addiction Economy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about media and how the format in which it is consumed can have a huge impact on the enjoyment of the consumer. For myself I look at how simply plugging my PS4 into a 32” monitor and sitting around 3 feet away has taken my gaming console from something that just gathered dust to something I play on for hours. I think there is a curious correlation to this and what is going on with the social network platforms.

What’s interesting to me is not so much my growing contempt and disgust at platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, but that I have none of the same emotion towards Hulu, Netflix or iTunes. I enjoy Hulu and Netflix, but there is no point for myself where it comes to the level of addiction. I just finished up binge watching the latest season of Supernatural, and I feel nothing particularly one way or the other about it. The season was published, I watched it over the past couple of weeks, and now its done. Now I’ll start to plug through the latest season of the Flash. I watch Hulu and Netflix because I genuinely want to see the content, and when that content is done I don’t feel much pull to continue watching. From this I don’t feel burned out from Netflix, nor do I have much emotion from it. It’s a platform that delivers content I want to see, when I want to see it.

I contrast this to YouTube and the insanity of the recommendation algorithm. I really think my issue with the Tailosive channel is educational. This is a channel that creates luke warm, milk toast, marshmallow content. A guy that could probably stand to go through Basic Training talking about his love of Apple products. Then I get fed content by creators trying to tear into him. In the moment this provides YouTube more views. I click on the initial video attacking Tailosive. Then I click on the video by Tailosive in the description. I sit there watching trying to figure out why this matters. Is there something significant to be said, or is it just creators pulling out the knives on one of their own? By the time I’ve figured out what I think YouTube has collected a few more views than it would have normally gotten, but I walk away disgusted at the mess. In YouTube’s world anything goes to get clicks, even attacks against its own creators.

Imagine if after I watched a Supernatural episode Netflix filled my feed with videos from evangelical pastors, screeds against on how Supernatural bastardizes mythology and lore, and then exposes on what the cast is like in real life. I’d click a few vids to see what the folks were talking about, but at a certain point it diminishes my enjoyment of what I came to watch. After a long day I want to watch some high end LARP’ing, not get mired in crap focused on clickbait.

I noticed how I felt when the larger creator created a video about Tailosive. A creator with 450K subs did a video and put Tailosive square in the middle of the thumbnail. That video apparently sent a lot of hate towards Tailosive. Truly I do not want to watch that video. There’s no part of me that feels like watching that video will make me better or happier, but there’s the part of me that feels like I should watch the video. To understand everything else I’m drawn to watch what I know I’ll be frustrated at. That’s the amazing, and damaging thing about how YouTubes algorithm is working. Creators are creating content that gets fed to viewers as must watch, but then watching the content leaves such a bad taste.

This is like when I left Facebook years ago. Before “fake news”, I became overloaded with click bait crap. So much would show up in my feed designed to make me want to click, but after I had clicked I only felt worse for it. The systems are built to feed addictive tendencies, but offer no real sustenance for the soul…

You know I’ve been using iTunes for movies and TV for around 12 years… Literally the first 42” plasma TV I bought for iTunes viewing wasn’t even 720p! In 12 years I’ve never screamed about iTunes, worried about my viewing habits on iTunes, or lambasted the morals of the executives of iTunes. I now turn on my Apple TV, see if the movie I want to see is available for rent, and if not click off and go to Netflix. iTunes is a dirt boring service that offers me movies and TV I want to see at an acceptable price. I’m not a person that thinks of myself as a movie collector, but over the years have bought 90 movies from iTunes. They offer good products, if I see something I want I buy it. There’s nothing else to say.

Because iTunes, Netflix and Hulu treat content as a basic product and provide a bland solution I’m happy to go back to them day after day. I don’t worry if I binge watch, nor do I worry if I don’t log into one of them for a month. I pay my bill, and get what I pay for. I contrast this with how I feel about YouTube. YouTube feeds me content based on what will get clicks, and at the end I come away feeling dirty.

With no exaggeration I’d delete my Youtube account right now if it wasn’t for my revenue. In my view the platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and such have ended up sacrificing long term viability for short term boost to stats. They are feeding off of outrage, clickbait culture, but how long can that last? Am I really just a weird outlier here? Is my disgust at the Tailosive attacks just some personal pet peeve..? Or are far more other people coming to the same conclusions?

I’ll be curious to see how everything works out for the social platforms. From my perspective though I think they are literally breaking their users….


  1. Do you think there is a possibility the youtube algorithmn “knows” about you and the 450k sub youtube (Pretty easy to figure out who it was) history ? and feeds you that way based on that fact…

    Just a thought…

    • … Part of the issue is that creators are now creating content based on the algorithm… so content that attacks folks get views, so more people create content attacking folks… a bit of chicken or egg thing…

      Over the past 6 months I’ve really noticed a rise in negative focused content… again not so much “drama” as go for the throat…

      when I think of what I liked about YT it was ZeFrank, Vlogbrothers, GradeAUnderA, Crash Course and such. All I can say is what I see. When I am offered a ZeFrank I’m a happy boy. When I see Tailosive get beat down I want to log off… YT has been trending towards beat downs for awhile now.

      • I really do find it interesting to follow your “youtube detoxing”. It puts into word behavior I could understand/describe from my friends and people around me.

        I really doubt I’m addicted to youtube, as I mostly used it to listen to music and watch Music Video from Korea. BUT, I think I understand what you mean when you say youtube pushes you to.. “just one more video..” while with netflix I just watch and then it’s done. I don’t feel a need to “just watch” something else on netflix.

  2. So after reading your post yesterday I went and found the apology video you mentioned. When I realized who the larger content creator was that attacked him I suddenly felt that same feeling of disgust that you described. Mad respect for you not mentioning that creator by name by the way. The two channels aren’t even related as far as who the audience is supposed to be. Anyone who comes from a tech background (not all that different from security) is going to hear opinions and immediately know facts to back up what now turns into an opinion war.

    I think there was one clear point raised in the apology video and that was around the subject of “respect”. I don’t quote for humor or effect, but to highlight that overall point I think all the trolls and haters are just refusing to acknowledge. Disagreements are okay when they’re discussed in a respectful manner that provides value and education for those who choose to watch/listen in on it.

    Somehow over the last several years, our society has lost the ability to respect people with different viewpoints and opinions. With all respect, that larger content creator has no business making such a disrespectful and ignorant statement about a channel that’s not geared towards the same audience as theirs. Anyone with a bone to pick can find something to complain about in regards to consumers, which understandably comes easily from someone who has to fix those problems day in and day out. The problem with that perspective is it’s incredibly narrow in scope and overall it’s a small percentage compared to the consumer base as a whole. The way the video was made further drives your point home regarding content being developed for the purpose of views.

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