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YouTube Gives Us Love Without the Messiness (thewalrus.ca)
79 points by emptybits 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments

really engaging article. a couple comments:

> treat loneliness as a serious health problem that could even lead to early death

italics are mine. I've seen this written a lot of times, and I find it disappointing that we are focusing so much in reduced life expectancy. in my opinion, the real issue deserving the attention is the reduced life quality.

now adressing the topic of the article: I think we should reflect more deeply about spaces, and how modern society is losing them. nowadays, practically every exchange involves money, products, services. if a space doesn't make sense in an economic sense, it tends to disappear. the only big "free" space left seems to be the internet, so it's no surprise that people tries to find everything they feel they are missing there. but it's clearly not enough, not a good alternative. we have become really good at hacking everything, and now we can't trust anything. it's not just that we don't want the messiness... to me, it seems like it's becoming harder every time to find good places to get messy, unless you are really thinking explicitly about it and going somewhat out of the road. it's some kind of natural contradiction for humans: we don't want a messy world, because it hurts us, so we are trying to steer away from that, but at the same time we need it. how do we reconcile everything?

This is a good reminder to support your local library - one of the few public places left that doesn’t expect you to purchase anything.

Great point. The sharing economy destroyed an entire set of spaces like this... when hosting a couchsurfer, I was told that I could make a ton using Airbnb instead. That money wasn’t the point was lost on this guest — but thankfully not the many other world travelers I was able to share my local area with.

Airbnb or VBRO offers great experiences on their own, but introducing a transaction turns everyone into a service provider or customer, and brings a set of expectations to both.

Dan Ariely considered this distinction in his discussion of market vs. social transactions:

Described in: https://escherman.com/2009/04/09/social-norms-versus-market-...

> I think we should reflect more deeply about spaces, and how modern society is losing them. nowadays, practically every exchange involves money, products, services. if a space doesn't make sense in an economic sense, it tends to disappear.

I agree. This article parallels a discussion I've been having with some friends lately...

If you're interested in being a part of that reflection, evaluating how technology helps or hinders us from forming more meaningful relationships, I'm gathering a discussion group online specifically to answer these sorts of questions. It's called VC3 (https://vc3.club) and our sole goal is to have an intellectual conversation in this area. If this interests you, we would love to have you along!

Because early death allows you to quantify the economic impacts. "Quality of life" isn't exactly a strong economic indicator.

A similar phenomenon is the use of pets as pseudo-children or relationship partners. Babies are expensive and ruin your sleep for years. Significant others can cheat on you, leave or simply get boring. A cat, however, just like these YouTube boyfriends, is fairly inexpensive, practically takes care of itself, will always love you and will never leave. It is a sort of infantalization of the relationship process.

I think the only solution will be a cultural recognition that the consumeristic mentality of easier = better isn’t necessarily true, and that difficulty, struggle and suffering are inherently worthwhile, more authentic and character-building.

Cat does not love you. It never leaves, cause you locked it. If you move away, cat prefers to stay.

Treating children like pets would be effectively emotional abuse. And while dog can fill some of yours emotional needs, quite frankly, kids won't.

I have children and had pet and I can tell you that those two are comparable in any way. Not just in easy vs hard scale, but it is fundamentally different relationship.

This is a pretty interesting article about animals and emotions by a primatologist: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/opinion/sunday/emotions-a...

It goes through a lot of emotions specifically thought to be human and shows evidence for them in animals. I couldn't find a paragraph to sum it up, but this might be the thesis of the article:

> Uniquely human emotions don’t exist. More and more, I believe that we share all emotions with other species in the same way that we share virtually every organ in our bodies with them. No exceptions.

> Like organs, the emotions evolved over millions of years to serve essential functions. Their usefulness has been tested again and again, giving them the wisdom of ages. They nudge us to do what is best for us. Some emotions may be more developed in humans, or apply to a wider range of circumstances, but none is fundamentally new.

Sure, but really, cats don't love you. They tolerate you and may like you.

Dog may love you. Snake won't. Cats don't.

I'm going to disagree with you on that first sentence.

It's likely that cats can sense your superior attitude toward them. As a result, they avoid bond-forming behaviors that require trust and vulnerability and mutual respect. Which in turn has reinforced your false idea that all cats are indifferent.

I've been very close with two cats. They followed me around everywhere in our house wherever I went, sat next to/on me at every opportunity, cuddled with me in bed every night, scratched furniture if I ignored them, waited for me at the door, called out when I wasn't home by a usual hour, and became visibly depressed (eating less, losing interest in play) when I would away on holiday for more than a day.

>cats can sense your superior attitude toward them. As a result, they avoid bond-forming behaviors that require trust and vulnerability and mutual respect.

cats can trust and respect? I think it's a mistake to anthropomorphize animals to this degree.

> cats can trust and respect?

I think you're doing the reverse of anthropomorphizing - assuming that because humans have an experience, then that experience must be unique to humans.

Cats have all kinds of trust signals: showing their belly to you, slowly blinking at you, circling you with tail up, fully grooming themselves where you can see them.

You won't see these signals if you don't treat the cat with respect, i.e.: invade their space without "asking" (letting them sniff your hand from a safe distance first), pick them up when their body language indicates they are just fine where they are, pet them on places that are vulnerable (belly, throat), touch their fur when your hands have lotions or other scents.

what makes you think they can't trust or respect? do you think they treat all people identically?

You overstate a little. Both require overlapping responsibilities from the head of the household.

Both, for example, require someone to be home to feed them (and take care of other biological needs) every day. The amount of effort for a child is much higher, but having a pet or a child both make it impossible to catch an impromptu flight to Vegas or pull an all nighter at work.

And, yes, that does require some emotional maturity and, for some, fill some emotional needs.

I did not said pets don't fill any needs, I said they are completely different then what you get with children.

For cat, you can put enough food to bowl and have someone else wisit a day after to change it.

You can absolutely pull all nighters with cat. The cat will be fine.

Less so with dog if you are single, but walking dog is still incomparable to all the interaction that goes on with kid - even on playground.

> I have children and had pet and I can tell you that those two are [not] comparable in any way.

I was replying to this.

> You can absolutely pull all nighters with cat. The cat will be fine.

Your couch or mattress may be ruined, though, depending on the cat.

Don't know whether cat loves it's owner or not. But as long as you feed it would stay. Where i live people don't lock cats but they do stay.

I agree completely. But the perception that they are comparable, that pets are sufficient to replace human connection, seems to be a growing trend.

I don't think so. It is just something that people who want others to have children project into childless people with pet. It is something to invalidate/insult childless people with. Or childless in general. And occasionally to those with one child and pets.

I have never heard childless person say that they have pet instead of children. They don't have pets instead of children.

They just don't have kids and have pets. Not as replacement tho.

> and that difficulty, struggle and suffering are inherently worthwhile

Sure, I'll happily go through that "inherent struggle and suffering, but who's going to pay for childcare? Or for after-school (there's no way me and my gf would be able to raise a kid on one salary only). Who's going to economically "smooth things up" for me and my gf and our potential kid when one of us loses his/her job and can't find anything else for 3 to 6 months? My parents can't financially do it. Her parents can't financially do it. Our savings most definitely would not be enough to support the 3 of us for 6 months.

In other words and as much as I hate this word it really bugs me when some people lecture from a position of privilege when it comes to other people's lives. Please don't take this the wrong way, is just that I've heard the same discourse as yours from friends of mine and it really bugs me, especially as those friends are in a financially better position (their parents too), which makes a hell of a lot of a difference.

You can raise kids on one income. Millions of people are doing so in this country right now, many of them very likely with much less income than you. Half of the households in the US make less than 63k. Something like 80% of workers live paycheck to paycheck.

Your attitude though is very common and I think it reflects a deeper social phenomenon. The reality is that kids do not need that much to become a normal, well-adjusted adult. Food, active and caring parents, and clothes. That’s pretty much it. People believe they need a lot of gadgets and gizmos and various services (e.g., preschool), but the actual impact of these is either very small, unclear, or sometimes even negative. Nevertheless, people suffer a tremendous amount of anxiety over things like getting into a good preschool, Christmas toys, bedrooms for every kid, paying for college, etc. Why?

I don’t think it’s actually because deep down, we believe our kids are failures if we can’t pay for their Yale education, or if, god forbid, they don’t go to college at all. I think there’s something else going on. I’ve been thinking about this for a long while, but I’m not really prepared to formulate it, just to say money is not the real reason. I say this having two kids myself and one income, and a similar financial situation that you describe above, except for having the one income.

I don't live in the States where I'm sure that things are better, money-wise, and I do know the way our parents and grand-parents grew up (i.e. poor to very poor), but I personally don't have the heart in me to bring a person into this world that will have to risk going through the same material hardships that I went through (or my parents or grand-parents). I don't want gizmos and all that (I personally don't have a laptop and I care very little about electronic stuff, even though I'm a programmer), but the truth is that education, healthcare and housing have become really, really stressful for people like me who have not won the real-estate lottery.

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with wanting companionship and getting a pet. Extra points if you take it from a shelter.

That isn’t what I said, at all. Pets are awesome. But they aren’t replacements for human connection.

And if someone tells you that it is for them, will you inform them that they are wrong to feel that way?

No, because remaining polite is important.

But I will make a mental note of it, and infer that said person was socialized improperly (f.e poor family life, severe bullying, inability to form strong bonds, unstable or has no non-surface relationships with other people), and thereby stay away.

I don't in anyway mean to offend, and I am certain the other would reply with "I don't want such a judgemental person in my life, anyway."

I would not stay away from someone because he was bullied or poor growing up. I find it wrong that someone would choose to further ostracise or marginalise or push away such person. You was bullied therefore I stay away? Wtf.

If such person would harming me or my kids, I would stay away. But not just because their life was tougher then mine.

I wouldn't say it's because of the hardship, but usually the side-effects of said hardship, i.e untreated emotional problems, poor mindsets towards people and relationships, very closed off emotionally -- "guarded" and feeling like they constantly need to "defend" themselves in every relationship.

After being close with a multitude of people that were improperly socialzed -- and a multitude of people that were propeely socialized -- I'm not going to put myself in lower quality relationships "out of the goodness of my heart and soul" anymore.

It is dependent on the hardship though, and if the person recieved social support from his support system (f.e combat service in the military, growing up poor but very good family and values, etc.). Barring that, I'm more than likely going to be scarred emotionally by people that didn't learn how proper, healthy relationships look like, and it's a "we" not a "you vs. me."

Would you say you are free of untreated emotional problems and poor mindsets?

Absolutely not. I'm not arrogant enough to make such a claim, and my observations tell me we all have them in one way or another.

But I can say with confidence that I don't let my own problems negatively affect the people I care about. I've worked hard to get to here, because I know firsthand how it affects people.

"You say animals fulfill your emotional needs better than people? By God, I will prove you right!"

Funny, you're not wrong (in two ways ;)

The older I get, the more I start identifying with the "you know, a dog would probably be a lot simpler than all of this shit" crowd. However, I try not to lower my standards of life as I mature.

Expect nothing, but demand the best, yada yada.

A cat is a replacement for a child in the same way a electric kick scooter is a replacement for a truck.

I.e. they're better for the environment.

Well I wouldn’t say it to their face, because that would be rude. But yes I’d posit that they are wrong.

“difficulty, struggle and suffering are inherently worthwhile, more authentic and character-building”

Is there any research on this topic or is this just your opinion?

What is “research” supposed to mean in this case? It’s a philosophical proposition, one that has been expounded by thousands of cultures throughout history. If anything, justification for an easy, hedonistic life is the rarity.

Insofar as that is purely a philosophical proposition, there is nothing there for society to recognize - you might consider struggle and suffering worthwhile but you can't make that judgement for anyone else.

Wow that paragraph is like the poster child for the logical fallacy called “appeal to tradition”.


I don’t know if you’re looking for an actual discussion or just prowling around for opportunities to link to logical fallacies. Assuming the best intentions...

My question stands: what does research mean in this case? Are you looking for a scientific study which confirms or denies that “difficulty is more authentic?” It is a question beyond the purview of science. The arguments for such a view would be found in philosophical and religious texts.

Not that I necessarily agree that espousing your viewpoint requires research, but it might be constituted by studies showing correlations with more difficult but meaningful lives and long term contentedness/happiness, or with traits we generally see as positive, such as honesty.

It would be a circular exercise. Defining what is considered positive, for example contentedness, is itself a culture-specific value. There are and have been plenty of cultures which consider other values more important. Even then, defining happiness is itself not a scientific endeavor.

Ultimately you end up at philosophy or religion.

keiferski, I would guess research mean examining patterns of individuals faced with poverty and those that didn't in their childhood. Are people grown in poor household with lack of healthcare and struggling diseases better than those who didn't and lived relatively comfortably? If you learn something from facing difficulty or suffering then how does it materialize? What form does it take?

Although the post doesn't mention it, you might also be interested in reading about parasocial interaction[0]

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasocial_interaction

>desperate for a soporific remedy

This is the best channel I found to fall asleep: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLKSolaVsFrN7qTFL7lFkfw

The person disassembles hard drives to investigate, in videos that can be hours long, is very calm and doesn't speak much. It retains attention, due to some suspense, yet it's extremely boring. I usually get sleepy after a few minutes.

Beware though: there is one with a long moment of silence, and then he sneezes suddenly very loudly.

> The only cure for loneliness is to master the art of solitude.

Most important sentence to take action on in this article, IMO.

> But perhaps we fool ourselves in thinking our desires for love, comfort, and belonging can be sated with an inanimate object.

No, not perhaps, I think it can be phrased more strongly (at least, speaking for myself). I believe this to be true as I have cross-checked these type of YouTube experiences with real-life experience, looked at the similarities and differences. It's then easy to see that the YouTube thing is an illusion. The real thing is much better. With YouTube I feel soothed. With my significant other, all of my existential crises are gone and I feel soothed. Yes, it includes fights, but feeling part of a soul-mated team who support each other is totally worth it (I don't believe in soul mates, but I can still feel that way).

> The whole point of boyfriend videos—and of ASMR, mukbang, and the rest—is to create a one-way interaction from creator to silent consumer.

This is the case with all YouTube shows even that have a personable approach. I think the problem is much bigger than this article portrays (see also an earlier comment on it that I made).

With all its overly discussed faults, YT is such an invaluable resource. There is so much free high-quality content: educational, sport, music, spiritual.

YT should get some respect and recognition.

I'm an avid yt music user. There is practically infinite musical content there never released on any other medium. It's an irreplaceable cultural treasure.

Yeah I pay for YouTube Premium and spend a lot of time watching the extremely high quality arts, current affairs, and documentaries you can find on there.

Follow the Royal Opera House for example! Super high quality production values and frequent posting. Better than what you'd regularly find on even high-quality broadcast TV like BBC 4, or a subscription service like Netflix.

I totally agree with you, but I also notice the slow but steady increase in ad content before, between, below all YouTube videos, that also seem to call back to my preferences, feelings, tastes, past interactions, etc.

The question I always ask is: how long until YouTube removes the ability to skip ads altogether? How long until a painfully nontrivial portion of our browsing time is spent directly consuming propaganda?

> How long until a painfully nontrivial portion of our browsing time is spent directly consuming propaganda?

They'll be running commercials on television in a few years at this rate.

If you don't want to pay for it and you don't want to be 'consuming propaganda' who do you think should be paying to run YouTube for you?

Maybe google should be be "bait and switch I will eat looses till competition dies" in the first place. It repeatedly screws market, killing smaller companies competing in the same space.

Just like on Facebook, the ads are doing much more than ‘paying to run’ the platform. And moreover, why would YouTube do anything but continue to increase the amount of ad content? It directly translates to more cash and profit. Same goes for paying content creators less.

> And moreover, why would YouTube do anything but continue to increase the amount of ad content? It directly translates to more cash and profit.

No the relationship isn't direct. As you add more advertising content to videos people will watch less and the advertising revenue would go down - this makes it not directly correlated.

> Same goes for paying content creators less.

In the same way, it's not a direct relationship. As you pay creators less they're less incentivised to create content for you to attach your advertising to.

To prove by absurdity, if you added an hour of un-skippable advertising to a two minute video, few people would watch the video.

This got a bit more complicated when they youtube launched their premium ad-free subscription.

Now the annoyance of ads also serves the direct purpose of advertising their own service.

If the ads was only there to run youtube there would be much much less of them.

As of 2015 it was famously not profitable! Maybe they've added more adverts since then? I don't know but I would think at most YouTube earns a normal operating profit. I don't think it's printing money.

It was? Couldn't find anything about it more than that someone, unnamed, from google said it was more or less break even.

Alphabet doesn’t disclose how much money YouTube is making, but RBC Capital analyst Mark Mahaney estimates YouTube’s annual revenue has reached $10 billion and is increasing by as much as 40% a year. The growth makes YouTube “one of the strongest assets fundamentally on the Internet today,” Mahaney wrote in a research note this week.


But I have a hard time believing it wasn't profitable in 2015 either. Sure, if they re-invest most of it and pays out the rest to youtubers as a way to market the platform then you can pretend it is breaking even.

Oh, and yes, the difference in ads between now and 2015 is huge. Likely close to an order of magnitude where I am, but that probably greatly varies depending on which market you are in.

The $10 a month I pay for Youtube Premium improves my life a lot more than some other things I pay that or more for.

Sure, there is immense value of the youtube content.

Question is if any of the good sides of youtube can be attributed to youtube itself or if it is just the presence of a free and popular video distribution channel that enabled them.

The youtube monopoly is getting quite unbearable, and the ads can be insanely intrusive. Which of course is a feature, so that you'll buy a youtube subscription.

It deserves credit as a product but I prefer to acknowledge the cultural impact of the internet as a medium. Regarding music I’ve found its algorithm getting worse. I used to go on benders of discovery on YouTube. I just don’t see that anymore.

"The medium is the message" is one of my favourite cliches. It always punctuates the same recurring insight.

Socrates' had famous thoughts on the importance of medium choices in his day: reading, writing and libraries or people in gardens trading questions and answers and using memory.

The choice of medium isn't neutral. Imagine 5 people in a garden talking about their feelings, political views, or whatever. Alternatively, imagine them writing essays, making youtube videos or discussing on a HN thread or creating a wiki... same topic, same people.

The content would be totally different. The thoughts that people shared (or even had) would be different. The perspectives, emphasis and everything else about the content would be different.

The internet is like a queen-medium. It spawns an endless brood of different mediums, digital and otherwise. Twitter, Tinder, Meetup, Youtube... and thousands of smaller ones. Not one of them is a good "replacement" for another type of medium, but they do replace them.

I agree with the jist of this article, I think.

Where internet "mediums" replace important personal ones, we're at risk of replacing "home-cooking" with "junk food," and the results will be the same.

Related and b/c it's mentioned in the article: https://www.mashed.com/182485/the-untold-truth-of-mukbang/

I wonder how long it'll take to get lightly personalized ML generated variation of such content. And how long it'll take to people notice that it's generated and not a "real" person

Wait until the generated content realizes that it is itself generated, then the real trouble will begin

From all visible metrics, sex and social activity are plummeting precipitously across the developed world——lower rates of sex, lower sales of condoms, higher marriage age, lower birth rate, more suicide, higher rates of antisocial mental disorders, and on. It’s easy to see that not just YouTube but communication technology in general is partially, if not greatly responsible. But what’s even more concerning to me is the idea that all this feels in some ways inevitable.

I think this has been so plain that even science fiction has grappled with it extensively from the musings in Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Transmetropolitan, etc.

The biggest question to me is: as feeble biological beings who are prone to replacing healthy social interaction with the kind of social hallucinations provided by technology, what would lead us to a better life? Technology seeks to mediate all things, and is possibly more successful at this than even capitalism writ large. What can fallible humans possibly do to combat this malaise?

Embrace it. Focusing on what is inevitable isn't healthy. What we can do is develop tools that will evolve us to combat tech. Fight the tech with tech. Biotech may solve current problems forever. Gene therapy and modification is the future, probably. So you need not worry, give in your fate to the tech overlords.

Or wait until you can live with AR that is good enough to replace your actual social interaction without you developing health problems. All we need to do is create good enough replacement for humans. That is the problem with current social platforms. They are too static. They fail and result in uncanny communication. They aren't able to convey body language, emotions and many other details that actual humans give off.

plays black mirror episode

I am waiting for my robot partner because everyone else in my life just sucks and I can't relate to any of them. Internet provides you power to embrace different culture and world than the one you live in, and sometimes it creates in inevitable environmental and cultural dissonance where you are nothing like anyone else you know. Well, that explains my internet addiction at least.

Where else do you think am I going to find buddies to talk about free software, anime, startups and odd bizarre stuff?

Post is meant to be satirical.

This is a fascinating topic, thanks for sharing.

If anyone reading knows of any other such article or youtube video / podcast segment on this topic, please share them under this comment.

Thanks in advance.

...because dating is the motivation for young men to accomplish awesome things, according to this video. It’s a fun thought experiment, though:

- On one side, women provide half the work (a recent article on HN said they were now the majority of US workers),

- On the other, if access to family life was a motivator in the 50ies, what is the motivator in the 2020ies, now that dating isn’t... vetted by parents/society/social status? Will we keep accomplishing awesome things? How much motivation will one put into it given the rewards are now rather inversely correlated with work? (Working out, travelling the world, doing NGO work is opposite to having a career, and it’s not even enough to grant one hopes in relationships).

Of course the video is an exaggeration. It still has a true core I think. People put a tremendous amount of work into attracting mates.

My motivation is the growing list of friends' Patreons/Ko-fis/fundraisers/etc that I don't have the means to support.


Edit: I read the article. My comment that I made (before I read the article) is still valid IMO. She scopes the issue too narrow. The issue is much bigger. Even when I watch something like funfunfunction (where the point is education) or Joe Rogan (i.e. podcasters) this point also exists.

My original comment:

I watch YouTube a lot. About 2 hours daily at the moment and have subscribed to 300 channels. I see one huge issue with it.

It's a one-way interaction.

You give all your attention to them, but they don't give anything back.

This is not an issue if you use YouTube every once in a while, but I've noticed that for me it's becoming problematic. There are many great reasons for watching YouTube, but with this title (love without the messiness) this issue becomes a big thing quite quick.

Consider this: if I'd talk to a friend 2 hours per day versus watching YouTube 2 hours per day. What would be healthier? Well, if it's a good friendship, talking to a friend would be way healthier actually. And I actually know this, because I do tend to have a few friends that I talk a lot to. Both my friendships and my need for watching YouTube stem from similar/the same desires even.

But one gives you attention back, the other doesn't.

This problem was stated in the article, but it doesn't only pertain to ASMR or boyfriend hairdressers. It pertains to any video that has a personable approach.

That doesn't mean that a personable approach is bad. IMO, it's simply a strong reason as to why one shouldn't watch too many videos in general.

Yeah you should definitely read the article. (I know it's against the rules to imply someone hasn't read the article, but since you outright said you didn't, I feel like this is in bounds.) It is about the simulated giving back of attention that certain YouTube videos do.

Thanks, so that means the title is clickbait, in my opinion.

Assuming by name, author is a ‘he’

YouTube’s debacle regarding COPPA is becoming a train wreck, however. Thousands of animated videos that are very clearly not for kids (violent or other adult content) are nonetheless being marked as such. They really just need to split YouTube into three platforms - YouTube, YouTube Kids, and YouTube Mature.

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