Advice I cannot follow – Failures in Polymathy

I think I am an addict. Or at least, that’s a part of my personality that shouldn’t be ignored.

One of the things I realized when I quit smoking was that I had a hard time with finality. I didn’t want there to be a ‘last cigarette’. There was too much finality in that, and the finality reminded me of dying. I told myself that there would be certain select circumstances in which I could still smoke, and that strategy sort of worked. I quit and stayed quit for some time, but I have fallen of off the wagon here and there.

And then I get back on the fucking wagon.

I think there is something similar with dieting. No one wants to look at a food they like and say ‘never again!’ As a concept, never kind of sucks. So at best you say, well, not this time. But eventually I will again. In some distant future. Not every day deserves to be a cake day.

If the world were ending tomorrow, there would be cake cigarettes and whisky ad-infinitum. It would be glorious.

But I am now facing an addiction that has been going on for ten years and I am genuinely at a loss as to how to curb it. It is, believe it or not, much more insidious than smoking is.

I am addicted to YouTube. And it needs to stop.

I’ve read enough addicts’ tales to know that almost all of them go into a history of how they got addicted, and their personal flaws that aggravate their addiction. I think it may be interesting to do the same.

Back in 2009 I was a bit too poor to have reliable cellular internet. I am not altogether sure it was much of a thing back then either. I was also so poor as to not have internet at home. I would go to an internet cafe, do my internet things, and YouTube music while I looked for work. A few months later I was gainfully employed as a receptionist at a Youth Hostel, and we would funnel music into the reception from YouTube. It wasn’t my idea, it was just what we did. So I guess I had had the right idea.

I think I was at best peripherally aware that there was other content on YouTube, but none of it seemed all that appealing. I think I stumbled on to a PewDiePie video or something (he was huge in Italy for reasons), and was thoroughly turned off.

YouTube remained a music place until sometime in 2011, when a girlfriend of mine showed me a funny video she had stumbled upon. It was funny, so I subscribed to that channel. I didn’t stay subscribed long, but floodgates were opened by this one silly action. Soon, I was subscribed to the first channel that was something of a problem.

Numberphile.

I still love it, but I stay far, far away. I’m a sucker for smart people doing smart things. I think I am compensating for something.

But the floodgates opened there. I found a bunch of educational content on YouTube and was subscribed to many of them. It was manageable then. I was in the midst of writing my thesis, and my days were punctuated with when I knew videos were scheduled to come out on YT. I would work, watch something, work again, and so forth. It worked for me then.

Right around that time I had a major life event that I like to call THE GREAT EPISTEMOLOGICAL CRASH OF 2012. I should blog about it at some point, but it would make this already long blog post far too unwieldy. The short of it is that I realized that I was not as smart as I thought I was, and that I had a whole lot of learning to do. I failed my thesis defense for reasons having nothing to do with my academic ability (or so I think. I one year later submitted the same thesis and passed. Maybe it was just pity. Ho hum), had a breakup, and lingered around the town I was living in just learning. I read for hours, and walked around listening to audio books when I wasn’t reading. YouTube’s educational content fit right into it. YouTube still wasn’t out of hand yet, but to compensate for a certain loneliness, I began to watch YouTube videos before going to bed.

Although never convinced of their bullshit, I passively observed the genesis of right-wing YouTube back when that started to happen in 2013/2014. I watched the left do the same, although I thought they were worse at. This isn’t to say I fell into the right leaning rabbit hole, just that I get why the right had the success it did.

I don’t think I could pinpoint exactly when things got out of hand. YouTube became a de-stress when I worked a really shitty job in 2013, although there were other indulgences as well. But my ‘tastes’ in YT videos expanded. I found the cooking shows, I found the people talking about books, I found the religious discourses, I found of so many debates. For every niche of my life, there was a YouTube channel for it. And I subscribed to all of them.

I am not all that smart, but I can recognize a bad road when it is in front of me. Around 2014 I attempted to purge YouTube from my life. I unsubscribed from all damn channels and tried to ignore it.

I maybe lasted a week. The same same thing, for that matter, happened when I tried to quit smoking, although I did ultimately pull that off. I figured that, like how smoking took a few attempts before the quitting actually stuck, I would bounce around from trying to quit to being back until it too finally sticks. That has proven not to be the case.

I have tried all the cheap digital nicotine patches and nothing seems to be working. I tried modding etc/hosts on both my laptops and phone, but it is just as easy to mod back as it is to do it in the first place. I’ve tried telling my friends, but all those fuckers have gold fish memories and will just send me YouTube videos a few days later. I think there is really no way around this problem without a large dose of vitamin discipline.

At my age, shit like that is hard.

Right. That’s my word limit for a blog post. Let’s kick the rest of this to a forthcoming part 2.

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