Right, so the previous posts in this series (one, two, and three) were kinda depressing. Good news! This one isn’t. How about that?
I had started the previous posts with a template about:
“Busy > Bored”
as a personal motto of mine which I have held to for years. I’d like to say that is true. I am not always sure. I guess it depends on how you distinguish keeping busy and being kept busy. Here, it is particularly important.
But there is a sort of Venus-flytrap monster attached to the notion that everything is worth pondering, and it’s name is Youtube. That, more than anything else in my life, is something that (Passive Voice) keeps me busy.1 YouTube sucks me in with promises of the sweet sweet nectar of knowledge.
Remember, I am older than YouTube. I’ve been using it since 2006, easily. And I remember the promises of its youth.
YouTube started as a radical alternative to TV. I don’t think anyone phrased it like that, but that was the idea. Sure, initially it was just a place where people could host videos online easily. I get that. But from the very first video there was a ‘this is content made for YouTube’ style to it. It was a new type of content, distinct from TV. And it quickly bloomed into something great. I loved the educational content of it. And there was so much of it too in the heydays of YouTube (of course, it is still there, but the garbage content has caught up to).
Somewhere in 2012, I think I was subscribed to over 30 educational Youtube channels. Sometimes I think my brain is a little sick. I suffer from what I suspect a lot of pseudo-intellectuals do, and it is the mistaken belief that, viewed in the right light, everything is interesting, and everything is worth some kind of intellectual reflection. How deep does the problem go? Consider this example. I watched that with extreme attention. Who knows, maybe one day I would fall out of an airplane. It could happen.
I genuinely saw YouTube as an avenue to becoming a more intelligent individual. The pie in the sky dream is that it would make me a polymath. And maybe in some small respect it did make me a little smarter, although now I think I was largely wrong about that. But being a polymath? That was just stupid.
When I was younger I resented the notion that people should specialize, as if we were ants. It took me to a liberal arts degree that was VERY broad. I am the guy that wants to taste everything at the buffet table, and I tried to do that with my education. In fairness, I can keep up with most people on a discussion about most topics. That is a point of pride for me. But I don’t have the in-depth knowledge to actually say anything truly significant in any of those fields. I have, it would seem, that minimal amount of knowledge that charlatans and frauds use to hoodwink their victims, but not enough to be like the people I genuinely admire. The harder part of the lesson was that one of those heroes I had who did claim to be polymathic was also a person who, in many of those subjects they had studied, was critically misinformed. So I guess that I had made it.
As life went on, YouTube morphed into something horrific for me. It turned into a nightlight. When I was a kid I once had a sleepover at a friend’s house, and I was kind of weirded out that this kid needed the TV in his room to be on for him to fall asleep. Around 2015 I started to realize that I was in the same place, just with YouTube. If I didn’t have a YouTube video on in the background, I wasn’t going to fall asleep. It had become a problem, and it still is.
But recently YouTube broke for me, and I have this job that overworks me to thank. Knowing that I am getting literally nothing else in my life done is really great motivation to kick the habit. I am very frequently putting a YouTube video on and immedieatly turning it off in frustration, saying to myself “THIS ISN’T GOING TO HELP ME WITH ANYTHING IN MY LIFE!” I don’t need an analysis of why XYZ movie is profound when I haven’t seen the movie. And considering no one in my circle is willing to have conversations in that direction, what it the bloody point anyway?
You see, here is what I figured out about knowledge. You can’t have it a lone. If a person in the world is the only one who know XYZ fact, then no one knows it. Knowledge only really has value when you can share it. Information must be in communication with something, and if it isn’t then it is barely knowledge at all. That’s part of the importance of specializing, as it allows you to dig deeply into one topic and get those individual facts about that topic talking to each other.
There is a lot more to hash out on this subject, but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that I am a little to busy to do that right now. I need to go shopping for a few things and then write a bunch of work emails, despite it being a saturday. But I am glad to be this busy, because I am too busy for YouTube.
1 I’m a god damned English teacher. Yes, I know that is not the passive voice. There’s an attempt at a joken irony there.