Why people are glued to their phones watching video after video on YouTube

Akhil Sood
YouTube entered our lives some 15 years ago, but has caught our fancy in a big enough way only in recent years
As 2019 — arguably the longest year of all time — reaches its termination, it brings with it one of those riddle-like questions that people somehow get very confused about. Does the decade finish in 2019 or 2020? The majority of people have agreed amongst themselves that we’re entering the last month of the 2010s, after which a new decade begins: the 20s, or the 2020s.
But there’s also a small, loud, and wrong minority convinced that we have another year to go. For the sake of both convenience and accuracy, I’m going with the popular vote here — the decade ends in a month and a few days. It’s the standard birth principle: the day you’re born is not your first but your zero’th birthday. The same rule applies here.
Anyway, eight years ago, I chanced upon a curious little video during a YouTube spiral — where you open the website to watch one video and end up spending 13 hours on it. Called ‘Talking Animals,’ it was a series of clips from a BBC documentary. The video, parts of which still exist on the Internet, was basically just a collection of different animals doing their thing in the wild, with an English voice-over adding uproarious dialogues and a narrative to the seemingly random actions on screen. It was possibly the funniest thing I saw that year, and for many years after.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I found a YouTube video of a musician covering a song by Australian singer Sia, called ‘Chandelier’.
So far, so ho-hum. Except that it’s sung in the toddlerish, helium-inflected voice of a Mario character called Toad. It’s a toad singing! And it is out of this world. I dare you to not crack up till you have tears flying off your face when the high-pitched chorus hits.
This is really what YouTube is. It’s memorable in the most outlandish of ways. Over the past few years, video (and audio) streaming platforms have taken over our consciousness. Netflix (and pirated streaming websites that keep changing their URL) opened the floodgates, and now we have a range of others as well, each with its own splendid collection ranging from trashy TV to water-cooler documentaries to artsy-fartsy cinema. But like Tendulkar refusing to retire for all those years, YouTube persists. It entered our lives some 15 years ago, but — in India, especially — it’s only over the last few years, since the now-erstwhile telecom boom, that it’s caught our fancy in a big enough way. The fact that it still has a free version and comes pre-installed in most smartphones helps a great deal, tilting the balance in its favour.
(To be contd)
Courtesy The Hindu