How I Use YouTube as a Digital Minimalist
I still remember the first time I watched a YouTube video. I was in elementary school, and one of my brother’s friends from the neighborhood came over and pulled up the Weird Al eBay song on our desktop computer. I had never even heard “I Want It That Way” and found the video hilarious anyway.
14 years later, I still use YouTube and believe that it is one of the great tools of the 21st century. It allows creators to easily share valuable information, so it is accessible to billions of users. Those who are familiar with my stance on social media may question my appreciation for and personal use of the platform.
My goal as a digital minimalist is not to completely cut technology out of my life, but to use it in an intentional way. Currently, I enjoy using YouTube both as a form of entertainment and as a creative outlet. Through trial and error, I have found a way to make YouTube a part of my life without the negative consequences I have experienced in the past.
My goal is to only consume content that adds value to my life. It doesn’t necessarily have to teach me something, but if I’m watching something just as entertainment, I don’t want it to make me feel bad about myself or negatively influence my behavior. Furthermore, as I learned at the start of the pandemic, over-consumption can be detrimental to me, causing me to feel lazy and unworthy.
To accomplish my goal, I have implemented three strategies:
1. Unsubscribe. I apply the central tenant of minimalism to my subscriptions list and remove any unnecessary content from my feed. My personal rule is to only subscribe to creators whom I regard as good role models. We use the word “influencer” is used for a reason, as we are influenced by the thoughts, values, and characteristics of the people we follow.
2. Don’t get distracted by recommendations. Like all good social media platforms, YouTube tries to get to know you better than your friends do. It learns what kind of videos you’re interested in to make it difficult to get off the platform. To combat this, I downloaded a browser plugin which disables all recommended videos. If you take one thing away from this article, I would encourage anyone to download a similar plugin. This is the one change that has improved my relationship with YouTube more than anything else. Now, I am only watching videos published by creators I’m subscribed to (those I have already deemed “good role models”), and over-consumption is discouraged.
3. Set a schedule. Like many other apps, I deleted YouTube off my phone years ago. I only use YouTube on my computer, and I try my best (still a work in progress) to only watch YouTube at certain points in the week. I use the Watch Later feature to save any interesting videos for later.
Making vlogs is an art form for me. Being creative and documenting my life is a joyful experience for me and not something I want to give up. However, there have been periods in which I have struggled with this hobby.
I think that approaching content creation in a healthy way really starts with consuming in a healthy way. When I was over-consuming, I started comparing myself to other vloggers and overthinking my content. Once you are consuming content that is inspiring and makes you feel good, reflect on how you can create content in a way that has the same effect for you.
Even if you are trying to make a career out of social media, you will be unhappy if you have to pretend to be someone else. Try your best to have fun and be authentic. Notice what types of videos make you feel the most proud and happy, and focus on producing those rather than the videos that get the most views.
YouTube has become one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, but like all technology, it should be approached with caution. While I believe that there are ways to use YouTube in a way that adds value to your life, it will take effort to find the strategies that work the best for you to maintain a healthy relationship with the platform.