I can't help but wonder how my life would be different if mindlessly staring at screens wasn't an option

submitted by Thorny_Insight edited

YouTube is my vice. I spend hours and hours and hours there watching videos every single day. I've recently however starting to resent the fact that apparently I seem to prefer watching other people do stuff rather than do that myself. Watching interesting videos feels like a leisure but doing interesting stuff has somehow in my mind turned into work.

Just few days ago I watched a Casey Neistat studio tour and I caught myself thinking how nice it would be to have a neatly organized space like that for making stuff. Well I *have* a space like that! I'm just never there because instead I'm in the house watching YouTube. I hate that. When I was younger I took apart solar lanterns to build a solar battery charger, I made a camera gimball stabilizer out of threaded rod, angle irons and plumbing pipe, I build a functioning submarine out of legos. Now I can't even remember when I last time build something just for fun.

While watching youtube is "fun" aswell however it's not memorable. I still remember my lego submarine from 20 years ago but I don't remember a single video I watched yesterday. I'm worried that if I keep doing this I'm basically just throwing my life away. There's *always* going to be another video to watch. I will never finish that project.

I guess I'm just venting. I'm sure there are people that can relate however. How do you guys deal with this?

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I grew up in a time and place with only a handful of TV channels and no internet, and I would still sit and spend my weekends watching absolute shit rather than doing anything. I remember this particular time on Sunday when every week the best thing on was horse racing, so I’d sit and watch it for 5 minutes before checking the other channels, just to come back to horse racing.

My parents grew up before TV and I asked my Mum what they did instead. She said they were mostly just bored.

Despite all the problems the internet does make hobbies way more accessible. Nowadays if you want to learn something you can just Google it or watch a YouTube video. Before the internet you’d have to go out and buy a fucking book. Working on computers in the 90s, I used to spend days or weeks trying to fix problems that I would solve in a few minutes now.

Avatar Klaymore
Thorny_Insight [OP]

I'm worried this might actually be true. Recently talked to my grandmom whose not much into computers and smartphones about this and asked what she does all day. The answer was fill crosswords, complete puzzles and knit socks. While that is not staring at screens it doesn't sound particularly interesting or fulfilling either.

I still think that there is value to boredom aswell. It simply just can't be healthy to be stimulated all the time.


I grew up without TV. The first television I saw was in the window of a shop - not for sale, the shop owner had set it up as a novelty. The Apollo programme was big news at the time, and it was showing a rocket launch. I remember standing watching it for so long someone was sent out to look for me.

My escape from boredom back then was books. I read voraciously, always had a stack of books from the library. My parents often yelled at me to "get outside and play", so I'd be forced to bicycle around aimlessly with my friends. We were so bored!

These days? Lemmy, crossword puzzles and knitting socks (see below), yes indeed. But also sport, beekeeping, socialising. And reading books. On my phone of course!

Avatar ChaosCoati

Love the color of that yarn!

Avatar agent_flounder

Early gen x.

As a kid with just 3 channels on TV, I did a ton of imaginative play, crafted things, drew, converted my room into a space ship occasionally, rode my bike around the neighborhood, played with my dog, built couch forts, and myriad other stuff, and yes, watched tv. I don't remember being bored often.

I have a dozen hobbies I could devote time to if I could somehow retire today. Of course the depression gets in the way of wanting to do anything. But when I'm not, I am pretty sure I could find something to fill my days with every day for decades. My reading queue just keeps growing. I used to read so much once...

Maybe I'm being overly optimistic and I would just be bored half the day? Then again I took 5 days off over the holidays and played a new video game basically all day every day lol. It was glorious. And I felt so *good* to not have to deal with work. I started to feel good and motivated instead of bummed. I got the distinct feeling I would continue to have a great time if I could've just kept *not* working from that last day of vacation forward.

My MIL takes classes online, goes to seminars, travels, goes to theater, ballet, etc. She quilts. Reads a lot. She does watch TV a fair bit but doesn't do web stuff all the time. She doesn't ever seem bored to me.

One of my friends does art, all different media from acrylic painting to glass fusing to sandblasting to sculpture etc. On top of that, gardening, writing, prolific reading... He isn't capable of being bored. Hardly ever watches TV. Takes forever to get back to text messages lol.

I think it is easy to get sucked into blowing time on apps and socials and all that. As a sort of sad substitute for doing more fulfilling things. That's probably a trap I've fallen hard into. It's sort of like eating chips instead of making you self dinner. Yeah it is calories but what joy is there in it, really?

Avatar Deceptichum

Knitting socks sounds productive at least!


My parents grew up before TV and I asked my Mum what they did instead. She said they were mostly just bored.

Reminds me of a tweet I saw. It went kinda like this: "I asked my sister what our parents did before there was internet. She didn't know either, so we asked our 18 other siblings".

Thorny_Insight [OP]

Interestingly I don't personally remember TV being much of an issue for me growing up. Even back then I didn't enjoy most of the stuff that was on. I think if instead of YouTube I only had Netflix I wouldn't have this issue since it doesn't really have the kind of content I'm interested in. I've never really been into movies and tv shows. 25 minute video of a youtuber woodworker building a kitchen table however? I'm in!

It's kind of funny how my friends "praise" me for not having a smartphone addiction and while I agree that watching 10 - 45 min YouTube videos is probably less bad for your brain that browsing TikTok, in the end we're all still staring at screens for equal amounts of time.


Ugh. John McCririck.

Avatar Fudoshin , edited

You would get bored far more often. You'd probably replace YouTube with watching TV.

If you didn't watch TV then you'd try new things more often to fix your boredom. You'd probably read more. You may even exercise more simply to quell boredom.

I read an article a while back that suggested people are experiencing less "profound boredom" which while uncomfortable unlocks creativity.

*Speaking as a millennial who didn't have the internet in their first 16yrs of life. Now unemployed and spend 16hrs per day on Lemmy/Reddit/Discord.

Avatar IninewCrow , edited

It's an addiction .... and the first step to dealing with an addiction is admitting that you have a problem.

Good for you


Idk I'm old and I stared at books for most of my life pre Internet. I still read 7-10 books a week.


Tomorrow try to set limits by putting your phone down and going for a walk, if you are able. Wean yourself off slowly.

Avatar Deceptichum

And if you get bored you can always ween yourself self off.

benni , edited

Thanks, I needed that post. I'm in a similar boat. I get addicted to this stuff (YT, lemmy, reddit etc.) easily, and I've found that a moderate use is just not possible for me in the long run. It can't really coexist in my life with leisure activities that require me to sustain my attention for longer, like reading, practicing an instrument, or even just sitting down and listening to a good album intently.

What helps me a bit is putting all kinds of hindrances in place:

  • storing my phone in a drawer and only taking it out when I want to do something specific
  • not having my router always running, but only turning it on when I want to use the wifi for something specific
  • browser extensions to block certain sites
  • using screen time limits in the Android settings
  • rooting my phone and blocking addictive sites in my hosts file (unfortunately I only found out afterwards that subdomains (*) like m.youtube.com aren't blocked by blocking the main sites like youtube.com and now I can't add them to the blacklist without much effort)
  • (similar solutions for my laptop)

But none of that has worked as much as I'd like. It's a constant struggle and I'm still looking for a better solution.

Doing interesting stuff has somehow in my mind turned into work.

That's the worst part. Scroll too much and that state becomes your new baseline. Now anything that is less captivating and effortless than that feels difficult.

(*) I'm not sure if subdomain is the correct term here. If anyone knows, please correct me.


Subdomain is absolutely the correct term!

Also, there are much easier ways of DNS blocking on Android that don't require rooting, but instead act as an always on VPN. I use TrackerControl, though that's meant to block trackers and I'm not sure if you can manually add domains.


Thanks, I didn't know that was an option. But these easier ways of blocking can be reversed within seconds, right? I need something that is difficult to undo.


That's true, yes. These apps will usually have a persistent notification with a disable action, so probably not great for your use case.


I feel the same. There's a music video of the song Pursuit of Happiness (the megaforce version) where the guy keeps trying to get off the couch but somehow always finds himself back on it. That resonated hard with me.

I think it's because now we have 1,000 things competing for our time and attention. It's nowhere near as easy to not get distracted anymore, yet all people do is criticize (lazy, unmotivated, etc). It's real.

It's a pickle for sure, and how can we tell when YouTube is pulling us to watch more vs. when we genuinely just want to relax and watch some vids. And if you're doing something else SOLELY because you don't want to watch YT, well, it's still YT that's deciding what you're doing, not you.

I don't want to write a novel here, but this is something I've been thinking about on and off for a while.

Kaput , edited

I often fall in the same trap. The algorithm is set to keep you on you appetite. Serve you tons of meh content to keep you scrolling, with little nuggets of good content. Remember, to get angry at YouTube for keeping you unsatisfied like a dog trainer would to keep its pack attentive. I manage to get out of it by doing the simplest things whether I enjoy them or not. Sharpen ONE knife, or take appart and cleaned the door lock. Once I am done with that one task, I often find a little satisfaction off it and look for another one. My pitfall is sitting in front of the computer without a clear intention, I'll fall in YouTube grip very easily. Like chips in the cupboard, I don't like them but there there .. Suggestion, share some of your past work here. It might get your attention back to doing instead of watching.


I'm in the same boat as you. No idea just how many hours I've spent on YouTube over the last couple of weeks. There's this maker community in my town and while it was always fun whenever I'd go there, most of the time I just can't make myself get up. Well, weed might be part of the equation, but even without that I somehow always prefer the "instant gratification" of opening up YouTube from the comfort of my sofa.

Thorny_Insight [OP]

Oh yeah I can relate with the weed part aswell.


What I wanna know is how y'all find so much content you're interested in. Me I feel like I've already watched everything I'd like. And now I'd be either waiting for new uploads or rewatching.

Thorny_Insight [OP]

YouTube algorithms finds it for me. It's not like everything I watch is super interesting but it always still seems more compelling than the alternative of getting up and actually doing something.

Avatar Deceptichum

My YT algorithms largely just recommend me the same stuff I’m subscribed to.

Although I did find myself addicted to scrolling through shorts for a week or two before I forced myself to stop.


I hide the shorts. They're ridiculously doom-scrolly.


I think you need to get busy yeah. Get yourself a time-consuming hobby.


What’s stopping you to do something interesting?

Thorny_Insight [OP]

Nothing really. I can still find pleasure in doing those things but it's starting that's diffucult. Opening my laptop and watching youtube is effortless. I guess it's also kind of an escape from all the things that cause me anxiety.

Avatar Timwi

I'm in the same boat as you (currently reading Lemmy/Kbin to avoid having to get out of bed), but occasionally I get bored of YouTube and similar instant gratifications too, and then I make a more concerted effort to do something more productive. This isn't easy and often doesn't last very long, but — as you correctly pointed out — it's starting the hard part. Once you've started something you know you'll enjoy, you can sink time into it.

Avatar ChaosCoati , edited

I noticed you said you never *go* to your making space. Is there a space you could set up in your house, ideally next to where you watch YouTube? I know for me especially when I want to relax, my brain picks the path of least resistance. So I keep my sketch pad and current knitting next to my favorite seat.

I also have a dedicated art area in my basement but go there far less often - and usually when I do go there it’s because I started sketching while watching TV and got inspired enough for that momentum to move me downstairs.

Thorny_Insight [OP]

Is there a space you could set up in your house, ideally next to where you watch YouTube?

Not really since my making space is a fully equiped workshop but I do take my laptop there sometimes and put on some stream on the background while doing other stuff. In all honesty I probably should just go there to watch youtube even when I have no intention to work on something because it's almost impossible to just sit there and not atleast start putting stuff back on its place.


I think that's the hard part. For me it's the same. Just like with getting a work out. I have a little gym setup that I can use, but it's the getting ready to use it that always stops me. Just switching my outfit and putting myself in the space is all I need to go in autopilot and start. Sometimes putting yourself into the position where you can easily begin doing the thing, is all you need to do it.


I found using a screen time app on my phone helped me become more aware of my screen time and habits. I would lock reddit/lemmy out after 1 hour of browsing throughout the day. I think there a similar apps available for the computer too thay block certain websites between certain hours or after a browsing time is exceeded.


I have some idea how my life would be different. I'd go out and spend more money doing stuff or buying random things to occupy myself when not looking at a screen. If no screen time then probably I'd still use a landline and talk with people for hours.


It was better before screens. Trust me. MUCH better.


Yeah nothing like working the factory for 18 hours lol


Give it a rest, will you? Not everything is a political statement.


Deleted by moderator


You’re not even aware of the irony in your statement, are you?

Avatar Bl4ze

What did you mean by this?


Go down the noise music rabbit hole.

Youtube is a noisy aggressive sensory overload now and it's freed up a lot of time to decompress. I honestly think the contrast is part of the experience, silence sounds so much better now.