It’s an age-old tale: You may see a link to a YouTube video online or get one sent to you by a friend. You watch it, you may enjoy it … and then you see something else that catches your eye. Before you know it, minutes or even hours have passed. You have just entered into the YouTube rabbit hole.
MTV described it well, talking about the process of falling down, down, down, which starts out innocent enough and then moves on to stages such as ignorance and acceptance. Just as Alice ended up in Wonderland, many of us find ourselves viewing content on pranks, unboxings, memes, gaming, skits, reviews, DIYs, and cute animals.
While it has led to the discovery of some entertaining information, it has also led to wasted time that we will never get back. And there is actually a sort of science behind this rabbit hole.
Systems are in place that suggest YouTube videos
In 2015, Google introduced a recommendation system that used artificial intelligence to mimic the human brain. It filtered through videos, matching people with suggestions that would hopefully keep them on YouTube. However, the recommended content could become a little redundant, leading to boredom (via Medium).
Next came Reinforce, a different type of A.I. that was created to help viewers expand what they saw and watch many more videos. We have all heard about the algorithm, and there really is a complex system in place — one that is updated frequently and one that takes into account impressions, watch time, popularity, uploads, engagement, and then some.
So while these recommendations help explain the rabbit hole, YouTube‘s managing director for the UK, Ben McOwen Wilson, says it’s not about falling down into an endless cycle of videos. “It’s what’s great about YouTube. It is what brings you from one small area and actually expands your horizon and does the opposite of taking you down the rabbit hole” (via BBC).
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