I am not on Facebook and I have a Twitter account that is managed by someone else. I do not have a problem with social media so much as the opposite. I think it’s terrific technology and I do not have the discipline to stay away from it. Were I to access it, I would find it difficult to stay away and that would not make me productive.
The one place where I make an exception, and I do not even know if it qualifies as social media, is YouTube. I think it is, because I recently noticed that I was getting friend invites on YouTube (the first one was from my aunt, which I ignored). I suppose the thing that is “social” about YouTube is that you could share videos and people would know what it is that interests you.
Since I have the above-mentioned reluctance to immerse myself in the thing, I thought I should share in print what interests me on YouTube.
It is obvious that the website — is YouTube a website? I am not entirely sure — is a great resource for nostalgia. All the songs that one grew up with and which were hits a long time ago and therefore unlikely to get airplay now can be found and enjoyed on YouTube. But where it really shines is in its ability to send you content of the sort that you are interested in, without knowing exactly what it is that you want.
I am referring to the channels. It interested me to know that the most subscribed-to channel is something called Pewdiepie, run by a Swedish man who is not yet 30. I could not understand the content (and if some reader can enlighten me on this, please write in) but I believe he is very popular with the young. He is in the news because of a battle he is fighting over the number 1 spot on YouTube. He was dominant for a long time, head and shoulders above the rest. But for the past year or so, the Indian music company
T-Series has been adding subscribers rapidly. Both Pewdiepie and T-Series now have over 72 million subscribers, which is an astonishing number for an individual, though it is much more understandable for the music company.
Of course T-Series has no interest in challenging an individual, but Pewdiepie has made it an epic battle, issuing songs dissing (I hope I am using the word correctly here) his opponent and making fun of Indians generally. Our fierce nationalism has entered the picture and many online Indians are taking part in this, predictably taking things personally. I am more relaxed and find it amusing and I hope Pewdiepie holds out but I suspect it will not be for long because the numbers always favour India.
I notice that I have seven channels that I have subscribed to. Whenever there is new content from one of them it shows up on my feed. Four of these are from people dealing with watches. I am fascinated with horology (as the art of watchmaking is called) and have always been. I was in school when the quartz revolution was giving way to the digital age. The black Casio calculator watches were very popular at that time with my wealthy friends. However, I was interested in the mechanical watches and in particular a blue Seiko automatic that a classmate had.
YouTube is a great resource for nostalgia. All the songs that one grew up with and which were hits a long time ago and therefore unlikely to get airplay now can be found and enjoyed on YouTube
A visiting step-uncle was wearing something similar and, noticing my interest in it, took the timepiece off to give to me as a gift. Unfortunately, my mother intervened and said that it was not right for me to accept something so expensive as a present.
The four channels that I subscribe to continue this fascination for these highly expensive and desirable objects. Even though it is unlikely that I will buy another watch (I already have six), it fills me with joy to look at the video reviews of these things. The four channels are Hodinkee, A Blog to Watch, Watchfinder and Watchbox.
Mechanical watches are quite useless as a tool and our phones keep much more precise time than even the most expensive Patek Phillippe or Vacheron Constantin, but they are precious because of the fact that they are mechanical and often handmade.
The fifth channel is an Indian one called Village Food Factory. It has over 2 million subscribers and uploads videos every other day or so. The production is basic and each video is about 10 minutes long. It shows a man, probably about 65 or so, cooking. He often makes unusual things, like tripe (the stomach of a cow) or giant ostrich feet or goats’ heads.
He always cooks in a field on a fire he kindles himself. Having broken the twigs and lit the flame, he prays to it three times and then begins to cook. He doesn’t have chef-like skills in chopping and so on, but his style is quite relaxed. This makes it soothing to watch. He speaks only one language, I think it is Tamil, and does all the cleaning and chopping and cooking himself. Often the result of his efforts is fed to the poor of the village and that is terrific.
The sixth channel is called NativLang and has half a million subscribers. It looks at something that has long fascinated me, after I read a book by Plato called Cratylus, which is on the sound of words.
NativLang has episodes with names like “What Genghis Khan’s Mongolian sounded like”, “Why Danish sounds funny to Scandinavians” and “How long can a language last before it is unrecognisable?”. The videos are short, informative and highly entertaining. Meaning that one can watch them without feeling guilty (as I do: I am not sure if many other people feel guilty about spending time on their phone).
The last channel is called LongBeachGriffy and has about three-quarter of a million followers. It has 60-second videos by a young Black American man, who is one of the funniest people I have seen. He scripts and acts things as diverse as a parody of an iPhone launch and a wonderful series of rap songs by someone who is gay but in the closet. He is an outstanding talent and it is a miracle of our age that with no marketing, he can be accessed and appreciated by a man in India, who finds that his one minute of entertainment can greatly brighten up the day.