What a YouTube Star Can Teach Us About “the ball and chain of the Internet”

“There’s been times when I have been hanging out with friends, acquaintances, family, and I have not given proper attention to the task at hand when it comes to enjoying life, like I said, seeing things with these (gestures to eyes) instead of through a…smart phone, or a DSLR or a zoom lens.”

-Adam the Woo, YouTube personality

YouTube was mainly a place to listen to music or watch movie trailers until this past year when I discovered  Justin Scarred. I love his Randomland Adventures series on YouTube, especially since I am Disneyland fanatic and he often films there. Adam the Woo, another YouTube personality, has sometimes been featured in Justin’s adventures, and while at first I didn’t know of Adam, I learned that he had his own, even larger, following. Adam the Woo spent 5 plus years from July 2012 to September 2017 uploading daily vlogs (video blogs) to his YouTube Channel, “The Daily Woo” which has  about 150,000 subscribers. Adam often posted footage of his exploits exploring film locations, abandoned places, theme parks and other places that interested him.

While I’m not a dedicated follower of Adam the Woo, I found out through Justin Scarred that Adam was ending his daily vlogs. While he plans on creating new, more innovative content for YouTube in the future, posting daily online for over 5 years had taken it’s toll (1911 posts total!) and he is taking a hiatus from YouTube. I watched this final vlog out of curiosity and the situation he describes seems to me like an extreme form of what a lot of us are doing to ourselves in our own ordinary lives even if we are not YouTube sensations.

At the beginning it took him a little while to figure out where he was going with the vlog but then people started to catch on and enjoy it. He says, “And that became a very positive thing but it also became a downfall in ways where I felt required, all fault of my own, to be able to adhere to a strict schedule that I had set for myself, by filming all day, editing at night, uploading, putting it on private and making it live the next morning, and then the deja vu train would begin again the next day.”

He gave a full explanation as to why he felt he needed to quit vlogging every single day. Some of it was that it hindered him creatively. Some of it was that he was simply tired. But what really stood out to me is the way he described how this “hair brained crazy idea” had taken away from him being present and enjoying his own life. He says, “It has wormed it’s way into certain other aspects of my life and really started to make me realize how I’m not seeing life with my own eyes.”

Adam describes what seems to be a turning point for him where he realized that he had neglected to spend time with the people closest to him on his birthday to edit and film content for the vlog. He says that he wants to do things and go places that he loves without a camera in his hand. “I want to hang out with my friends like it used to be. I want to hang out with my family the way it used to be. Not always worrying and wondering what people are going to think, what people are going to say…”

All of this got me thinking of how a lot of us non YouTubers have a similar problem as Adam the Woo. Even if we are just taking pictures to preserve our memories, and even more so if we are posting a lot of these pictures and videos and status updates online, our minds have a habit of thinking of how the present moment will translate to an image, a video, or to our “audience” much like Adam the Woo did. With newer features like Stories on Instagram and Snapchat Story, our lives almost become like a mini YouTube channel. We also may be removing ourselves from the moment to obsessively monitor the reaction to something we recently posted.

Even if a person doesn’t post much online, phone addiction is still an issue. We lack the ability to sit without constant stimuli or without giving in to our compulsive curiosity about what is going on online. I recently went to a movie and the woman in front of me annoyingly kept checking her phone (the light is what bothers me most and though I’m not a confrontational person, a wave of anger came over me and I wanted to kick her chair). I intentionally spied on what she was looking to see what was so very important. She wasn’t even interacting with anyone. She was just opening up different pages on her phone, mainly Facebook I think, just to check.

I say this as someone who is weak in these same areas and who also has plenty of good things to say about smartphones, the internet, and social media. There’s a balance. It’s not about abandoning these things. At their best, they’re a really fun way to connect with others and be creative. But I think it’s about knowing when to turn the camera or phone or recorder off and really look at and enjoy what’s going on around you. It’s knowing when to have silence. It’s not constantly grabbing at your phone for entertainment, validation, attention, or whatever else ails you. To go back to Adam the Woo, people enjoyed his vlogs, and it seems like he enjoyed sharing and creating them, but he had gotten to a point where he knew he needed to turn the camera off for a while. Adam says as he concludes what his decision means for himself: “I’m going to just see the world, I’m gonna see things…without the ball and chain of the internet for a while. That’s what I’m going to do.” This might be good advice for some of us too.

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