The YouTube learning trap

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The YouTube learning trap

Aashish Panthi
Β·May 17, 2022Β·

6 min read

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Ok, quick questions:

  • What was the educational video you searched for?
  • How many educational videos you've watched after finishing that video?
  • What is the ratio of educational and entertainment videos shown on your home feed?

The answer to the first question varies from person to person. But for the second and third questions, there should be an exact number. I have noticed for a while and found out I get boar after watching 2-3 educational videos in a row, which means I've only watched 2 or 3 educational videos after searching for an educational video.

Here, the educational video maybe a tutorial on how to make a todo app or a complete course on java, or perhaps it is a video explaining a physics concept.

Suppose I have to answer the third question. In that case, the ratio for an educational video to the entertainment or other form of content is 1:4 which basically means youtube recommends only 25% of videos from which I can gain knowledge and leave youtube with satisfaction.


Maybe you don't see the problem with the above segment and think that after all YouTube is there to generate a lot of profit and it is going to push content that keeps viewers to their platform, I think Google is that clever. Yes, it is a fact and we are also familiar that YouTube does this. But at the same time, content on YouTube is free and many people made their six-figure income after learning mostly from YouTube if not all.

Why YouTube is free? πŸ’Έ

If you don't have a youtube premium account then you need to watch a lot of ads. And YouTube Premium is not also available in most countries. So, one thing I want to clear out from your mind is that YouTube isn't free. YouTube will eventually squeeze out all of its revenue from its viewers. And YouTube costs your time, YouTube is free when you look at it from the perspective of money but if you really value your time then you know YouTube costs time, a lot of time.

Let me share with you my personal statistics, YouTube is opened in at least one of my tabs when I use a laptop no matter if I am learning a new programming language or just a new concept. It is there to help me and to be fair, it does its job quite well. And I also have a habit of listening to songs while coding, and I prefer to use YouTube. Again, not many subscription services are available in my country, so I cannot pay for Spotify even if I wish. So I am totally inside of a YouTube ecosystem. Learning a new thing, listening to music, getting some entertainment, and sometimes getting news(from some independent creators) in all these cases, YouTube is there with me every second.

Things could be different for you but a thing that I learned from my own experiences it that if YouTube is there for me to help me with every task then I am spending almost all my day on YouTube. That's where YouTube gets an opportunity. When I am watching some knowledgeable content, it recommends me 7-8 videos at the side, some are related to the content I am consuming while others have no relation to the content I am watching right now. Usually, these contents are entertainment contents and we tend to be satisfied with the time we spent on YouTube but inner us knows what we were there for and what we received from there.


Satisfaction trapπŸŽƒ

You are watching a video on how to make a responsive navbar using HTML and CSS, you see on the right side of the video there are a lot of videos related to either the same topic or a totally different topic. In most of the cases, you'll be recommended with a video titled how I got into FAANG without a degree or how I earn millions of dollars freelancing or a video talking about the best way to learn programming. Sometimes YouTube also recommends why coding is not for everyone, even if you are learning how to code.

90% of the time, you will click these videos. I can guarantee you that you haven't still finished making that navbar, but you have watched that distracting video for more than half of its length. Now you fall into the trap, the trap of satisfaction. You think that you knew about a developer's life in silicon valley or how a developer made millions of dollars after learning on his own. You feel like you gained much the value out of your invested time on YouTube but now is the time to reflect back on you and your plan of opening YouTube. You find that you were there to learn about how to make a navbar but at the end of the day you have watched 20 videos and still, your navbar is incomplete. That is what I call a satisfaction trap.

And I admit that I fell into this trap when I was very new to code. I used to watch a lot of these videos and start comparing myself with these developers. That is where you start procrastinating.


YouTube's algorithm πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’»

Why YouTube was initially developed? Of course to share videos. Starting from just a video-sharing platform to the second most popular search engine, YouTube has come a long way. And I am sure in this long journey, the business strategy of YouTube must have been changed. The algorithm is designed in such a way that if a video keeps viewers on its platform, push it further to more audiences. And in the middle of this, educational videos suffer to gain enough views.

If there are fewer views, or if viewers are leaving the video in the middle of it, why would YouTube's algorithm push that video? That is the reason why my home feed is filled with entertainment-related videos, not educational videos. And I say YouTube's algorithm is not made for educational videos.

If you have come this far, I want you to ask yourself some more questions.

  1. Why did you choose YouTube for learning?
  2. How much time on average do you spend on YouTube and how much you are satisfied with your time investment? If you haven't thought of it, it is the best time to consider this question.
  3. Do you really need YouTube videos to learn that thing or can you get the same level of knowledge from blogs or other documentation?
  4. Why YouTube would care about you?
  5. Can't you watch the same video in its embedded form from other websites?
  6. Is your learning passive or active?

Recently, I don't depend upon YouTube videos. Mainly because I don't find my exact requirement. But I find that on official documentation or a blog written by some random guy. Embedded youtube videos are helpful as we cannot find dozens of videos on its side. And while I am reading blogs, I am actively learning, it's not like I am sitting on a sofa and watching a tutorial and grabbing a handful of popcorn. While reading, I need to interact with the website, I need to scroll and I need to test the code myself. When I am learning the same thing outside from YouTube, I tend to lose 20% less time on things that I don't want and don't like.

If you have got any solutions that can help anyone in this trap to get out it, I would be more than happy to hear about that.

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