Wednesday Workshop: The Inbetweeners

I don't watch movies, but I do watch the snarky review videos.

I don't play video games, I watch let's play videos.

I don't read books, but I read the Amazon reviews.

I don't visit other countries, but I watch travel shows.

I don't binge-watch TV, I just hit the summary articles for each episode.

I don't have an opinion on politics, but I do watch my confirmation-biased news channel of choice.

There is too much information out there to process, so we outsource our experiences to others and align our belief with the source that best fits our lifestyle. Like angry and sarcastic movie reviews, where every movie ever made is the worst one ever? There are channels for that. Like thoughtful and more filmist-oriented movie review experiences? There are channels for that. Let's tune in and get two hours of experience condensed into 15 minutes and all the best points pre-made and delivered to us so we can use them as our own.

Great, now I don't have to watch the movies and make my own opinions.

That saves me a lot of time.

Now I don't look stupid at the water-cooler, since I can just repeat what someone else said and look smart. I have no other way of keeping up. The information arms-race is too tiring to compete in and we have no way of relating to other people when they are similarly overloaded and unable to keep up themselves.

I asked someone at work what they thought of a movie. They made a sarcastic comment about one point in the film. I asked them if they saw it. They said they didn't, but they did watch the review. I said I didn't see it either, watched a review too, and feel the same way.

The movie gets left out.

More importantly any chance either of us had to make our own opinions is now gone.

I found myself watching snarky movie review shows on Youtube and agreed with all the points made. How stupid movies were today. How trash they all were. How I can't find one I liked. How I just gave up going out to the movies because I knew in a couple months the review sites would cover them all and it would save me a lot of time and money to just watch the funny review instead of spending all that time going out, buying tickets and popcorn, and sitting down with a bunch of strangers in a dark room to watch a movie for two hours.

At least at home I can pause it, I know, it is torture.

So I stopped going to the movies. The review videos on Youtube were it for me.

And I lost a part of myself.

I gave up my experiences to the inbetweeners, those among us smart enough to put themselves in a position of commerce between an infinite source of content and an infinite source of consumption, and do two things:
  • Condense the experience down in time
  • Provide ready-made opinions of why it is good or bad
This is a review, like a book review, right? In a way it is, this is what I do, or used to do. Book reviews condense an experience down into a series of opinions and try to do a service to the readers if a book is worth their time. They try to provide the key points on what interested them, what annoyed them, and if the book was any good or not?

So what is it about the inbetweeners that is so bad?

Nothing really. In a way, they are providing a review service with online video and instant information. They have every right, and in this day and age it is where you should be if you are a savvy web-marketer. They are equivalent to the old "101 quick meal tips" books you used to find in supermarkets, they provide an aggregation experience there is a market for in an area of commerce that is saturated with both producers and consumers, and act as a filter for information.

Here is where I went wrong.

They became my only source of information for me, and replaced my need to have an experience myself. To watch the movie. To binge on the TV show. To read the book. To play the game. To visit another place.

I outsourced my experience to others, and used their opinions as my own.

No matter how biased or silly they were, I had no other source of information on that subject than the review, which may have had errors or be intentionally satirical, as my own opinion - because I wanted to look smart in front of others. I didn't have time to keep up with everything, so I relied on other people to condense the experience and give me an opinion that pretty much lines up with my beliefs.

I felt smarter though. I really did.

And then it hit me I really wasn't.

The inbetweener was an open bottle of data-booze to me, ready to provide an instant source of information gratification.

So yes, in the end, it was me with the problem. It's me, not them. If you are a fan of these channels, don't feel slighted because they are some of the smartest people in this market and deserve to be making the money they do. We live in a world where we are at peak overload for information, and everyone is at each other's throats for any little reason. They help us keep up.

The problem is with me. It's me. I started cutting things out of my life and focusing on the things I do love and that do matter to me. I started narrowing my interests and making time to see things for myself, avoid spoilers, and coming up with my own thoughts about things. Even if my opinions about something were wrong (and I can admit that, unlike many these days), they were mine. I could evolve those feelings and thoughts to take in new information. I could relax. I cut out the rest and I was much happier as a result.

Could I take about everything to everybody at the water-cooler? No. But in the things I was interested in I felt my thoughts mattered. Other people confirmed this, if they wanted to know about something they came to me and asked me my opinion. I told them what I thought and encouraged them to go look into it for themselves. To have that experience. To see that movie before they spoiled it. To read a book. To avoid outsourcing an experience to others.

I still watch those review shows every once and a while, but I have a little more healthy approach to them. Like sugar, they can become addicting. These condensed experiences can replace knowledge and real-life experience. I will go see the movie first and give the filmmaker the first chance - I owe that to them since they took the time to make the damn thing, good or bad, let me see it first and form my opinion.

Then I can watch the review. Play the game. Or go do whatever they did and see their opinion of the experience. It's like watching a review of "top 10 reasons not to go to a national park" and one of the reasons is "too many damn bears." Is that a funny point? Yes. Should that replace my experience of possibly seeing a real bear (safely) or being where they live?

I don't think so.

That is something real you can experience.

Why would I give that up?

But really, there was a point where I found the review shows so entertaining that I didn't care. I wanted to see more. I didn't have the time to watch all those movies myself. Someone at the water-cooler may say "too many damn bears" and we all laugh.

So I started binging on them.

I felt they were adding to my experiences when really I was replacing them with artificial ones.

And like an addiction, you never know you have one until someone points it out to you.