Some people, usually middle-aged people such as myself, say that age is just a number. But what does that even mean?
Why do we give numbers power over us?
Some people avoid the number 13. Professionals tend to avoid using the numbers 69 and 420 where they can. Most people on the internet, whether they hail from America or not, know the importance of 911 – or 9/11.
Numbers represent certain things – sometimes literally. You couldn’t read this article if some clever clogs hadn’t figured out how to use 0 and 1 to make computers work.
Another bunch of numbers that might be affecting your life (however subtly) are the various algorithms on social media. Most people know the basic idea behind social media algorithms, but for those who don’t, it’s quite simple: Any given social media platform wants your attention as long as possible, so they try to serve you more content you’ll like, based on the content you’ve already interacted with.
YouTube Numbers: After I Lost An Argument
For example, I once had an argument with my eldest kid about cancel culture – I was for it, they were against it.
They managed to make me understand that I only felt that way because I’d been raised (i.e. conditioned) to view punishment as the best way to deal with social issues. This blew my mind because I don’t think of myself as that kind of person – and yet there I was, using the court of social opinion (which I actively hate) to judge people.
I mention this because James Charles (the host of a poplar beauty channel/vlog) came up in the conversation. I believed a certain rumour about him, which she pointed out was false and then let me know that James Charles himself addressed it in a video.
Later on, in the spirit of doing the right thing (and totally not because I was ashamed that my kid had been the adult in that conversation), I looked up the James Charles video and soon found I wasn’t just wrong, I’d also been incredibly lazy in my research. I guess if it’s not video games or comics I tend to just accept what I hear, so it was a huge learning moment for me.
For the next month, I noticed a huge increase in beauty channels/vlogs on my YouTube Recommended feed. While I really enjoyed that one video James did, I’m not really into beauty stuff. I didn’t follow up on the beauty channel stuff in my recommeded – so eventually my feed returned to its pre-James state.
That’s what I mean about people giving power to numbers – the alogrithm had decided I wanted to see more beauty channel stuff, and I had to actively choose other videos (or passively choose against beauty channel stuff, depending on your viewpoint) in order to purge my Recommended (and Play Next) free of the content I wasn’t interested in.
But more than the algorithm, there’s another number that’s affecting my YouTube experience: My age.
YouTube Numbers: Age Can Define What We’re Comfortable With
When I was a young lad growing up, we didn’t have fancy things that todays kids have, like ‘the internet’.
No, seriously – I grew up in the ‘80s, when the internet was still mostly just a joint military-academia project. Hell, the place I grew up on only had two TV channels available. It was a very different time for entertainment, back when people still paid money for music.
On top of that, I’m incredibly reclusive. With very few exceptions, I only leave the house for work and family.
All of this adds up to me, today, not knowing the first thing about youth culture, which matters because I’m one of the pluses in LGBTQ+ – I’m an ally.
Back in my day (and I promise I won’t use that phrase again) we only had to treat someone with respect, and everything else took care of itself. If someone identified as male or female, you treated them as such and everyone moved on with their lives – although this might be due to the fact that I look and act like a white CIS male, and there were probably struggles I didn’t see.
It’s not like that now, though, is it? The internet has given a voice to marginalized people everywhere.
And now, everything is all ‘correct pronouns’ this and ‘identity politics’ that. It’s like, being a decent person comes with homework now. Homework which I’m more than happy to do, but it’s hard to know where to start.
This, somehow, lead me to discover certain YouTube channels. These channels are run, for the most part, by young adults.
YouTube Numbers: Our Age Doesn’t Need To Define Us As Viewers
I come from an age where you listened to your elders and where kids were told to keep queit.
That always bothered me as a kid, like, if someone is correct it’s got nothing to do with their age, surely?
I find that attitude serves me well here. I’m more than happy to listen to people half my age, because they know better than I do. That’s why I’m going to their channels – to find out what certain terms mean, what things not to do, and to learn about the kinds of things that other marginalized people have to deal with.
There’s a part of me that feels weird about it. Like I shouldn’t be watching that content. Like I should be watching the middle-aged YouTubers instead. Like I’m at the wrong party – or more to the point, I’m at the correct party but 30 years too late.
They’re not doing anything to make me feel this way – in fact, this generation of feminists seem to understand that feminism is about equality (and not just random verbal manbashing, unlike most of their forebearers). It’s just that I get tired of having to look up certain terms that I don’t recognise (like simp, vibing, and TERF).
But hey – if I have to do homework to understand the struggles of those younger than me, I’ll do that. It’s what I would have liked to have seen from the adults around me when I was growing up, so it’s only fitting.
Say what you want about these modern times, but I’m glad to hear from the youths in their own words – and not just from a friend of a friend of a friend who owns a book about it.