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YouTube might seem like a harmless form of entertainment, but compulsively watching videos can negatively impact your education, career, relationships and mental wellbeing.
Domingo Cullen explains how binge-watching YouTube videos became his “drug of choice”:
“I would sit entranced, swelling my command of thoroughly useless information as YouTube gently wove its spell on me, drawing me deeper and deeper into its pixelated underworld. As one video finished, another one on a similar topic loaded, sucking me in for another five or 10 minutes. Half hours became hours became half days. And outside my window, the world whizzed on…”
Does this sound familiar?
In this article, we take a closer look at what makes the video-sharing platform so addictive and suggest effective strategies to help you or a loved one have a healthier relationship with YouTube.
Tech use out of control? Get immediate help for you or your loved one’s YouTube problem. Book a free Gameplan call now to learn if our program is the right fit for you.
Who uses YouTube?
YouTube is a free video-sharing and social media platform. Since its launch in 2005, and subsequent sale to Google in 2006, it has become the world’s second most-used social media network after Facebook.
Here are some statistics about the platform and who uses it:
- YouTube has over 5 billion monthly users worldwide – more than WhatsApp and Instagram.
- Countries with the largest YouTube audiences are India – 467 million users, US – 247 million users and Indonesia – 139 million users.
- People worldwide watch one billion hours of video on YouTube every day.
- More than 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube per minute – that’s around 30,000 hours of fresh content every hour.
- Users spends an average of 29 minutes and 37 seconds per visit on YouTube.
- 27% of users watch more than 10 hours of videos each week.
- The gender split is 9% male and 46.1% female.
- Men aged 25 to 34 are the platform’s biggest users:
- 18-24 years old – 8.5% male / 6% female
- 25-34 years old – 11.6% male / 8.6% female
- 35-44 years old – 9% male / 7.5% female
- 45-54 years old – 6.2% male / 5.7% female
- 55-64 years old – 4.4% male / 4.5% female
- Over 65 years old – 4.3% male / 5.4% female
What makes YouTube so addictive?
Although there are no specific YouTube addiction statistics available, it is estimated that 330 million people worldwide will potentially suffer from problematic internet use in 2022 and up to 10% of people in the US could have social media addiction.
In order to understand how YouTube is designed to be addictive, we only need to look at its algorithm. The sophisticated technology recommends videos based on your viewing history to entice you to keep watching. This can make it difficult to know when to stop as the content never runs out. According to YouTube’s product chief, 70% of what is watched on YouTube is based on algorithm recommendations.
Although, YouTube addiction is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the compulsive use of YouTube is often described as a behavioral addiction. Unlike addiction to drugs or alcohol, behavioral addictions do not involve a substance. However, the desire to experience a ‘high’ from the behavior – in this case binge-watching videos – can be just as strong.
Warning signs of YouTube addiction
As YouTube addiction is not an officially recognized condition, there is no agreed criteria for problematic use. However, here are some common warning signs that you – or someone you care about – may be addicted to YouTube:
- Spending hours at a time watching YouTube videos, thinking about videos or planning to watch videos.
- Feeling an uncontrollable urge to watch YouTube videos when away from the platform.
- Needing to spend more and more time on YouTube to find the same thrill.
- Trying to control, cut down or stop watching videos, without success.
- Having withdrawal symptoms – such as feeling irritable, restless or anxious – when away from YouTube.
- Turning to YouTube to escape from personal problems.
- Continuing to watch YouTube videos even when it has adverse consequences.
- Hiding YouTube viewing habits from others.
- Sacrificing sleep to watch just one more video.
- Unable to stop watching YouTube during other activities.
- Neglecting work, school, family, friends or other important life areas.
- Losing interest in all other hobbies and pastimes.
- Quickly reverting to YouTube overuse after taking a break from the platform.
How to stop binge-watching YouTube
Even if your binge-watching isn’t a full-blown YouTube addiction, it might still be causing problems in your life. If you want to stop wasting time on the internet, here are some steps you can take:
Clear your YouTube history
As explained above, to keep you wanting more, the YouTube algorithm combs through your search and watch history to recommend videos it thinks you would like. The best way to stop it is to delete this information. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to clear your YouTube history.
Set a daily YouTube limit
Check out our recommended screen time guidelines to help you decide on a reasonable amount of time to spend watching videos each day. Then, set a daily limit so you stop using YouTube when you reach that threshold.
Switch on the take a break reminder
On YouTube settings, there is a ‘take a break’ reminder to help you manage your usage. It will pause the video until you dismiss it or resume playing the video. For users aged 13–17, the take a break reminder is switched ‘on’ but for users aged 18+ or over, the default setting is ‘off’. Find out how to set a take a break reminder.
Turn off auto-play
The auto-play feature on YouTube bombards users with a constant stream of videos. You can turn off auto-play by using the toggle option on the watch page. This may make it easier for you to step away when a video finishes. Here are instructions for turning off auto-play on different devices.
Try a digital detox
If you keep finding yourself pulled back to watching videos, try a digital detox for 24 hours or longer. The goal is not to step away from YouTube forever but to use it in a more balanced way. Read our digital detox guide.
Delete the YouTube app
If a digital detox is not possible, try deleting the YouTube app on your smartphone. Restricting access to your desktop or laptop will help you be more intentional in your use and reduce the amount of time you spend mindlessly watching videos.
Delete your YouTube account
If none of the above approaches are working, and YouTube is still disrupting your life and causing distress, you may need complete abstinence. Learn how to delete your YouTube account.
Find new activities
Find other ways to fill your time so you aren’t tempted to spend hours binge-watching videos. Our hobby tool has over 70 ideas to inspire you.
Need help to break your addiction to YouTube?
If you or a loved one are addicted to YouTube, or have any other social media addiction, expert help is available. Our coaching program is designed to help individuals and families regain balance with technology.
Get in touch today to book your gameplan strategy call.