by Mike Vuono
March 15th, 2019
Thanks to the rise of social media and the human desire to seem important, “content” on the web now exists as this insanely, impossibly large garbage dump that is hidden away in plain sight simply by the fact that we aren’t looking for just any trash, we’re looking for our friend's baby pictures, or more likely, we're looking for videos where people buy $1000 worth of shit from Best Buy and open it all. So that’s what we find. It’s still trash, but we just don’t think it is.
According to this website that I can’t confirm or deny is using good data, Facebook has 250 million photos uploaded to it per day. 250 million. A day. Let’s say you decided “I’m going to look at every single image uploaded to Facebook yesterday” because you’ve gone mentally deranged and your life is an empty shell and has no real value to anyone any longer. Not my place to judge. Let’s also say that instead of just rapidly clicking through every image as fast as you can, you take 1 second to view each image. One single second to look at a given photo, and then move on.
So you’ve now been reduced to a human-machine hybrid thing, whose only job is to click a mouse as fast as possible without ever stopping. You are sort of viewing images also. This is your life now. But even under this “ideal” situation, in about 2 months time, more images will be uploaded to Facebook than you will ever be able to click through, let alone look at and actually observe. Like, that’s it. Your max viewing output for the entirety of your life has been overtaken and Facebook is humming along like it’s no big deal. It’d take ~60 years to look at all those images if you were just clicking through them without even actually looking at them. Life well spent, I say.
I understand this, to a degree. Everyone has a phone. Everyone takes pictures. You take a picture, upload it to Facebook, boom. Done. It’s easy. You want to share photos with friends and shit, sure. Whatever. Intellectually I understand how so many photos can be uploaded per day.
What is harder to really grasp, is Youtube videos.
Youtube lets you use it’s API to do enhanced searches with a few different filter options. I’m not smart enough to use this super powerfully, but I was able to get some ballpark numbers. I decided to search for videos with the keywords “trailer reaction” that were uploaded since May 1st of this year (so 14 days of uploads,) and are 20 minutes or longer. I don’t get the actual video length for these videos unfortunately, so I have to assume 20 minutes for each video. I’m not sure how well using the term “trailer reaction” will give us exactly the classic trailer reaction video, but I know the other search criteria is solid, so at the very least I’m doing a search that is basically like “yo show me 20 minute videos uploaded this month that are like trailer reaction videos or whatever.”
150,103 results. Quick math tells us that at a minimum, this is 2,085 days of unending video content. Over 5.5 years of relentless content. All uploaded this month. All, presumably, trailer reaction videos.
So, in the past two weeks, people set up a camera in front of themselves, watched some stupid movie or video game or whatever trailer, and filmed their reactions to that trailer. Approximately ~150,000 of these uploads were 20 minutes or longer. 20 minutes of trailer reacting, what even are these videos? A trailer is like three minutes, max. What are you talking about the rest of the time? And does it matter, like at all? No. Of course not.
More importantly, how does this much video content just, exist? This is two weeks of uploads of just a tiny subsection of videos. I didn’t look up general Youtube upload statistics because frankly I think my mind would collapse when hit with how big the numbers are. Andlsoecause I was too lazy to figure out how to do that search, but still.
So what does this mean? Content isn’t this slow trickle of highly curated or passionately created work any longer, it’s a tidal wave made up of smaller tidal waves of unfiltered hot garbage water that people just throw out into the void now. There’s literally more content out there just on Youtube than you could consume in ten lifetimes. People are putting some kind of effort into this content, at least enough to record and upload it. People likewise, aren’t watching it. Like statistically, most of this content is just going almost entirely unviewed. Ghost content standing in the darkened corners and cubbys of the internet, hidden away by Youtube’s search algorithm, lost forever.
This brings me to the point of: No one will read your blog. No one will watch your videos. No one will listen to your podcast. No one will see your images.
This can be discouraging for a lot of people, and it’s the reason why so many people try to “be a photographer” or something like that for a month and then give up. They start putting a lot more effort into their work and it gets zero views. You could just take a picture of your wall every night and upload it and it’d get the same views as your carefully crafted photographs. So why bother trying?
It’s in this content-avalanche nihilistic world we live in though, that we have freedom. No one is going to see the things you create, so create things that mean something to you. Create that weirdness. Take risks. Make stupid shit. Make bad art. Eventually bad art can become good art. Write that fan fiction crossover between X-Men and Full House; I want to see how Uncle Jesse and Wolverine get along. Take your picture a day and upload it. Make that surrealist video about getting lost in a hallway. No one cares. There’s too many trailer reaction videos that exist already for us to care that you uploaded an hour long reading of your own poetry. But you should do it anyway. This is about creating something that holds value to you, and no one else.
Creation has this sort of magic quality to it. The more effort you put in, the more it gives back to you, entirely regardless of how others actually receive it or not. The work itself gives you this sort of intangible feedback; maybe it’s just the satisfaction of working hard and seeing something through to the end. Whatever it is, it’s more important than some likes on Instagram or views on Youtube. So, go make your shit. I’ll keep making mine. And we’ll both get swallowed up by an avalanche of phone unboxing videos, never to be seen again.