He got a number of people replying with their own tonic videos: the view from a Norwegian train as it wound its way from Trondheim to Bodø, people walking through Japanese forests, and 4K GoPro skiing.
It reminded me that I’ve been doing the same thing, including spending hours watching a Chinese farmer plant crops, cook food, and build a cat-shaped bread kiln.
While in the vast majority of these cases the videos pre-date Covid-19, clearly something about them has drawn people in, even those who may have scoffed at watching YouTubers or streamers before.
Boredom, free time, and the search for new content all play their part, but what if there’s something else that’s attracting us to this type of content?
What nearly all of them have in common is that they offer the viewer the chance to live vicariously, and to explore some inaccessible part of the world. The videos are often more personal and intimate than a regular TV show, too.
With that in mind, this bulletin is split into two-parts. Today we’ll be looking at living vicariously through the internet, and on Monday we’ll be looking at how people are ‘exploring from home’.
I’ll have what they’re having
Living vicariously through online videos is nothing new. The Hidden Brain podcast covered the topic back in February 2019. That offered a bleak view at times though, suggesting that as we watch more videos of people woodcarving or cooking, we feel guilty that we’re not putting time into learning these skills ourselves.
But 2019 was a different world. While many have made valiant efforts to learn new skills under Covid-19, there is full sympathy (from us at least) for those who haven’t. It’s a pandemic. We’re stressed, people are out of work, parents are having to homeschool, and so on. There often isn’t even time to feel bad about it.
Whatever the case, talk of vicarious living is up.