Modeling the difference between a social gathering with and without the presence of YouTube videos.

Please Stop Playing YouTube Videos at Hangouts: An Empirical Modeling

February 19, 2015 / by / 1 Comment

Last weekend, I spent a Saturday evening at a friend’s place. There were about 8 or 9 or so people there. It was fine. We had a few beers, talked about whatever. Then someone had the idea to play a funny YouTube video for everyone on the television.

This seemed like a harmless proposition. “I like to laugh and other people like to laugh too. So what’s the harm in sharing some laughter with others?” I nodded with everyone else and agreed it was a nice idea.

So the video was played and we all thought it was funny and then our faces turned away from the television, ready to talk to each other/look at our phones again.

But then something happened. Some other guy, who I actually wasn’t friends with, to be honest, and didn’t really know except through mutual friends, stood up, cradling his Macbook in his arms, and said, his voice tinged with a tipsy incantation:

“You guys mind if I play a video? It’s really good.”

While this is, in fact, a perfectly natural follow-up to watching a first video, it was the catalyst for everything going to hell.

Because, reader, we had entered down the “YouTube Videos at a Hangout” hole. It is an inescapable chasm of despair and awkwardness from which no hangout can be saved; once a group of friends or acquaintances makes such a leap, they are all but abandoning any enjoyment that they desire to have for the rest of the evening; they are giving up, giving in to a complete and total social loss.

At first it may not seem such a horrible proposition. We’re all millennials, right? We all watch YouTube, right? So why not partake in such a group activity, share something that we all love with our friends, spread the hedonistic wealth, etc.? And besides, who just watches one YouTube video at a hangout? It’s weird to not follow it up with at least something.

Because, simply put, it’s a dumb fucking thing to do at a small get-together that slams any conversational momentum to a screeching halt, and also no one is going to find something you find funny as funny as you find it.

Take a look at the graph below:

YouTube Chart

This graph models the difference between a social gathering with and without the presence of YouTube videos. The green line shows “enjoyment” – measured arbitrarily on the vertical axis on a scale where 100 equals the starting entertainment level of a get together at the moment YouTube is either introduced or not introduced. The horizontal axis shows number of hours after that point.

I chose to model enjoyment with the somewhat-arbitrary-somewhat-completely-pulled-out-of-my-ass function:

U = 100-((2t)β)/2

Where U is the enjoyment gained from a hangout, t is time elapsed (in hours) and β represents the “YouTube Coefficient,” which represents the number of YouTube videos watched over the total time period.

The green line represents a control of this function, where β=1. Note that while enjoyment dips slightly, it dips at a very slow rate, showing that the hangout can carry on and be successful without someone opening up their computer to play a Bo Burnham video.

The blue line has a YouTube coefficient of β=2. Note that even a one YouTube-video increase leads to a dip in the quality of the chill sesh, with overall enjoyment at hour four of the hangout equating to about two-thirds of what it could have been.

Now observe the blue line, which has a YouTube coefficient of β=3. The results of this figure are startling: if three YouTube videos are watched over the course of one hangout, the results are incredibly disastrous, with enjoyment dropping into the negative as early as two and a half hours in.1

So what can we learn from this truncated study? Mainly that introducing YouTube videos to a friendly gathering has both short-term and long-term hangout effects that are potentially catastrophic. While viewing Lil Dicky’s “Lemme Freak” does not seem to create a great hampering on enjoyment, following that video up with Will Ferrell lip synching on Jimmy Fallon causes a long-term drop in overall enjoyment, while following that up with Mitt Romney doing the Ice Bucket challenge virtually stops the get-together in its tracks.

The point of this study, which still merits much more research, is to encourage those reading it to not fall into the trap of playing a YouTube video at a small party — or even worse, being that guy who suggests a second YouTube video at a small party after the first video has been played, as tempting and normal of an action as that may seem. There is no video in the world good enough, funny enough, or inspiring enough to better a hangout. Instead, try maybe, I don’t know, talking to the people around you. That may be the way to go.