33. youtube "study with me" videos are the only things that keep me writing rn
thinking about antidotes to loneliness
Hi there! 👋 I’m Ida, and this is tiny driver, a newsletter about research, pedagogy, culture and their intersections. Thank you for being here. Reach out anytime by just hitting reply, I love hearing from you.
📚 ✨ Thank you to those who filled out my AMA re: books on writing for a tiny driver book club. Feel free to contribute your thoughts or up-vote any that you're excited about! I was so heartened by the AMA responses and folks letting me know that they would be interested in a a book club! I'm currently in the process of planning and figuring out the logistics, so I'll keep you all up to date in the newsletter if you're interested. 🤩
I am coming to you from a very sunny day in Chicago, which is making me incredibly happy and also making me trot around in my apartment in a t-shirt with no! sweater! This is very exciting, as I have already gone through two (2) tubes of hand lotion this winter and don't think that my little, scaly fingers can take it much longer.
What I consume.
Another thing that I (and literally everyone else) can't take much longer: the pandemic. If you told me this time last year that I would be wearing a face mask while shopping at Target and that I wouldn't be able to hug my friends for a year, I honestly don't think I would have believed you. Yes, we did have some sense that this illness was present in our world, but wowowow. It's hard to remember what my day-to-day was like in the before times.
I've written in the newsletter about the various ways in which the pandemic has changed not only the way that I research but also the way that I write and seek support when writing. One critical aspect to my pre-pandemic writing practice that I haven't yet shared is my deep love of writing in public spaces.
The pandemic made me realize that I am an extrovert—that I feel great energy in the presence of other people. Previously, I had always seen myself as an introvert; I love cozy nights in, I'm shy when meeting new people and really have to put myself out there. And this is still true. But I neglected to understand the ways that being around other people in some capacity—feeling their energy, feeling life around me—was so critical to my own productivity.
I think that's why I always studied in libraries as an undergrad and grad student. In college, I had my little study haunts that I frequented with great regularity—to the point where I started making friends with people who I would regularly see in the reading room. When I needed a break, I would sit on the worn, orange chairs and put my feet up for a couple minutes before going back to work. It also didn't hurt that my favorite place to work also looked like a castle:
In grad school, I continued to work at the library even though it was way less cute. I wrote and revised every single one of my final papers in the grad student space (*key card access only* & *feeling v. special*). I'm also pretty sure that I wrote a majority of my dissertation on one of the two large Mac computers that I would snag a good deal of weekend mornings. With the help of some noise cancelling headphones, I started to move outside the library, and frequented cafés that had the perfect black tea & substantial snackies. (As much as people love the café sounds & vibes, I get too distracted with these noises and end up just staring off into space—hence, the noise cancelling headphones.)
It was always because of the people. What kept me going was seeing other students, just like me, do the thing that I was doing. We were in this together. I didn't know them, they didn't know me, but there we were. Working together. I loved that anonymous camaraderie. Being alone together.
This year obviously changed all that. Forced to work in my apartment, I feel like my productivity took a nosedive. It wasn't necessarily the distractions of my environment; although I work in the same place that I eat and read for fun and watch tv, I don't really forgo my work for these competing interests during my working hours. Rather, it's really...the loneliness. I can no longer get a jolt of energy from the person typing away on their laptop or turning a page of their book. That sense of solidarity or joy in the work that we were doing was severed.
Sure, I tried working with friends over zoom, but I ended up just wanting to talk to them. And I've also found some free zoom writing groups, but the hours don't always work. I just want a space where I can go whenever I have time and have another soul doing the same thing I am. What was I to do?
Enter: "Study with Me" videos on YouTube.
Earlier this year, I wanted to write about this video genre for some tech or lifestyle publication. This was my pitch:
Essay – How YouTube "Study with Me" Videos Feeds the Need for Workplace Solidarity
There are thousands of videos on YouTube that are upwards of 2.5 hours and feature people at their desks...working silently. These "Study with Me" videos have become incredibly popular for those too lonely or unmotivated to work alone, with some single videos gaining over 5 million views. How did these videos come to be such a popular part of internet culture, and what psychological need do these videos fill, especially in these COVID-filled times? I plan to talk with some of the YouTube creators making these videos, as well as do research on the psychology of workplace sociality to make the case that these videos are a new iteration of the parasocial relationship that is central to what makes YouTube's platform so successful.
Please note: references to "those too lonely or unmotivated to work alone" or uncovering this "psychological need" were all...about me. Yeah, they were about me. 😅 (Also can someone actually pitch this & report the piece?? I'd be interested to read about the psychology behind it!)
But it is really interesting!! And weird!! These videos of other people who I don't know studying for hours with a cozy light behind them, their laptop, and maybe some plants seems to fulfill the same sense of "anonymous camaraderie" that the library gave me. There are videos with and without ambient music, ones that incorporate the pomodoro method, and ones that run anywhere between thirty minutes and seven hours. What's nice about this is that I can turn it on if I have a spare half-hour or a full morning to work. I know that they'll always be there.
Writing that last sentence, I feel as though I am teetering the line between reality and a Black Mirror episode, but I feel like there have been worse analogies made to the series over the past year, so I'm cutting myself some slack.
While it was a bit jarring at first to know that I was taking comfort in someone's past self recording their reading and writing, I began to just feel comfort knowing that they had gotten through that work at the time they were recording. After all, the video was edited and uploaded, there's a timestamp that's over fifteen minutes. So, after a while, I figured if they can get through that chunk of time, so could I.
Item(s) of note.
Journaling prompts from Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (BayNVC).
High-key would make an illustrated syllabus like this if I had any artistic talent.
Yoga poses for anxiety relief.
I don't know why I'd ever need a blob generator, but I'm glad that I learned about this one.
I’m really hoping this is true.
After 8PM, our view of Girlie is exclusively her tummy. Who wouldn't want to pet that little belly:
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!