Sophie and Eli stream YouTube on their phones—their version of Saturday morning cartoons. It’s 9:00am, they just woke up; I don’t know what time they go to bed. I can’t get a straight answer out of either of them. I’m asleep by ten each night. They stare at their five-inch screens and stifle a laugh now and then.
I’m not exactly sure what it means to stream YouTube. Obviously, I’ve watched YouTube before, but only those videos I sought out, searched for. Usually, it’s a video of a song I like, but sometimes it’s something educational. I learned how to replace the heating element in my dryer because somebody painstakingly shot a video of the steps involved.
But Sophie and Eli don’t enter search terms, they go with the flow. They watch the next video presented to them by YouTube. And then the next. They randomly bounce from topic to topic: watching a toddler shoot herself in the head with a Nerf gun, learning about nuclear physics from a TED Talk, judging a sandcastle contest, getting grossed out by binge-eating feats. They watch Vines about croissants, driving mum’s car, and roadwork ahead.
In 1975, I was thirteen, just like Eli is today. I watched The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour. Is YouTube really any different?