Getting Caught in the YouTube Trap

Shereeza Ibrahim. B.A.Psych, M.S.W, R.S.W.
Clinical Counsellor and Author

Have you ever started out simply watching one video on YouTube, but ended up 30 minutes or 1 hour later down “the rabbit hole”?  

What is the rabbit hole? It is believed the phrase originally came from Lewis Carroll’s novel “Alice in Wonderland”, when Alice fell down the rabbit’s hole, on account of her curiosity, and ended up in Wonderland.

Today the phrase is used to describe situations where we unwittingly end up getting deeply wrapped up in something… like when you start out watching one video on YouTube, but then watch the next suggested video which looks equally interesting.  You continue on to yet another suggestion, and then the next, until 8 videos later you end up watching something completely useless and unrelated to what you started with. Now that, my brothers and sisters is the YouTube rabbit hole. It has trapped you in and it has stolen your time.

Getting trapped in this rabbit hole can be regrettable when the content is useless.  But there’s a side of YouTube that is exciting and enriching!  Throughout this pandemic, many have found YouTube as a resourceful tool. I’d like to highlight a few channels that wouldn’t be such a useless rabbit hole to go down.

TED Talks is a YouTube channel that has an extensive and continually growing number of talks given by experts and inspirational speakers on topics ranging from human behaviour to technology to life-changing experiences. The talks are short and powerful.  I’ve walked away learning so much more about myself and the world around me.  It has been enlightening.  Give it a browse!  I’m sure you’ll find something that’ll hook you in.

Another interesting channel is SciShow which answers, in-depth, questions about the complex world around us, and maybe questions you never had, but now that you’ve seen the title, suddenly you need to know the answer.  There are videos like “6 Surgical Devices Inspired by Nature” or “What COVID and Snake Venom Have in Common”.  You will learn about everything from body functioning to geology to mind-blowing animal capabilities.

If you enjoy Quran recitation with English translation, search on YouTube: Omar Hisham Al Arabi. He is a young reciter of the Qur’an with a beautiful style that is quite relaxing. I recommend watching his video “Adh-Dhariyat” if you ever need help quieting and focusing your mind on something peaceful.

For short Islamic inspiration and reminders, the YouTube channel iLovUAllah has clips from various scholars, with titles like “Don’t Do This Online” and “Too Lazy to Pray Fajr? Watch This” and “A Solution to Feeling Lonely” or “If You Do This, Allah Hides Your Sins”.  The clips are short but impactful and very relevant to our everyday life. 

Another reliable resource for Islamic information and inspiration is our own Islamic Institute of Toronto YouTube channel, which has a large selection of lectures, tafseer, courses and daily duas.

Lastly, if you want work on self-development, understanding the way you think or if you want to overcome some of your habits, check out BrainCraft. It is hosted by a Behavioral Scientist.  Some of the videos featured include “5 Ways to Get Better Sleep” and “How to Stop Overthinking Everything”.   They are really useful.  I have shared quite a few with my friends and clients that I counsel.

Speaking of saving videos, I have one final tip regarding the rabbit hole. It’s one thing to find useful, inspirational, informative content, but it doesn’t mean you still won’t get stuck on there longer than you’d like to. If you have signed up for a free YouTube account, you will notice that underneath the videos there is the word “Save”. You can save the videos to watch later. This feature has changed my life and the way I moderate my use of YouTube.  Not sure how to do this? Search “How to use Watch Later feature on YouTube”.  You can also create your own folders (a.k.a. Playlist). Maybe you might decide to create a folder for Islamic Content and another one for Personal Development and another for Baking. 

I’ve only touched on a few topics but there is a wealth of useful and inspirational content on YouTube you can explore to enhance your quality of life. Perhaps you might want to pick up a new skill in creative arts, furniture refinishing, learn a new language or learn to cook international cuisines.  It’s all on there!

YouTube doesn’t have to be a mindless trap. There are amazing channels and a wealth of opportunities for you to become enriched! Use it wisely.

Author Profile:
Shereeza Ibrahim is a clinical counsellor and author. She is the owner of GTA Wellness Consultation (647-3344556) where she offers telephone-counselling services. She has been with the Islamic Institute of Toronto community for over 10 years and is now a monthly contributor to the IIT Newsletter.