What is the point of watching other people do things?

This idea first popped into my head as I was scrolling through YouTube and came across a gaming channel. A gaming channel, if you don’t know, is a YouTube channel where someone plays video games and provides (often humorous) commentary.

Why would someone watch another person play a video game when they can just play it themselves? Not everyone has access to a gaming console, true, but many games are pretty inexpensive and can be played on a computer — still, people opt to watch.

And it’s not just with video games.

Let’s look at cooking shows. There are tons of cooking shows, on television and online.

I mean, sure, if you wanted to learn how to make the perfect corn on the cob for your Fourth of July backyard bash, I suppose you could find an episode of “Barefoot Contessa” or (and I hope people don’t actually do this) look up a “Tasty” video on how to do it. But how often do cooking show viewers actually go out and cook that dish?

In my own experience, I’ve done it twice. Only twice in my entire life, and I love the Cooking Channel.

How about vloggers and online personalities who make a living off recording and sharing all their crazy stunts and travels on social media? How do they get their viewers? It’s easy to see the draw — who has the time to tramp around Cambodia, or the money to afford the best hotel in all of Paris?

It’s much easier to watch someone else do it and live vicariously through them.

My theory, reader, is that we are all quite lonely. In all these forms of entertainment, there’s a common thread of connection.

The person making the video is always talking to whoever is watching, and that creates a virtual connection. That connection can bring familiarity, comfort, and company.

When you’re watching someone play a video game, you’re getting a chance to spend time with this person, to get an insight on who they are, what they’re like.

This is why people love Ellen and Oprah so much. In their shows, they talk directly to the camera, empathize with their viewers, and try to create a connection so that people keep watching day after day.

This isn’t a bad thing. Sure, a virtual connection isn’t the same as an in-person one. But sometimes, people need a safety net.

The person you’re watching will never turn around and betray you, will never insult you, never leave you. It’s a relationship without risk, because the person on the screen doesn’t actually know who you are.

In reasonable doses, this virtual connection can serve as a great way to relax and pass the time. It’s only a problem when fabricated relationships start replacing real ones.



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