Why you always end up watching cat videos on YouTube

Starting from a spindle on Youtube
It starts with a spindle.

I always go to YouTube for good reasons. For example, I want to watch a person build an emergency shelter in the forest or forge a battleaxe.

Maybe I succeed. But then, inevitably, I click through to a few related videos and end up watching Russian contortionists jump motorbikes through burning hoops while juggling chainsaws. (If you find a video of this, please tell me because I really want to watch it.)

I don’t know how this happens. Maybe it’s the YouTube fairies or the wicked witch of YouTube.

But it’s not unknowable. I only don’t know because I’m not paying attention. I’ve therefore decided to map my progress through YouTube videos and see where I end up by clicking only on the suggested related videos.

Why don’t you come along for the ride?

Entering the YouTube river

I go to Youtube. Because I live in New Zealand, I’m helpfully presented with the NZ version of YouTube which, not to knock this great country, kind of sucks.

So my first step is to go right to the bottom of the page and switch to the US version. I also log out so my past browsing history doesn’t affect the videos I see.

I haven’t even entered a search and Youtube thinks it knows what I want to watch. The top row is “Trending”, and offers the options:

  1. Mariah Carey NYE performance mess!
  2. New Year’s Eve – Times Square in 4k – EarthCam
  3. Fifty Shades Darker- (TV Spot2) (HD)
  4. Austin Rivers Pushes Referee, Gets Ejected | Clippers vs…

I can’t say I’m enticed to watch any of those. I think Fifty Shades Darker is related to Fifty Shades of Grey, the book that rode to glory on a tidal wave of indignation and now-socially-acceptable secret fetishes. I haven’t read the book, but I think I might have to at some point, if only to see what all the fuss is about.

But I’m not here to look at popular culture or badly behaved sportspeople.

The priests in my fantasy novel spin with drop spindles as a form of meditation, so I have to figure out what a drop spindle is and how it works.

The first video: How to Spin on a Drop Spindle

I search for “drop spindle”. The first video that comes up looks promising. It’s called “Basic Drop Spindle Tutorial” and shows a smiling girl holding some yarn attached to a spindle. It has 71,675 views, which seems like a lot. I would click on it, but it’s 12 minutes long, and I don’t think I can sit through 12 minutes of how to spin.

I pick video number three, “How to Spin on a Drop Spindle“, which has 85,517 views and is thankfully only 4 minutes long.

It’s a very helpful video. I learn how to attach my leader yarn to the spindle, overlap it with the yarn I’m spinning, and do the whole twisty thing. Very impressive. I can also see how it’s likely to go wrong–the yarn ends up with goitres in some sections and other sections that are one hair thick.

But never mind, the priests get a lot of practice.

It’s a great tutorial for beginners, but what I don’t see is what the whole process looks like when done by an expert at full speed.

I’m just about to search for “advanced spinning drop spindle”, but I decide to check out the other videos YouTube suggests first.

The second video: Spin like you’re Scottish

I see a video called “Spin like you’re Scottish“, that shows a woman in what might be some kind of traditional attire, holding a spindle. I have to look.

Yep, she really has dressed up to demonstrate a particular type of Scottish spinning. The first half minute of the video is hilarious, but then she gets into the demonstration and it’s a bit more technical than I can sit through right now. It’s also nine minutes long. (Yes, I have a short attention span online. There’s no need to be rude about it.)

My eye is caught again.

The third video: Spin like you’re Medieval

The same mature woman in medieval clothes and great braids demonstrates how to use several different types of medieval spindle. What I can’t get over is the bundle of unspun wool she’s holding in her other hand. It’s blue and poofy with a few ties around it and pins through it, and it looks like a stick of blue candy floss with its hair tied back.

I’m also offered “Spin like a Viking”, “Spin like a Ghost”, and “Dressing a Naked Distaff” (which is probably less saucy than it sounds).

But these are all by the same woman, so I take a different direction.

The fourth video: How to Turn Wool into Yarn

And I find myself on Cold Antler Farm, whatever that is. It really covers the whole process. The sheep sniffs the camera and donates a clump of wool to the host.

First we’re going to wash the wool.

Then you’ll need hand carders. These are expensive. But they’re a lot like dogs brushes, which are cheap. They straighten out kinky wool, though I understand these days kinky wool is just as acceptable as straight wool. It is 2017, after all.

When we finally get around to washing the wool, the turkeys are watching. There is something supremely creepy about turkeys (there was even before I learned that they run really fast). I think they’re thinly disguised dinosaurs, and they’re watching you for the moment you figure it out so they can peck out your tongue.

I’m not sticking around to get mutilated by turkeys. Onwards.

The fifth video: Goats vs Sheep

This sounds like some kind of epic gladiator battle. The goat in the thumbnail is really rather cute. I hope it wins.

It turns out to be about advantages and disadvantages of keeping sheep versus goats. The video is nine minutes long, so let me sum it up for you.

  • Sheep have wool. (But maybe some goats do too.)
  • Goats get sick less. Maybe. Sheep act stoic until they fall over dead.
  • If you have one goat it will imprint on you like a familiar. It’s unclear if this process enhances your magical powers, but it might be worth a try.
  • Goats = dogs; sheep = cats.
  • Goats won’t keep the grass down. They’ll eat the washing and the poisonous plants (and get sick) while the grass grows up to your knees. They’ll also jump on the neighbour’s car.
  • Sheep wear their houses. Goats want a backyard cottage, preferably with room service.

The sixth video: Funny street fight with sheep and goats

You can’t expect me to not click on a title like this when it comes up in the sidebar. Especially when the thumbnail has a guy cycling down the road with a goat on his back.

First we have a guy playing matador with a sheep. The sheep wins and I am pleased.

A goat pushes over a little girl. Bad parents, but she looks fine.

A goat defeats a (very slow-moving) motorbike. Well, they should have been going faster.

Dog vs goats. It’s hard to tell who wins. Someone should butt the cameraman until he learns to hold the camera steady.

It goes on and on, and I remember that any YouTube video that says it’s funny probably isn’t. (And rinky-dink music doesn’t make it funny.)

I seem to have drifted into a netherworld of animal attacks. There’s only one way out.

The seventh video: Happy goats

I have to mute the music, which is too annoying for words.

Okay, in silent mode these goats are kind of adorable. Did you ever see a cat ride a goat? Do you want to? How about a goat ride a donkey? (Or is it a mule?)

No, it’s not adorable kittens, but we’re close and I bet I could get to kittens in another video or two.

I am goat. I rule YouTube.
I am goat. I rule YouTube.

The verdict

All YouTube tributaries lead to cute animal videos.

It seems that in just seven videos I went from watching people make yarn with a drop spindle to watching goats jump on a trampoline. Maybe I should give up and have the priests herd goats instead.

So if you’ve ever wondered how you always end up watching cute animal videos on YouTube, now you know.


Where has the YouTube river taken you? Have you ever managed to stay on topic?


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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

13 thoughts on “Why you always end up watching cat videos on YouTube”

  1. I love YouTube! I get sucked up in these weird rivers all the time. I mainly watch movie and game reviews, but somehow I’ve also ended up watching weight loss diaries, bizarre makeup tutorials, and some guy interviewing a guinea pig. The fluffy animal videos are the best – or the worst because I don’t get tired of them and they end up swallowing hours of my time…

    LOL, goats vs. sheep… My family had pet goats when I was growing up. They would jump on anything. They would eat anything. They came up with pranks just to annoy you. On the positive side they were immensely human-friendly straight from birth, but if you want to have an easy life, pick sheep. 😉

    1. A guy interviewing a guinea pig. That’s awesome! YouTube definitely has an ocean of weird stuff and is a great (=terrible) time sink.

      I had a pet lamb when I was a kid. It’s a good thing he couldn’t climb fences, because I would have found him in the house with me. (I did take him inside, but he tended to pee on the carpet.) He only ate willow and Cruskits.

  2. Ha ha, this is perfect!!! A similar analysis can be applied to when you get on Pinterest to search for serious art tutorials and wind up spending hours reading funny Star Wars and Marvel memes. At least, that’s what happens to me…

    1. I swear they do it on purpose. Art tutorials, eh? Here are some of those. But I bet you won’t be able to resist clicking on this Star Wars fan art, or this Star Wars meme.

  3. This has to be the most unconventional post I have ever read. Seriously. Wow. Thank you for this. It’s hilarious, which is to be expected when I click on your stuff. Haha!

    1. Aw, thanks! I didn’t set out to be unconventional, but the problem with saying the things other people say is that other people say them so much better. 😉

  4. I mean, that just sounds like good audience engagement on YouTube’s part. We might be searching for highly technical videos, but what we really want, deep down in some dark, primal place we all pretends doesn’t exist, is videos of cute animals.

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