Weirdest youtube videos according to FS magazine ()Weirdest youtube videos according to FS magazine () © Copyright

What are you watching??

YouTube was launched on 14 February 2005, and in the 12 years since, 49 billion minutes of footage have been uploaded to the site. If you were planning to watch every minute of every clip, it would take 93,000 years – so unless you work nights at a car park, you can probably write off ever catching up.

Intrigued by just what is out there, though, we set our man a task – to spend some time delving into the deepest corners of YouTube to find out just what strange stuff all these people are watching.

The YouTube most-watched videos list begins pretty predictably. The 50 videos with a view count exceeding one billion are all music videos. Psy’s Gangnam Style tops the list (2.8 billion views at the time of  writing!), then the pop A-listers like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga are right up there – hardly surprising given the site has become the world’s leading listening spot.

There’s a place, too, for the lazy parents of this world, given both ‘Little Baby Bum’ and ‘Masha and the Bear’ – weird kids’ shows – are approaching two billion views.

You can go down a wormhole on YouTube and quickly find strange stuff – the kind of business with 45 views (cemetery toilets, anyone?) – but that’s not really the point of this list. What we’re interested in is the seemingly strange stuff that somehow has hundreds of thousands or millions of views.

It’s once you get past the official stuff (like music videos and TV shows) that things start to get a bit weird. Slow-mo bullets, gunge foetuses, food challenges and a 32-minute video of a guy cleaning a gun. Come join my weird YouTube journey…

 

1. ASMR

Shh, let’s take it easy for a while – the next set of YouTubers deliver stuff in calm whispered tones.

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a reaction that some people feel to certain sounds and textures in their head, neck and spine, which triggers a sensation of tiredness. On super sensitive microphones, vloggers webcam the experience for viewers. I don’t really know anything about it, so I’m going to live report my watching of 10 triggers to help you sleep, by ‘ASMR Darling’. It’s got 10 million views, so it must kind of be a thing. Maybe it’s for me. Let’s find out!

[Everything is whispered.]

A make-up brush rubbed against a microphone… for two and a half minutes. We’re off. Next up, she taps her fingernails on a tupperware box with three safety pins in it. Then she takes out the safety pins and taps them. Then she puts them back in and taps it a bit more. Next a tiny vase. She just taps that for a bit, then blows across the opening like it’s a bottle.

So far this has just been strange. I’m not really feeling relaxed.

Trigger four is a book. OK, yeah, reading – that’s a normal relaxation method. But no, this book’s not for reading, it’s for tapping. I AM WATCHING A WOMAN TAP, RUB AND SCRAPE A BOOK!

At the end of that bit, she goes “I guess that’s all we can do for now.” NO! You could read the book, in your whispery voice. I’d probably be into that – you can do so much more with a book.

Masking tape is next, which she slowly unpeels and sticks to the side of her head. Next she taps a jar for a bit, then gets a bigger one with water in. She dips a scrunchie in it, drips the water back in, gets some more tape and puts it on her face. It’s all going off!

I guess if ASMR is your thing, you’ll be losing the plot at this point. She slowly scrapes a match along the side of a matchbox, strikes it, lights a candle, then gets some scissors and chops at midair; pretends to cut hair; shakes some change in a bowl. Then for the final trigger, she scrapes a fake plant in a wooden box. The end. Half an hour of my life I’ll never get back – man, that was boring. No, it’s not for me, but who am I to judge? I routinely rewatch Alex Iwobi interviews.

As well as ‘intentional ASMR’, there’s also a subcategory termed ‘unintentional ASMR’. Under that guise, 16,000 people have watched a 32-minute video of a bloke cleaning a vintage pistol from 1911.

Here’s a comment I like: “An ASMR video containing metal scraping (love it), no talking (preferred), AND A GUN?? Where has this video been all my life?

Whatever floats your boat, user Daniel MacKinnon. I can’t describe it except very literally. ASMR Unboxing iPad Air (382,343 views) must be really ticking his boxes.

 

2. Let’s Play

Since the advent of the console, parents have worried about their children spending too much time in front of the screen and not enough time running around, playing sport, kicking bins.
But then, in an even more worrying turn of events, computer game enthusiasts began watching other computer game enthusiasts play computer games.

By searching “let’s play… [game title]”, you can watch so many videos. In fact, ‘Let’s play Minecraft’ returns 45.9 million results. You can also find popular videos where you literally watch
a person play a computer game – as in the game’s happening on their screen, but you’re not seeing a screenshot, just their actual face. Basically the same experience my girlfriend gets when she Facetimes me while I’m playing 2K17.

 

3. Mukbang

Mukbang is a South Korean phenomenon for watching not-overweight people eating INSANE volumes of food while chatting to the camera. There’s plenty of academic psychology suggesting why it’s proved such a hit, but most practically, its popularity is related to the idea of viewers wanting to eat sociably, and is thus related to individualised lives and consequent loneliness.

The word mukbang comes from the Korean words for ‘eating’ (meokneun) and ‘broadcast’ (bangsong).

The most popular BJ (or mukbanger) in the world is called ‘The Diva’, and runs a YouTube channel named ‘TV DIVA’ with hundreds of 1-2 hour videos, each with multiple thousand and sometimes millions of hits. She reportedly earns $10,000 a month monetising her page through advertising and getting donations from her followers.

Mukbang spread to America, then like everything else, gradually made its way to Britain. The biggest UK account is a French girl who lives in the UK called Lydie – she just chows through fast food and chats away. Although she isn’t anywhere near as big as the Asian stars, she still receives over 100,000 hits on her videos, proof enough that it’s at least a bit of a thing over here now.

By now, I’ve watched so much mukbang that YouTube’s adjusting. It knows I’m into food. Pre-mukbang, it’s advertising Tesco’s ‘Steak for Two’, which feels a bit ironic, because tonight I’m sat alone, opposite my laptop, about to eat my dinner – although in the weird internet world, I’ve got Lydie for company tonight.

I finish quicker than her, and she’s still talking about her friends, having only eaten about six mouthfuls of food. This isn’t about the challenge, it’s the social aspect. Having said that, she’s just talking at me, and she’s incapable of listening – this must be what it’s like to be friends with Kanye West or Donald Trump.

 

4. Hauls

Almost wholly made by females, and certainly targeting female YouTubers, ‘Hauls’ involve Youtubers returning home after shopping sprees, opening their plastic bags and providing overwhelming positive endorsements of clothing or cosmetics. Generally, the stuff featured is fairly inexpensive, high street level gear rather than haute-couture, so it feels relatively obtainable. Despite this, it’s difficult not to be cynical: you can imagine someone who works in marketing trying to exploit this fairly innocent activity and seeding products in the shopping bags.

I guess it’s a bit like unboxing, but for teens rather than toddlers, and it’s a genuine phenomenon with an audience well in excess of 50 million. British Youtube megastar Zoella regularly posts hauls, showing her crazily big following what she’s bought at the shops.

I’m getting girls’ skincare ads popping up now – I’m not going to buy anything, but someone’s paying for this. Zoella’s getting rich, YouTube are getting richer, and every so often with a click through, an item lands in a virtual shopping bag; Google wins every time.

There’s an ehow page dedicated to how to do a haul. It’s basically go to the shop, buy some stuff and a webcam, be nice and talk about it. Don’t waste your time on this shit. It’s just selfie culture.

 

5. Kid videos

Unless you’re a parent or an elder sibling, you probably won’t have delved into the world of kids’  YouTube. As mentioned earlier, parents can achieve momentary respite by placing an iPad in front of their offspring, and as a result, there are plenty of lengthy (60 min+) creepily animated versions of nursery rhymes. In this instance, I can relate to both the parent and the child, and it’s not too different from Playdays or modern CBeebies.

But then we get to some of the other things that young children watch on YouTube, and this is where it starts to get strange. You know about unboxing – the phenomenon of watching people open stuff.

The ‘Surprise Eggs unboxing toys’ has 3.6 million subscribers. ‘12 surprise eggs’ has 42.8 million views. It’s literally someone talking while they unwrap chocolate eggs. Sweets, toys and surprises – it’s everything a three-year-old loves!

‘Bad Baby Dreams Messy Chocolate Bath Explosion - Kinder Surprise Eggs - Gummy Bear Candy (2016)’ is a messy title, and a messy film. But it gets way more viewers than Gogglebox. The plot sees a child named Tiana falling asleep and in her dream, she’s in a bath full of Kinder Eggs, Maoam, and three jelly babies that are about a foot tall.

She does some unwrapping, bites the hand of one of the jelly babies/giants, then unwraps a gunge foetus and plays with some stickers. Then tries to eat a chocolate marmite jar, which she hates and then smashes against the tiles and starts smearing the chocolate against that wall. It briefly resembles the bathroom scene in Trainspotting, fuelled by sugar rather than smack.

There’s another film with the same girl in the same bathroom, but she has a couple of mates over and they turn the bathroom into a ball pit of Orbeez. They’re about a foot deep in Orbeez (multicoloured bath bombs) and do things like standing on the toilet and jumping into the middle of the bathroom.

The latter video was uploaded in September 2016 and has 76 million views. Who’s paying for all these sweets? Well, the name ‘Bad Baby Tiana Magic Powers – Messy Orbeez Bath Party Spa – Daddy Freaks Out’ suggests her father’s behind it, so let’s hope he has a comprehensive dental plan for his daughter. The most weird thing is that although she wears a dummy and speaks in baby gibberish, real life Tiana is clearly much older than the character she portrays.

Then there’s literal hatchings. Chicks, snakes and plenty of other things that cross over between animation/childlike representation and the real world. Videos of children playing with
toy diggers, links in the ‘recommended videos’ to popular footage of real-life diggers moving rubble around.

Being overlayed with children’s fonts is the only real piece of evidence that they are meant for kids. Sometimes, the other giveaway is the voiceover – that voice adults put on when they speak to small people. I’m really sensitive to that because it’s the voice my mum ( a primary school librarian) uses to speak to me.

 

6. 3D Animation

As I said from the outset, everything on this list is meant to make sense. There must be some grounding in reality, or some way to explain it. But then I got on YouTube channel Cool 3D World, which I could attempt to narrate like ASMR, but it’s too fast, too strange, and so thoroughly void of a narrative that it would literally just be unrelated words on a page.

The popular videos on Cool 3D World are 20-minute compilations of 10-15 second clips, which are trippy, warped, non-narrative nonsense with pumping soundtracks. Plunging deep into the darkest recesses of a mid-drug trip animator’s mind, one working without commission and therefore totally abandoning any plot or sense of conventional reality. After a while you might get into them, but they’re probably the strangest thing on this list outright.

Some people dig it, but most just seem thoroughly confused.

Another related bunch of clips are of Simpsons and other cartoons reimagined in bizarre, dystopian 3D guise. The characters are often barely recognisable and speak in one voice (the animator’s – but I guess that Harry Shearer and Dan Castellaneta are like the only Simpsons voices anyway). There are Minecraft versions of Simpsons, too. Actually, there are Minecraft version of everything. But if you’re into Minecraft, you’re probably playing Minecraft, and you probably only read Minecraft magazines.

 

7. Slow

Ever feel like life happens too fast? Or that in an age of information, things only accelerate? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then maybe slow YouTube is for you. The slow movement was born in Scandinavia as a reaction to an accelerating world, seeking to champion a patient, more reflective lifestyle, and as with everything else on here, it exploded once YouTube got hold of it.

Slow YouTube is things like long, scenic train journeys, or more strangely a car drive from Birmingham to London via the M40 motorway (and then the A40 trunk road), which has 24,922 views and is bang on two hours. If you’ve got the time, patience and use the 20+ minutes filter in your search, all sorts of slow-paced fun awaits.

Slow-motion stuff is also really popular. The Slow Mo Guys have just shy of nine million followers, and shoot footage on a $150k high-speed camera. We’re talking about things like firing bullets underwater, throwing Molotov cocktails and a football striking a guy in the face. 

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