Videophobia. Brain disease? Or rational fear?

A friend sent me a link to something I could not watch. It is 4 minutes and 23 second long video of a debate between two people I find annoying -- Rachel Maddow and Bill O'Reilly -- and I was only able to get 1 minute and 3 seconds through it when I just had to stop it. No, seriously, I could not subject myself to the indignity.

Here it is, I figure even if I can't stand to watch it, that's no reason not to embed it in a blog post, so here it is:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In the email from the friend who suggested I watch it, he said,

IF you can bear to watch it. I find her smugness fascinating. Smug and sarcastic to the extreme. She sounds like Bob, without the overt anger. Listen to how she describes the "fake" Acorn story!!!
That's about as far as I got.

I find the above segment absolutely typical of the medium, and it is why I am unable watch television programming which involves opinions or arguments about politics.

And so at the risk of sounding silly and self-indulgent, I think it may be time for a confession.

I suffer from what probably should be called "videophobia."

The problem is getting worse. One of the reasons I started blogging was because I hated TV. Yet video is now an unavoidable fact of life everywhere. I hate being subjected to human faces and voices intended to persuade me, as it forces me to sit there in a passive manner I find creepy. Whether I agree or disagree, the act of being forced to watch it -- of being subjected to these people -- makes something feel distinctly irrational and not under my control. Might I be suffering from an irrational fear of being made to feel irrational? Or is it a rational fear? Does any of this make sense? Whatever it is, it's becoming a real problem for me, and I don't know what to do about it.

I say it's a problem because there are consequences for me as a blogger. Not having the patience to watch all the videos which are thrust at me in the forms of endless links places me at a distinct disadvantage and makes me feel ignorant of what people consider important. Try as I might to not have it happen, most video just gets on my nerves, in much the same way the television news I stopped watching years ago once did. The voices are grating, and if something is said that I don't like or disagree with, it's like there's no escape. (And if I agree with what they're saying, the fact that they're trying to persuade me of what I already think can make it even worse -- like gratuitous and invasive brain clutter.) With text, I can read when I want, and scroll down to get to the point, then back up, then look again for more. But with a video, my full attention is commanded. I have to sit there and listen to whomever or whatever it is. Or not. And most often, it's not.

Another example was a recent spat on Fox News between Megyn Kelly and Kirsten Powers.

Once again, I was sent a link.

And here's that video, (still largely unwatched by the increasingly neurotic yours truly).

By being able to watch it, you readers have an advantage over me.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn't. Those, those damned voices! They ring in my ears and displease my senses, and it really doesn't matter what they are saying. If I disagree, I am annoyed, and even if I agree, I am annoyed by the noise and the drain of my time.

I want a transcript, dammit!

But alas. Everything is becoming video.

Certainly, it's nothing that should make me want to quit blogging, because I am not obligated in any way to create or watch videos. And if I could figure out why a YouTube video I made complaining about a mousetrap that didn't work got nearly 15,000 hits, I might be ahead of the game. Here it is; a mere 20 seconds in length.

I was sort of trying to be funny, but I don't especially like watching it. Nor do I like asking people to watch it, and I do not understand why so many people have watched it. I know it sounds irrational, but asking people to watch a video seems inherently an imposition.

Although, I guess if I can't stand to watch myself, I'm not guilty of a double standard of "video for me but not for thee!" Yet as I say this, I recognize that there are exceptions to my zero tolerance rule.

Maybe there's hope for me (and maybe it just means that no rule is right all the time), but I have found that some people are not as overbearing in their video manner as others; I am never annoyed by Glenn Reynolds' Instavision program, and I loved the old Glenn and Helen interviews. Maybe it's because they're not as "in your face" as the usual commentator types. Another recent example of a video I found quite tolerable and even enjoyable was a video of a lecture by law professor Stephen Bainbridge, which Glenn Reynolds had linked, and which I clicked out of pure curiosity.

And here it is! One of the few videos that I was actually able to watch!

Looking at it again, it occurs to me that a couple of things might be of interest to a psychologist hypothetically hired to treat my "videophobia." First, the speaker is far away from the camera, so there is no "in your face" issue. Second, he is talking in a calm and rational tone, there's no heavy-handed manner about it, none of that brimming-with-anger or barely concealed bias stuff. Third, he has a marvelously self-deprecating sense of humor, which I like. And fourth, the topic itself is amusing; he is explaining why he is not like the notorious Professor Kingsfield, whose very style epitomized getting in your face.

But what if not getting in people's faces runs counter to the whole idea of video?

What if annoying people is what it's all about?

MORE: Sean Kinsell links this post in a discussion of city-dwellers (especially Brooklynites) who love to "lament how technology is draining the human interaction from daily life." Despite any annoyances I might feel watching angry activists scold their audiences, it never occurred to me that the problem is with the video technology itself, much less that it was draining human interaction. Hell, for all I know it might be causing too much human interaction. But that's up to people themselves whether to interact or not interact. If you can't get laid, it sure isn't the fault of YouTube.

But I didn't know that I was "forgoing the opportunity to get all windy about how one is too soulful for this impersonal age."

Now that I think about it, I'd rather be too impersonal for the wistful soulfulists!

posted by Eric on 07.23.10 at 12:40 PM


(Note to self: Never voluntarily tune into either Maddow's or O'Reilly's show.) I did love how she worked into how Spongebob kills O'Reilly in ratings. I am not a big TV fan, but my kids cause me to watch Spongebob and Hanna Montana. I can laugh when Spongebob and Squidward argue over delivering a pizza. But when O'Reilly and Maddow argue over ACORN or ratings, for some reason it's just ... well ... stupid.

Wayne   ·  July 23, 2010 1:38 PM

Your aversion to "video" and your aversion to activism are the same aversion. I have a version of it it, too.

I think in your case, and I hope in mine, it's because your "people shouldn't be bullied" libertarian-type opinions are based on true, visceral experiences you regularly haveórarely acute personal and empathic responses to certain psychic impingements and dominance strategies.
My trained (but not officially professional) psychologist-type opinion wouldn't be that, because that diagnosis isn't allowed. You'd have to be afraid of something, and (so) not dealing with it. Hence the "but not..."

Don't watch cable news or Borat movies. You'll be fine.

guy on internet   ·  July 23, 2010 1:59 PM

Understand this about the media. Ratings are driven by viewers, viewers are attracted to controversy. It's like the screenwriters exhortation to show the conflict. Note how every drive time radio, every TV news, all have the employ the enraging sidekick to blindly repeat the opposition talking points.
Everyone is marching blindly in the same direction. Every one is in on it except for me.

dr kill   ·  July 23, 2010 6:09 PM

What I find especially difficult about watching political videos is that activist types often seem so damn angry. That's hard for me because it makes me angry, and then I have to control myself. Then, the worst of them add insult to injury by insisting that I get angry! And nothing makes me angrier than people telling me I should get angry when I am already working on restraining my anger.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 23, 2010 6:53 PM

I rarely watch vids and pretty much never watch political "disussions" on TV.
When I debate something, I'm trying to find out whose right, when most people (especially on TV) debate, they're trying to win.
And if they have to ignore inconvenient facts or make some up, well, that's the price they're willing to make their audience pay.
Well that and I think that most of today's "journalists" are some combo of lazy, ignorant or stupid.

Veeshir   ·  July 24, 2010 10:51 AM

Me too also. I cannot watch any of those shows. Hell -- I only know what O'Reilly looks like because he was on Colbert. Part of it is that all of those shows are so damn content-free. I like some thought with my politics, thank you.

Frit   ·  July 24, 2010 4:09 PM

Text and still photos for me. Like Eric, I find the anger annoying, but more annoying is the boring factor. (That's what O'Reilly's show should be named.)

What's physically painful is to be in situations where the noise and drone cannot be escaped. Stores with Muzak and waiting rooms with TVs always induce a headache no matter what music is played or which channel is showing.

Donna B.   ·  July 24, 2010 7:43 PM

Post a comment

April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Search the Site


Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link


Recent Entries


Site Credits