Traditionally, October is one of the scarier months on the calendar, making it a fitting time to talk about scary things. I’m pretty ambivalent about clowns, so my scary pop culture topic of choice for this October morning will be YouTube spirals and their propensity for killing TIME (plot twist!!!).
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a YouTube spiral, I highly envy you and will now direct your attention to this Broad City clip, which demonstrates a similar consequence of falling into one. In short, a YouTube spiral (sometimes referred to as a YouTube Black Hole) is the very scary place you fall into upon innocently viewing one video like a regular human, then naively clicking on related video after related video like a monster until you’ve lost all track of time and space and probably forgot to do something important.
What makes these spirals especially scary is 1.) they’re usually unsuspecting and 2.) you may not even notice you’re in one until it’s too late. Now, I can assure you you’re not in one right now if you’re reading this with your eyes. So in attempt to warn the masses of the former issue, I will now reveal the five spirals that tend to trap me on a regular basis. Yes, they’re fun, but like a lot of fun things, they are also incredibly dangerous. I’d argue that even exposing you to the below content is somewhat irresponsible on a Tuesday morning, but I’m rationalizing it because how else will you know what to avoid?! Proceed with caution, and I sincerely hope you’re not somewhere important like in class or at work like I most definitely am right now.
1. The Covers Spiral
First of all: How great are covers? An artist you already know and love covering a song you already know and love, making said song feel simultaneously familiar and new!? It’s like karaoke except everyone is not-that-drunk and actually good at it!!!! <– See, now that’s your first mistake: letting your guard down so easily. The next thing you know, you’re 25 videos deep on Like a Version or BBC Live Lounge’s YouTube Channel, ads and all.
Thankfully, this is the “safest” of all the YouTube spirals. As long as you have 20+ other tabs open, this spiral can be just as innocuous as listening to Spotify while you do something productive with your time/attention/life, except instead of Drake-Drake, it’s the Arctic Monkeys covering Drake, Paramore covering Drake and Shawn Mendes covering Drake(!).
2. The Choreography Spiral
Oh lordy, good look getting out of this mess! Few things make me wish MTV would resurrect MADE like a good choreo video. And they’re almost ALL good. Is this why America’s Best Dance Crew made it for eight whole seasons? Is this what the new TRL should strictly consist of? Should I be worried that my Instagram discover feed is now full of these videos? Probably, yes and definitely. Factor in the stylish athleisure babies who are also featured in these (anyone under the age of 12 is a baby to me) and there is little to no hope that you’re reemerging in under an hour.
Nice knowin’ ya!
3. The Vine Spiral
What are you doing here? What am I doing here? I honestly have no idea. Vine doesn’t even exist anymore so the fact that we’re resorting to watching these six second clips of absurdity on a completely different platform in 5 minute chunks is a bit bleak. Does that not defeat the purpose of Vine’s short-lived life? What were Vines, really? Just gifs and memes with sound? Should I just watch gifs all day? I think I’m already doing that. Is this what we were doing from 2012-2016? Who am I? Am I still at work right now? I feel an existential crisis coming on. Shut it down.
4. The Animals Doing Things Spiral
Animals are hilarious. It’s why we let cats take over the internet once upon a time. They’re still holding strong, but we now have a lot more to contend with from the animal kingdom (goats, baby goats, raccoons, really fat raccoons, sloths, giraffes!) which makes this spiral all the more harrowing. The possibilities are endless and there’s no telling where you may end up once you come to. Godspeed.
5. The SNL Digital Shorts Spiral
Honest question: Is this one just my weird friends and me? I can recall a number of social situations with three or more people and alcohol present that resulted in us spiraling deep, deep down into Lonely Island’s repertoire, from the club bangers like “Jizz In My Pants” to OG Digital Shorts like Natalie Portman rapping, instead of heading out to our super fun destination on time. But more on that later — I just remembered Ras Trent exists.
I personally had to stop at five spirals in order to finally finish this story, so feel free to reveal the black holes you tend to fall into below. (I can investigate immediately now that I’m done writing this!)
Photo by Susan Schiff Faludi/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.