• Beth Bradford

"Your Video is Boring"

This was the headline from a YouTube video while I was grading student videos. It's interesting to see the "suggestions" from YouTube as I grade projects over the years. I know many of my students watch videos on YouTube and Tik-Tok and apply what they see to their projects.

It's even interesting how the projects have changed. In the past, students followed directions explicitly. They would interview people as directed and shoot the video as instructed. Now I get more and more projects with the student in them. They want to shoot themselves doing things. Rather than interview people, they turn the camera on like a reality TV testimonial or a YouTube vlog.

What is equally interesting is the "suggestions" from YouTubers on how to make their videos better. None of these suggestions are what I require in my student work. In fact, you don't see many of these suggestions in professional video. You just see them on YouTube. They don't take into consideration audience, message, and credibility. Instead, they pay attention to the peripherals--how to make it look flashy so it goes viral.

And so it goes with our lives.

We don't like "boring." We shun the mundane. We hate slow. We lack the patience to allow things to unfold slowly, like this post, I guess! Let me explain this from the academic standpoint.

When we encounter information, certain attributes of each message enter our minds. Depending on our motivation to understand or gain knowledge, we choose which attributes of a message to attend to. The two routes--central and peripheral--will affect how deeply (or not) we process information.

The central route is attributes of the message itself. What does the source of the message intend to convey? The peripheral route concerns the bells and whistles that heighten our senses and stimulate our emotions. Attributes of this route might include arousing music, flashy editing, or even a highly-paid "influencer."

To process messages through the central route takes cognitive effort and motivation to process. If you've read Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, this is the System 2 process. It employs logic and prior knowledge to understand and engage. Learning and persuasion are more likely to occur because it requires deeper processing.

On the other hand, the peripheral route takes minimal effort. If we're not as motivated to learn or don't have the cognitive resources to spare, we make cognitive shortcuts, called "heuristics" to process information. This is the "bottom up" or System 1 (as Kahneman calls it) thinking, which is much more automatic and relies on speed. However, many messages processed through the peripheral route get lost in memory.

Think about it for a moment of the last viral video you watched. What was the message? Good Lord, if I see another video of people dancing, I might give up social media altogether.

What many YouTubers and Tik-Tok "stars" (ugh) try to do is use as many tools of the peripheral route to attract you. They'll even use tempting headlines to prey upon your fears and shortcomings.

The fact that some bonehead specifically chose a YouTube thumbnail that headlines, "Your Video Is Boring" will attract amateur video producers who fear their products are boring. The thumbnail should say, "How to attract more eyeballs using the peripheral route when you really have nothing to say." My guess is that won't get too many clicks.

If you really think about it, many of these videos that focus solely on the peripheral route really don't have a message. If you get out of the sensory mode and think critically, you'll ask, "What is the purpose here? What is the real message?"

Although social media is good for expression and temporary entertainment, we have to ask ourselves how all this peripheral processing is making us less motivated to process anything deep. Peripheral processing of various media allows us to jump from one headline, picture, or video to the next without seeing the connections. It's living life from one, isolated episode to the next without learning anything. It's impulsive and impatient.

Deep processing helps us connect meaning to things. It connects various headlines, pictures, or videos to larger themes. It also trains us to look for meaning behind the various episodes in our lives, seeing how they connect us along a path. It is deliberate, allowing things to unfold at the right time.

Perhaps it's a little "boring" to those who want to live life in a constant state of arousal. For me, it's a time for more significant, profound thought.

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