Mostly I’ve done without social media. Facebook, which I joined for twenty minutes, proved to be spawn of the devil, Twitter for those who wanted to be a writer but without doing any writing, while Instagram sounded so old-fashioned I felt I’d outgrown it. YouTube is different.
During my early singing lessons YouTube led me to pros singing songs I’d just started on; extracts from US TV political comment during the Trump years; clips of motorbike races I wish I’d seen; brilliant stand-up by Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran; history rendered in fuzzy b&w. Plus graphic answers to a hundred questions which had flashed through my mind over the years.
Meanwhile YouTube was getting to know me, understanding what interested me, predicting what might interest me. And – eerily - getting it right.
Take maths. It fascinates me but I only scratched the surface thanks to eight months’ technical education in the RAF. Somehow I must have unconsciously leaked this fascination and it ended up in YouTube’s catchment net.
When you switch on YouTube you get a different set of offerings each day. This morning they included Understanding Calculus in Ten Minutes. At no time have I raised this subject with YouTube and yet it knew I would be ensnared.
I’d touched on calculus in the RAF relative to hysteresis curves but without knowing what it was for. This guy told me its rationale and within the allotted time. It’s true, it can be simplified.
Was I worried that an algorithm knew more about me than I did? Not a bit. Otherwise I’d worry about my doctor. I’ve profited and it’s difficult imagining it happening any other way. What’s more it was the truth.
The calculus website had attracted 4.5m visits. That pleases me