Compulsive YouTube use results in lower academic motivation

Published July 20th, 2018

try not to use it too compulsively

Compulsively consuming youtube content can lower acadmenic motivation – these are the findings of a recent study.

For many people, youtube is a nearly unlimited source of free knowledge on any topic, for others it can be an addiction. The study concluded that the participants with an ‘informational motivation’ for using youtube were less likely to use youtube compulsively when compared to users who visited youtube with an ‘entertainment motivation’. Basically, if you’re using youtube to learn new skills, it’s less likely to lead to compulsive use.

There’s a grey area between ‘entertainment motivation’ and ‘information motivation’ though. If the videos you’re watching have titles that start with “top 10”, you should be asking yourself what your viewing motivation really is. It’s easy to browse youtube with the intent of studying for a physics class, but 20 minutes later auto-play has taken you down an infotainment rabbit hole with the general theme of “deadliest engineering disasters”.

It seems intuitive that a massive amount of infotainment might lower academic motivation – learning new things can be physically and mentally taxing. It’s better to spend that energy learning things that will actually be useful to your personal and educational goals.

Compulsive use of technologies that provide both entertainment and educational value isn’t limited to youtube. Wikipedia is a valuable tool for learning, but it can also be a rabbit hole for useless trivia. Social news sites like reddit can be used to participate in niche communities and learn new skills, but can also be used to waste hours of time bickering and reading useless comments. It’s a clear conflict of interest for these web giants: they want people to spend as much time on their platforms as possible, but they also want to maintain the image that they care about the heath and well-being of their users.

The massive amount of distraction caused by infotainment is evidenced by the industry of anti-distraction software that are available for your desktop, browser and mobile device. Apple recently introduced new features to help people monitor their device usage, and perhaps this is a good strategy – by showing people the amount of time they’re wasting, they can at least set goals to reduce that waste. Studies like the one in this article are helpful because they show a link between the compulsive behavior and lowered academic motivation – this may be enough to get people to reconsider the way they consume media online.