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Monday, July 5, 2010

Why I Will Never Fully Enjoy YouTube Again

I've been posting a lot about kittens lately, and for a good reason. We got five newborn kittens in our home and they are too much fun to blog about, photograph, film, and share. Things changed today. I spent some time in the morning viewing and subscribing to cute animal channels hoping to increase my subscribers. I opened a video of a kitten that looked just like our calico kitten, Puddles. And then I thought, I should send them a video response from Puddles! Their cute calico video was playing on half my screen while I was trying to find the most appropriate video to respond with when... it happened! The music changed to a scary digitized voice and the cute kitten was replaced by Linda Blair in her best Exorcist impersonation (I believe it was an actual clip).
I screamed, trying to turn it off, but the thing was screaming right back at me, so I continued to scream to drown its nasty voice. The keyboard and mouse went flying. I ran outside and called a friend feeling emotional and silly. I was sure I had overreacted. I looked at my nails and I had broken several of them, not sure how. My upper back was out and I had pulled a muscle in my groin. Luckily, the neighbors minded their own business and did not summon the police.
Some of you may know the technical term for videos such as the one I'm describing. They're called "scary pop up" videos. I started calling around to hear friendly voices and to make sense of what I had just experienced.
A friend of mine said he'd been watching a cute kitten video of two kittens, identical, sitting on a split screen to be examined. The video asked if you could spot the differences and prompted you to lean in to be able to see better. As soon as you got closer: scary pop up video time. He admitted he screamed like a baby--and this is a manly man I'm talking about.
Another friend said that a coworker had the brilliant idea to send a scary pop up video to his colleagues. Within minutes, random terrified screams could be heard down the office hallway.
I'm young and healthy, yet, I was trembling and shaking (apparently "shaking kneecaps" are not just an expression), my hair was raised for a good 15 minutes, and my heart was pounding. What if I was a young child, watching sweet kitten videos? What if I was an older lady, watching kitten videos as I sipped on my scalding tea? What if I was a pregnant woman? I realize some may not empathize with me and think that I'm exaggerating. To you I have one thing to say: different strokes for different folks. I've faced sharks and been way calmer. Others are set off by something as ordinary as a spider. We all have different triggers, therefore we should respect them appropriately.
I know my character and I act accordingly. I never watch scary videos or movies because I know that I'll be replaying them in my head for days or weeks or even months as was the case when I saw my first horror movie at the age of seven.
How can one prevent this from happening to others? First of all, be aware of both the website you are surfing and the particular channel you are visiting. Youtube has a FLAG that you can use to flag inappropriate material. You can leave a comment urging others to skip a particular pop up video. Beware of videos that ask you to turn up the volume and/or concentrate hard on an image. It might help to turn off the sound to videos you're not sure about, this way at least you get a visual shock instead of the double whammy of visual and audio. If there are comments available, read them first and hope someone had the decency to mention the pop-up. Check out the tags to the video and hope some words will give it away. You can also let the video load completely and then use the slider to view the images and hopefully catch a scary pop-up.
I realize that there are Scary Pop Up Video fans and I do not want to take away their "joy" therefore I get that they can't explicitly state what is in the video or the surprise would be ruined, but there must be a way to live and let live in this instance as well. There should at least be a warning. It's not my job to figure it out though. The burden falls on the scary pop up video creators and their distributors. What seems like harmless fun to some can be devastating to others.
As for me, the joy of youtube has left me for now, but on the other hand, my recent experience made me feel proud of my little kid-friendly channel.

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