We spent 1,643 years watching this video

Duet: This episode of Carpool Karaoke has more than 35 million views.

Was it a waste of time? The UK’s most watched YouTube videos of 2018 have been revealed, with Paul McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke topping the list. Why do these videos have such appeal?

1/ Paul McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke. Time spent watching: 1,643 years. James Corden visits Paul McCartney’s home city of Liverpool. The pair laugh and cry as they drive around visiting his childhood home and singing Beatles hits.

The deeper meaning: This video celebrates our lasting ties to our hometowns and the cosy familiarity of songs that transcend generations. It shows us that even superstars are just like us underneath.

2/ The royal wedding 2018. Time spent watching: 941 years. Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle on a hot summer’s day at Windsor Castle, complete with a gospel choir and a fiery sermon about love.

The deeper meaning: This was the day the stuffy British establishment opened itself to the diverse modern world, making for a truly historic moment. It reminded us of the power love has to bring families, or a whole country, together.

3/ Royal wedding, a bad lip-reading. Time spent watching: 110 years. Did you ever wonder what the royals were saying in their private moments on the big day? This comedy video dubs hilarious suggestions over real footage.

The deeper meaning: We love to make fun of authority and pomp. The technical skill involved makes the video almost plausible, and funnier, while also playing on our fascination with the royals’ hidden lives.

4/ Courtney Hadwin America’s Got Talent audition. Time spent watching: 491 years. Hadwin is a normal 13-year-old girl from County Durham, with a rock star voice that could fill arenas.

The deeper meaning: The pure shock to our expectations is both funny and inspiring. We all dream of overcoming awkwardness for true confidence and self-expression. That’s exactly what Hadwin does, transformed by passion and talent.

5/ Yanny vs Laurel. Time spent watching: 25 years. One grainy, seconds-long audio recording. A country divided. Some people hear the word “yanny”, but others hear “laurel”.

The deeper meaning: Like the blue (or was it white?) dress before it, this “audio illusion” makes us question reality itself. Can we trust our senses? Are we all experiencing the world differently? A simple clip unlocked ancient philosophical questions.

Is YouTube a waste of time?

Going viral

Absolutely, say some. These videos are cool and fun, no doubt, but they are clearly not productive. Ultimately, they’re just a distraction from the real business of life, and it’s hardly as intellectually rewarding as studying art or reading a novel.

Not so, respond others. These videos celebrating love, music and laughter highlight the most important things in human life, while Yanny vs Laurel is a true wonder of perception. They are profound and heart-warming, and it’s good that we spend time connecting to these feelings.

You Decide

  1. Do you feel like you spend too much time on YouTube?
  2. Which of the five videos is your favourite?

Activities

  1. Watch three of the videos on this list and write your own short explanation of the “deeper meaning” behind their popularity.
  2. Write a one-page essay with the title “YouTube is a valuable part of 21st century culture”, taking into account arguments on both sides.

Some People Say...

“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”

William Shakespeare

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
YouTube has revealed that former Beatles singer Paul McCartney’s appearance on comedian James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke was its top trending video in the UK this year. It was closely followed by the full stream of the royal wedding in May between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and a bad lip-reading spoof of the wedding.
What do we not know?
Whether YouTube can fairly be called a waste of time. It is one of the most popular platforms among young people. Increasingly, some people are able to turn using YouTube into a career by creating video blogs that can make huge amounts of money. It is hard to say whether this trend will continue to grow or whether it will eventually fizzle out.

Word Watch

Time
Calculated using the video’s length and the total number of YouTube hits.
Cry
Corden becomes emotional during the video as he recounts how his late grandfather used to play him McCartney’s song Let It Be and told him it was the best song in the world.
Beatles
The band, which was incredibly popular around the world in the 1960s, is widely credited with inventing modern pop music.
Transcend
Go beyond the limits of.
Summer’s day
The wedding took place during this summer’s record-breaking heatwave and shortly before the World Cup brought England together again.
Dubs
When new audio is placed over video footage, usually to translate film dialogue into another language. In this case, the audio matches the lip movements of the people, but the words themselves are bizarre and funny.
Pomp
Lots of ceremony and extravagance.
491
This has a higher total than the third video because it was also very popular in the US. The totals are calculated including US views.

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