FARGO — Imagine two tiny, frail kittens, struggling to make their way across the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Indy 500. It’s a horrible thought, and I wouldn’t wish such an experience on any of God’s creatures.
Yet this is exactly what it felt like several weeks ago, as I witnessed my parents visiting YouTube for the first time. Their tour guide was my brother-in-law Mike, who is very smart and sensible and kind. And yet, right before my eyes, he cheerfully ushered my elderly mom and dad not only into the ninth circle of Dante’s inferno, but into Dante’s even creepier fruit cellar.
I’m sure his intentions were good. My parents have never been big TV watchers, but in the last couple of years, age and health have forced them to do something they’ve never tried before: sitting down. Mom loves to read but her eyesight isn’t what it used to be.
And so the people who used to say, somewhat disdainfully, “I never watch TV,” now sit in side-by-side recliners and watch whatever G-rated fare they can find. In fact, they’ve become such voracious “Wheel” watchers that they watch every single episode religiously – even after Pat Sajak’s recent health problems forced the producers to make Vanna the host or to re-air old episodes. (They did not appreciate my little joke that this seemed like “re-inventing ‘The Wheel.’”)
Realizing that they might need more entertainment than Hallmark movies and old Westerns, Mike’s intention likely was to bring a world of enlightenment and culture into their living room. And what better vehicle for doing that than the Tube of You, with its vast array of educational videos of people opening boxes and seeing how many hot dogs they can eat in three minutes.
And indeed, my parents seemed anxious to discover it, with Mom laboriously following Mike’s patient and detailed instructions to type out searches for “World’s best front-end loaders,” or “How barbed wire is made.”
In fact, I’m proud my parents haven’t let age quell their curiosity or eagerness to keep learning new things. But I was just worried they might inadvertently wander off the road to instruction and wind up on the road to perdition. That’s easy to do on YouTube, with all its clickbait, bizarre “Little Baby’s Ice Cream” ads or clips of 13-year-old gamers experiencing violent meltdowns.
I almost feel like I should invent a YouTube Light, curated specifically for highly sensitive septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians. It would be limited to straightforward instructional videos on, say, how to make pudding, helpful hints on how to get those kids to stay off your lawn, old Andy Williams Christmas specials and footage of the viewer’s own grandchildren saying the cutest things.
YouRube, here I come.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at firstname.lastname@example.org.