YouTube Cleanse: A Journey in Millennial Emotions

mohamed mahmoud hassan, Watching Videos Online

History of YouTube

YouTube has been a vital part of the 2000’s in an era where social media thrives. Since the official launch in February 2005 by developers Steve Chen, Chard Hurley and Jawed Karim, YouTube has attracted over 2 billion users each month with consumers around the world watching over a billion hours of YouTube content (YouTube for Press) (Tarentino 2011).

YouTube as an Important Part of Society

While television and film stars once ruled the celebrity spotlight, YouTube influencers joined the rankings of popularity among Generation Z and Millennials.

Not to mention, YouTube has become a primary source or entertainment, information, culture, and, what the millenials call “life hacks.”

Author Joseph M. Terantino claims YouTube to be an effective in a work or education tool saying,

“–YouTube is a venue for sharing family videos, posting a work demonstration, advertising a company or product, or providing students access to media from across the globe.”

(Terantino et al., 2011)

YouTube Cleanse

Not unlike billions of people across the world, I am an avid YouTube user. Once posting content myself, I became a heavy video consumer without much consciousness. I spend my lunch breaks watching the newest content from my favorite “influencers”,  for some quick pleasure during five minutes of downtime, and even as a relaxation technique when settling down at night to put me in a positive frame before sleep.

In her article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation,” author Jean M. Twenge argues that current technology and social media have an impact on the mood of Generation Z,

“The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.”

(Twenge et al., 2017)

Although I am technically a member of the millennial generation, I was interested how YouTube shapes both society and my mental health. To judge the emotional impact of YouTube on my everyday life—and how it impacts technology, I participated in a 5-day cleanse riding myself of all YouTube content.

Each day I measured a few key indicators: how many times I instinctively opened YouTube, wanted to use YouTube as a resource, verbally heard someone mention a YouTube video/ influencer, or read an article that linked to a YouTube video.

Considering I had also been reliant on YouTube for important functions as I begin and end my days, I also wanted to measure my mood when waking up and level of stress when going to sleep. I measured the data on a scale from 1-5, 1 representing lowest mood to 5 representing the highest mood. I also ranked the stress scale from 1-5, 1 representing lowest level of stress to 5 representing the highest level of stress.

Day 1

YouTube Cleanse Day 1 Data: Cultural

Like many other Americans, I have been working from home during a current COVID-19 pandemic. Because of my more secluded work zone, I usually pull up YouTube to listen to music, watch a quick video during downtime or even to look up a video tutorial for work applications like Microsoft Teams or Excel. This was the first glimpse in how much I truly use YouTube for entertainment or as a resource.

YouTube Cleanse Day 1 Data: Mood and Stress Level

Day 2

YouTube Cleanse Day 2 Data: Cultural

While I thought it would be easier to avoid YouTube during a pandemic this day proved how impactful it is on society in general. That is not just a platform for members of the Generation Z or Millennial population. During a family Zoom session, my Uncle who just turned sixty years old asked the group if they watched any YouTube videos by IRLrosie– a popular YouTube influencer with over four hundred subscribers. Providing that technology is not just influential on younger generation and social content is being absorbed.

YouTube Clean Day 2 Data: Mood and Stress Level

Day 3

YouTube Cleanse Day 3 Data: Cultural

This day was particularly difficult to avoid the video service because it was the start of my weekend and I was not busy at work. I woke up and immediately went on my phone. Because we are currently experiencing social unrest with the Black Lives Matter movement, I scrolled through my social media timeline and saw a video from Ellen DeGeneres engaging in a conversation with Twitch, her show’s DJ and man of color. Without thinking of it, I immediately opened the video only to realize it was part of Ellen’s YouTube channel: EllenTube. I forced myself off- frustrated that I could not learn from their conversation.

YouTube Cleanse Day 3 Data: Mood and Stress Level

Day 4

YouTube Cleanse Day 4 Data: Cultural

In the middle of the day I wanted to participate in one of my favorite exercise activities; yoga. As I was preparing to roll out my mat, I blindly reached for the remote and realized that I choose yoga practices from YouTube. Stretching and performing poses without influence of a YouTube instructor seemed unnatural.

YouTube Cleanse Day 4 Data: Mood and Stress Level

Day 5

YouTube Cleanse Day 5 Data : Cultural

On the last day of my cleanse, there were a few instances where I wanted to share videos with my boyfriend and vice versa. I found it particularly hard to avoid YouTube in a social setting.

YouTube Cleanse Day 5 Data: Mood and Stress Level


To conclude the detox experience, I made a visual representation of everything I use YouTube for and what I was not able to partake in from the experience. This was a key factor in understanding the development of this technology and how reliant I am on it.

Dana Fusek, YouTube Influence

Through participating in this cleanse, It is clear that YouTube has an impact on media culture, social structure, and technological development.

Does it impact my mood? That I am debating. Data suggests that my stress level subtly increased the more nights I was without YouTube, but having my smartphone still next to my bed with other resources for falling asleep suggests that smartphone technology is a more impactful than YouTube itself.


Twenge, J. M. (2017, September). Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Retrieved June 07, 2020, from

YouTube for Press. (n.d.). Retrieved June 07, 2020, from

Terantino, J. M. (2011). Youtube for Foreign Languages: You Have to See This Video [Abstract]. Language Learning & Technology, 15(1), 10. doi:10.1117/12.2313504.5807171268001

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