I watched a month of YouTube on a Vizio and man is it terrible

I’m going to gripe about the Vizio implementation of YouTube today. For those feint of heart you might want to step out as I’m going to point out how your grandparents are getting stuck in cult programming. I will note in testing this was both the Vizio and Roku implementations, but I don’t feel that my time glancing at the menu and available options on the Roku really counts as thoroughly testing that it’s exactly the same, so that’s an assumption.

So, there have not been a lot of posts around Pocketables lately and a lot of that has to do with my surgery back in February. I’ve been struggling with healing and quite a foggy brain after 3ish weeks of highly regulated pain medication and then an attempt to get my body moving again.

Part of this has been me watching a whole lot of YouTube because I didn’t have the mental capacity for longer shows. I mean really, when you tend to nod off every 20 minutes or so it’s a great little platform for watching how to videos. But that’s all it became for me, and here’s what’s wrong with it.

Many many versions ago YouTube on Vizio, Android, pretty much any platform I recall had a “now trending” or “what’s popular”. On the Vizio, and on the other implementations I played with that were tv-facing, the Now Trending or What’s Popular has disappeared. This used to not be as much of an issue as you could simply search for “what’s popular now” or some such and the playlist “Popular Right Now” was available and you could see what the rest of the world was interested in rather than being algorithmically trapped in your own choices.

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Unfortunately around the time of my surgery the Popular on YouTube playlist evidently was discontinued. Last updated January 2, 2024. This means on the Vizio and Android TV versions I’ve used there’s no good way to see what’s trending or popular other than you can see a few popular livestreams and news. On my phone, sure, no issues. But I was not in the mindset to be debugging consumer implementations of a website for a good three weeks and as such basically just fell into watching what was new to me, and recommended. All of which were based upon what I had previously chosen from those categories.

As such I ended up watching nearly every Just Rolled In, every McNallyOfficial, and then because of McNally quite a bit of The Lock Picking Lawyer, I was also offered infinite response videos and other compilations that involved the videos I just watched (quite a bit with manufactured static to hide that they ripped off other channels,) but nothing new was coming in. Never anything based on what was new or trending or even remotely out of my comfort zone. 15 Year old videos occasionally surfaced that I had watched long long ago.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a couple of Penn & Teller videos. I was then inundated with recommendations for magicians. For days it was nothing but “fooled Penn and Teller!!!!” videos. There was no way it seemed out of these holes except to manually search for content and those searches don’t get me what’s new and interesting, they got me more of the same content I knew. Watching any competitive eater got me seeing every old video, most of which I had watched, offered up somehow as new content (half of which even had the watched marking).

I ended up connecting my phone to the TV in that weird way where YouTube videos play on the main screen and you get to see commentary and such on the phone, but it ended up being fairly flakey and any attempts to watch shorts just shut off the connection to the app. I would come up for air on the phone and subscribe or watch something just in an attempt to jog the algorithm.

In the TV implementation there was never a way out of my own previous choices, and damn it got messed up when my kids started watching. YouTube helpfully heaped the same content with slightly different voiceover AI at me again and again and again. This was a pit of content I had kind of liked being repackaged and thrown at me without relent or much variation.

I explored every menu option on the Vizio implementation and found nothing useful. On my phone, easy to find some new things, and on the web page no issues. I checked the Roku implementation but similarly there’s no evident way to see what is going on and what’s popular. Once you go down your rabbit hole you’re offered a continuing buffet of reinforcing videos… lordy, just watch one doctor questioning the validity of a chemotherapy treatment (I did) and watch what you get.

I didn’t go down the cult holes for a test. My kids had and that’s why we banned them from YouTube a while back (watching pretty much non-stop cult recruitment videos) but damn. There’s no way to click out of this. It’s a mess of your own previous choices.

Anyway, check on your YouTube-using loved ones, and make sure they know there’s more than what’s being offered… because they’re going to get one political or religious opinion amplified again and again and again… or like me, watch way wayyy too much Penn and Teller and then learn lockpicking and complain about the YouTube implementation on TVs.

If your Vizio has a popular or trending ability, let me know how you’re getting it.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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