Have You Found Pleasure in a YouTube Ad Today?

Damla Ozdemir
4 min readApr 3, 2024

There are too many rants about the ads on YouTube, and not enough talk of their benefits, when they could not only be accepted, but embraced for how they force our hand. By considering some of the meditative pleasures of this increasingly widespread internet phenomenon, we can find calm and self-control where annoyance reigned before.

I should add my disclaimer. I could never vouch for the distracting websites riddled with clickable circus tricks, all vying for my attention. Nor could I condone the television ad, stretching on for too many minutes, easily ignored by a well-timed trip to the bathroom. The YouTube ad that greets me at the beginning of a video is more dignified; it imposes itself on me without debasement. It presents me with a moment of Zen, to reflect and reconsider.

It’s lonely on this side of the ad debate when the internet is filled with complaints. The subreddit r/rant, 224,000 members strong, has a chain of heated discussion titled, “YouTube Ads suck.” Ad blockers have always reigned supreme among the many suggestions for ways to smoothen out the experience and exploit glitches.

These days, it’s not so easy. YouTube’s most recent and most effective war against ad blockers has stressed out many ad-averse users since the end of last year.

Clearly, they are not familiar with my mindfulness philosophy. With it, you can view YouTube in a new light, and keep some mental approaches in your arsenal for the next time you feel a groan coming on.

Consider this: When forced to endure a pre-roll ad, the viewer is presented with a moment of self-reflection. They are left to confront two questions as they teeter on the edge between surfing the web and falling off in frustration: Do I really want to be watching this video right now? Is there something else I could be doing? This precious moment is a Zen desert in the middle of an abundant, overflowing oasis.

While people like YouTube Premium-paying customer Eric Ravenscraft complain that ads can be too “obnoxiously loud” and grating, these very qualities can make them the perfect moments of judgment. While we are busy getting carried away by maxing out our dopamine receptors, our distaste for the ad gives us time to recalibrate. The impatience that has been fostered through years of Internet use can remind us to evaluate our choice of media. If we continue with our viewing agenda, we have weighed it against distaste and declared it worth our time.

If you are willing to focus on the ad itself, you have unlocked another side of the experience. Sarah Moe, a well-being coach, stresses in an interview with Elite Daily that meditation consists of being present in the moment, however that may be. “Be patient and watch the water boil. Smell the spices. Listen to the sizzle,” she advises. The sizzle of that one Olive Garden ad is just as valid. It’s a personal victory to be able to triumph over your restlessness by grounding yourself in what the moment can bring. These quick bouts of patience, with the promise of the YouTube video at the end, are the perfect stepping stones to more robust patience practices.

The YouTube ad is also a free exercise in critical thinking, in more ways than one. It is undeniable that ads are loaded with tactics that appeal to human desires and instincts. They all have one goal: to attract your attention and hold it. In fact, many view the contrived nature of ads as unappealing. Simon Dumenco, in his article, “No More Tears: Are Advertisers Trying Too Hard to Make You Cry?” criticizes the “‘glut’ of heartstring-yanking ads” and displays his distaste for a Windex ad on YouTube that is “too gratuitous in its attempted emotional manipulation.”

Is this not perfect though? Recognizing manipulative methods and gaining control over your emotions make good preparation for the world at large, where there is no lack of mind tricks. Being able to spot insincerity is a wonderful thing. I admit that some ads make it much easier (or unreasonably easy) to do so, but even then, it can be a small dose of pleasure of its own to feel a little shrewd, when the real world presents us with an onslaught of unknowable intentions. This can be our sanctuary, a few seconds at a time.

Don’t get me wrong. I can relate to the awkwardness of sitting through an ad in class, the frantic rush to click skip, and the panic when a second one adds precious seconds to a precise schedule. I would never expect anyone to impose the completion of a skippable ad in public. After all, not everyone has the arsenal that you are now equipped with, so may find the experience distressing. However, perhaps just once, when you are in your own company, you will find it in you to resist the groan and check out what you would have missed.

--

--

Damla Ozdemir

Duke University ’23 w/ a degree in Linguistics 🏫 Worldschooling/Unschooling ✏️ 9 countries, 3 continents, 2 boarding schools, 10 languages 🏫