Why the Fast Forward Button is the YouTube Viewer’s Best Friend
Life comes at you fast, especially when you have 500 hours of video to watch every minute
One recent Sunday, I watched an eclectic mix of YouTube videos that arguably had nothing at all in common. I watched an American man review a microwaved fried chicken and mashed potato meal; an artist paint a watercolour based on the 100th page of a book; a young woman unbox a Disney-themed subscription box; and Gordon Ramsay try The WORST Ever Dishes on Kitchen Nightmares.
Yet while my content choice was varied, my viewing experience wasn’t. Before each clip began, I tapped the cog at the bottom right hand corner of the YouTube video, and set the playback speed to double-quick time.
There are no exact figures that reveal how many people — like me — double the speed of the YouTube videos they watch. (YouTube declined to provide information and context on the record for this story.) Still, it’s a popular pastime.
“I literally can’t watch YouTube videos unless they’re on 2x speed, it’s becoming a problem,” YouTuber Angelika Oles tweeted in June. “I watch every YouTube video in 2x speed because then I can watch twice as much,” reads another YouTuber’s tweet. Both have thousands of likes. We’re racing through videos at a great rate of knots. Why?
YouTube first implemented playback speed options in 2010, but in the years prior, viewers used third party applications to speed up or slow down videos. Rudy Muñoz is a 22-year-old student from California who first began speeding up videos when watching “boring movies” on his brother’s PlayStation 3. He now speeds up every YouTube video that isn’t music.
“It helps me consume more content a lot faster,” Muñoz says. He admits to watching a “time consuming” amount of online video — every morning he queues up between “seven and 20 videos” from his subscriptions box, ranging from Bon Appétit cooking clips to WWE highlights. He began watching videos on 1.25x speed in 2016, before graduating to 1.5x and finally 2x speed now. But that’s not always enough. “Sometimes I watch videos at 2x speed and it feels so slow for me. I wish it was possible to speed up at 2.5x or even 3x,” he says.