Viral videos: the new chicken soup for the soul
This was a rough week for me. I spent the better part of it in the hospital, coughing and throwing up and cursing the bacteria that was having a party in my veins. It wasn’t Covid-19, no, but whatever it was has left me appreciating the state of good health that we take for granted.
As I mostly lay groaning and moaning in the hospital bed, the only time I smiled like a goofball was when I was watching a video of dogs greeting their owners. It had a list of ten dogs, each of them losing their minds as soon as they saw their owner. One straight up did a dance. Another almost jumped out of the window. Another dog stood on its hind legs and kept hopping.
“What are you smiling at?” asked my husband as he walked into the room bringing supplies from home.
“Dogs,” I croaked, “greeting their owners.”
He looked at me puzzled, knowing that neither he nor I are big on pets, and he knows I’m not even a dog person. He must have thought the medicines have driven me near crazy.
But what is it about these viral videos (cute pets, babies doing stupid laughs, chefs cooking up a storm, people cleaning their rooms and transforming tiny spaces into miracle corners) that calm us down somehow? Or suck us into their world? There is a Chinese woman called Li Ziqi who lives in Pingwu County, Mianyang in the north central Sichuan province of China. She cooks for her family, harvests cotton (among other crop), makes furniture and paints and sculpts too. A camera follows her around and she is seen cooking food from scratch. The videos are produced in very high quality and Li Ziqi is an extremely beautiful woman (and currently her channel has over 2.3 billion views). Many of her videos have over millions of views. And it isn’t just Li Ziqi. There are many pages that document Chinese women making food (a lot of them inspired by Li Ziqi) and being domestic goddesses that have raked over millions of views. The comment section is filled with lonely folks wishing they had a wife like any of these women or asking for the name of the vegetables (the videos don’t have subtitles or any English translations). Curious how food and family transcended the language and culture barriers. Perhaps, somethings are universally alike for all human beings. Some attribute Li Ziqi and success of many food vloggers to ‘fugu’ a ‘retro nostalgia’.
While rescue dogs being transformed into happy dogs made my day and watching Li Ziqi hunt for vegetables I’ve never heard of, had me engrossed, what made me super annoyed was a celebrity gang war on Pakistani twitter. This is the same week that saw a horrific train accident in Pakistan and twitter was ablaze with #FreePalestine just a few days ago. They quickly moved on to this celebrity gossip fest and both of these young celebs were constantly posting subtweets and later, long notes about what had passed between them. How quickly does the internet timeline shift from massive movements that bring about social change to petty squabbles of the rich and famous.
When I realised I had had enough of twitter, I headed to Facebook where Facebook Watch threw me into the vortex of bad Bollywood songs. The algorithm chooses videos to show you ones that fit the scheme of videos you’ve already watched. I had watched Sridevi’s snake dance video once so now I was bombarded with songs from 80s bollywood. It’s creepy how much these algorithms know about me. They probably know me more than my own husband. Mahwash. Likes dog videos. Watches Masterchef. Enjoys bad Bollywood. Uses Facebook to escape Twitter.
It’s right. When the world has too many tragedies and children dying and privileged celebrities constantly playing victim, a good old video of a rescue dog or a pretty plate of food will make me forget that the world will never change despite our outrage and despite Twitter capitalising on that outrage. So, I head to TikTok to watch people appear in 30 different looks in 15 seconds or see Li Ziqi cook up a storm for her family in Chinese winters. Because that world is chicken soup for a battered, news-hardened soul.