Once upon a time, long ago and far away, I used to watch other people watch movies. I can remember those days clearly:
For my teens and most of my 20s, I didn’t really watch a movie unless I was alone while it was playing. If there was anyone else with me, instead of watching the film, I watched other people watch it.
I wanted to see how they reacted. What did they think of the plot? The characters? Did they think the movie was funny? Sad? Scary?
I’m surprised in hindsight that they didn’t notice or call me out on it — “What are you looking at?”, “Stop staring,” “That’s so creepy.”
But they didn’t.
They were usually engrossed in the movie.
I Thought Watching Other People Watch Movies Was a Weird Impulse
Anyway, as you can see if you read that essay I linked above, I thought watching other people watch movies was a weird impulse. Something personal to me, maybe indicative of a niche quirk I had.
I realized recently that this isn’t the case at all. It turns out that there’s a whole subgenre of videos specifically created to fill that void. They’re called reaction videos. In them, a YouTube personality literally sits there and watches another video and reacts emotionally (and provides a bit of commentary). And they’re very popular on YouTube.
The funny thing is that I’ve known of the existence (and popularity) of reaction videos in passing for many years now. I just never made the connection to my past.
And all of these years, I had taken the fact that I liked to watch other people watch things as a sign that I was missing something important that came easily to other people.
Nope, I probably just pathologized a normal trait. It happens, you know. Especially if you find yourself around judgmental people at a time when you’re just growing and developing. You can come of age thinking that something is a defect that’s instead just a common characteristic.