Youtube Review: Mental Floss – As recommended by your brain-dentist

I SUSPECT that I will spend a lot of time discussing the vlog brothers, Hank and John Green. Between them they have, or are involved in, fourteen channels with over eight million subscriptions. Nobody on Earth really knows how many of these fourteen will make it into my channel reviews, but the first is John Green’s curiosity and education channel: Mental_Floss. With only a little over a measly one million subscribers, Mental_Floss ranks as the fourth most popular vlog brothers channel, and is only around half as popular as the top three.

Ostensibly, Mental_Floss is a weekly factoid listing series that presents huge fields of knowledge, each summarised into a neat collection of bite sized nuggets, that can be unfulfilling without further research. The bullet point lists are presented factually but humorously by Green, who mixes sarcasm, wit and a bizarre drollery as he interacts with objects on a wall of assorted souvenirs and tacky toys behind him. The videos are presented in a quick-fire format, with each factoid represented by an ascending number and any accompanying explanation is dwelt on for the length of time that a man being eaten by a bear dwells on a mosquito bite. In the style of notorious time wasters like Buzzfeed, the numeric format serves both as click-bait and a way to make minutes fly by like an SR-71 Blackbird. While often seeming short, these videos are no light bites. Some can last up to ten minutes; an age when compared to most YouTube videos.

Each list is themed, with titles like 42 Idiom Origins, 31 Strange Medical Conditions or 34 Ways To Click-Bait On YouTube. Of course, the last one is made up, yet the topics chosen are not merely for cohesion; they also put the idea that ‘this video will benefit you’ into the part of your brain that is responsible for causing the forefinger of your preferred hand to click uncontrollably. What is particularly effective about Mental_Floss videos as click-bait is that it is actually worth watching, in part because of the particularly high quality of the videos. Green, and occasional guest presenters from other YouTube channels, is recorded in a professional studio, on a high quality camera and against a beautifully constructed backdrop. The videos are generally well cut, with Green’s hyperactive style au by some occasional short distance teleports across the screen.

Mental_Floss beautifully demonstrates how magazines can become multimedia platforms. The YouTube channel Mental_Floss is affiliated with a magazine of the same name and similar aims, in print in America. Everything about the list show format suggests clever marketing, so it is entirely unsurprising that Mental_Floss has the resources and direction of a magazine. These videos might almost be seen as Green’s day job. It certainly beats nine to five in an office.

As a means of cleaning the brain, Mental_Floss identifies flawlessly with the needs of its audience. Having targeted the mindset that causes mouse pilots to be drawn towards vacuous articles, with titles reminiscent of Top 10 Secrets That Doctors Will Hate, Mental_Floss infuses viewers with a hunger for knowledge that can persist after the video, and provides topical material with the debunking of various ‘life hacks’ found on other sources with a similar marketing approach. Fast paced humour keeps viewers sharp or leaves them bewildered, and the nearly overwhelming influx of topics to incite viewer curiosity is like a chemical shower for expunging intellectual detritus.

When burst viewing, Mental_Floss can produce information overload, which more or less forces me to recommend a subscription if I do recommend. Weekly release, and a ten minute video that can stimulate entire evenings on Wikipedia, makes a strong case for Mental_Floss as a ritualistic viewing experience. Quite contrary to the click-bait approach that Mental_Floss have taken, I recommend that viewers subscribe to this channel and set aside a short period for it every week. Make this little section of YouTube part of your weekly routine; I assure you, it will make you healthier and/or ripped and, for some entirely inexplicable reason, doctors will definitely hate it.

You can check out more of Samuel’s work over on his website.

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1 Response

  1. August 4, 2014

    […] Ostensibly, Mental_Floss is a weekly factoid listing series that presents huge fields of knowledge, each summarised into a neat collection of bite sized nuggets… Find the rest of my article on the excellent and new Surprisingly Competent Media […]

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