TJE 46: Getting out of the Rabbit Hole – SB19 and BTS

The world has seen an insane amount of challenges at the beginning of 2020, that you’d hear comments of how bad this year immediately has become. Some even dismiss it and already look forward to the next year.

2020 started out very positive for me personally.

It was jumpstarted by an amazing quick trip to Japan and I started a personal project.  Then unexpectedly, video projects came left and right, which was quite exciting (though tiring).  I really felt that this year is off to a great start.

Then I hit a couple of obstacles that would affect my productivity.  As I write this (March 17), I’m currently struggling with the second one.

I can’t stop watching BTS videos.

Yes, currently the biggest boy band in the world, has hypnotized this 35-year old, who was never hooked into K-Pop.  I can’t believe it.  I’m aware of K-Pop.  It has been big in Asia for years.  And I even lived in Korea, at the time when it’s quite huge already – the time of Big Bang and 2NE1.  But I was never hooked into it.

How did it all come to this?  Well, there’s a different group that caused it first: SB19.  Yes, the rapidly growing P-Pop group that’s undergoing Korean-style Idol training.

How it started – SB19

I was very busy in January.  Suddenly, video projects came.  And I poured my effort into them: squeezed my creative juices, worked for an unhealthy amount of time, to make them all happen.

Then, when they were all finished by first week of February, I felt deserving of a down time.  I was coming out of an information diet.  What I mean by that is, I would rarely look into a topic outside of what I am working on. I was just really motivated in the first few weeks of the year.

Then I allowed myself to wander off the “universe.”  I’m talking about getting lost in my favorite website: Youtube.  And if you frequent this universe, you definitely have experienced being sucked by the Youtube blackhole.  Here’s how the problem started.

One video was in my recommended topic.  It is by Asian Boss, where they talked about racism in the Philippines, in the use of the term “Negros”.

The video started by mentioning the group SB19, whose tweet was misinterpreted by non-Filipino fans. (Spoiler alert: it’s both a term for black race and an island in the Philippines, and SB19 referred to the latter in their tweet, so it’s not racist.)

After watching the video, I then searched SB19 as I didn’t know who they were.  And then it started.  The first video I watched was the “Go Up” M/V.  I was impressed.  It sounds similar to K-Pop, but hey, I understand it.  And it’s not cringe-y, has a good message – basically I instantly liked it.  Then naturally, I clicked the related videos, starting with the “Go Up” dance practice.  I was super impressed.  These guys are good dancers – and super in sync!  Then I saw how they also have good vocalists.  Their talent is undeniable, and you immediately know that they practice a lot. So my search went on.  In short, I got sucked into the SB19 rabbit hole, which went on for about 3 weeks. I just could not stop watching their videos! 

What made me hooked into SB19? Let me break it down.  

  1. I like dancing and singing.  I’m not a performer, obviously, but that interest makes me binge-watch great performances from time to time. 
  2. They’re talented and hard working. Those just come through with every performance, which is very commendable.
  3. The Korea connection.  I sort of empathize with their story of intense training because I used to live in Korea. Being in Seoul, working long hours, adapting a high paced life, and understanding Korean culture, makes me imagine the adjustment they had to make in the beginning of their training.  Well they didn’t train in Korea, and my experience and industry is different, but I just know how it is to be in a Korean company.  Also, watching their Korea travel vlogs hits my nostalgia sometimes!
  4. They are genuine (or seem to be) and naturally entertaining.  Their personalities come through authentically, and the contrasts and similarities mixed with humor basically make for good entertainment.  I think they are very lucky to actually have a good relationship as a group. Speaking of…
  5. Seeing friendship being built. I’m lucky to have many friends in life.  And many of those were formed due to shared experiences, especially hardships.  These days, I rarely spend time with friends.  And seeing a group of people building their friendship comforts me somehow, probably because I relive the feeling.
  6. Learning about their struggles. The classic story of the underdog.  Who doesn’t root for underdogs?
  7. I love success stories.  If there’s one storyline that can make me emotional almost every time – it is a good success story.  I just love witnessing human triumph!

Link to the next obsession

So I was relieved when after 3 weeks, I felt like the obsession subsided.  But a link to the next obsession was formed.  SB19 covers K-Pop songs too, and I got to watch some of them.  Through that, I got hooked to 3 K-Pop songs, that I would play on loop for hours.  Just to note, I have this tendency to loop a song, album or playlist when I love it.  One of those songs is Boy with Luv by BTS.  So okay, sure, I love it, I watched the music video, a few performances, but didn’t bother getting to know more about BTS at first.

I heard of BTS before.  I think I already watched their AMA performance on Youtube when it was big news in 2017.  But it didn’t get me hooked to them then. However, opening up to the music of SB19, made me more open to listening to K-Pop.

I watched the first “ON” music video on the day it premiered.  It didn’t hit me hard at first. Great visuals, but I kept on listening to just Boy With Luv.  But around this time, BTS videos would always appear in my recommendations.

Here we go – BTS

Then a seed moment came.  I clicked on the 2nd M/V of “ON” when it appeared on my Youtube home page.  I thought, wait, this isn’t the thumbnail I remember.  I watched the video, and thought it was great.  And then I watched the related videos of their different performances of “ON” in TV shows – they’re phenomenal.  The song started to grow on me, though I still didn’t listen to it on Spotify.  But I consider it a seed moment because after watching different “ON” renditions, I clicked on a related video: about John Cena being a fan of BTS. I thought, hmm, curious.

I still didn’t dig deep into the group after that.  Incidentally, I got busy with a new video project, so my mind was taken off from Youtube performances.  I worked long hours again, and then felt like rewarding myself with free internet time after finishing the project in a week.  I just thought I’d watch Boy with Luv (again!) performances to start with.  You can tell that I really love that song by now.  Apart from the music, the song’s choreography is so good! This was around 2nd week of March…  And then that moment came.  I started watching interviews of the boy band. And then I clicked onto a related video about getting to know BTS. 

It’s official, I was sucked into the BTS blackhole.  And it’s the success story yet again, that was the strongest pull.  So this is the problem I’m dealing with for the better part of March.  I can’t stop watching BTS videos!

A recurring theme

This is not the first time that I would find myself binge-watching stories of people and their success. I’ll give you examples of those whose stories, performances or lessons I got obsessed with at a point in my life: Roger Federer, Lady Gaga, Lea Salonga, Elon Musk, Naval Ravikant, Tim Ferriss. Get my point?

Now, why am I talking about my current obsession as a problem? It’s because my situation is different now.

During the times when I was unhealthily watching or listening to Roger Federer, Lady Gaga and Lea Salonga (at different years in life), I was a salary man.  So I only get to waste time after office or during lazy weekends.

The times when I got obsessed with the stories or lessons from Elon Musk, Naval Ravikant and Tim Ferriss, I am already in my entrepreneurial journey.  So obsessing about those topics are quite helpful, as I get inspired. Plus it’s mostly just listening to them.

But being obsessed about musical performers at this time of my life, when I’m not tied down by an office space and strict schedule is a serious problem.  My productivity is really suffering.  The thing is, the enjoyment of BTS heavily involves visuals.  I just have to watch them perform.  Or sometimes, watch them goof around in vlogs.  In many ways, my liking for BTS is the same as the reasons I listed above for SB19.  The stories are similar, though obviously BTS is quite ahead and is already at the pinnacle of success, while SB19 is still at the beginning of it.

Writing for Therapy

So why did I bother writing a blog about my current problem? For therapy.  

  • Like telling your problems to a friend, family member or therapist, talking about a problem gives a feeling of relief. 
  • I want something creative to come out of this.  I have wasted so many hours by now. And a blog post is that “product” I can release, while still having that problem, but not totally wasting my time, right? 
  • I think by tiring myself about the topic, I would get over it, and long for another information diet.  I want that by the time I post this in the blog, my problem’s over.

How I finally got over the problem

By the time I was done writing all the above items (March 18), I was still not over BTS. I gave it 2 days, if the obsession wanes, then it worked.  However, I still can’t help but look them up.  Writing wasn’t enough.  So here’s what I did next:

I exhausted myself learning BTS choreography and recorded my experience. I hit 2 creative expressions doing this: 1) dancing to express myself (+ point for getting more exercise too); 2) making a vlog as a product. So you know, I didn’t really feel that I’ve wasted my time.

I am glad to say that now, I can just resort to listening to them to fuel other work when I hit a blank wall.  I don’t crave to repeatedly watch performances, interviews or vlogs.  Will this obsession come back? It could, because so long as they keep going, there are new performances to be seen and stories to be inspired with.

Don’t get me wrong, BTS and SB19 are great.  I’m just talking about how one should fight off a rabbit hole, unless your livelihood actually derives from it.  Life should not stop, while admiring others. You should live your present in a way that these inspirational people live theirs: working hard to be the best at what they do, or become the best version of themselves.

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