I’ll start by saying the title is in no way implying that this blog and Wait but why are in any way comparable. Wait but why is definitely a million times better. So don’t bother pointing that out to me. I know. It’s just a title. Breathe.
I discovered Tim Urban through in this iconic Ted Talk – seriously, it’s one of my favourites and I love a good Ted Talk. Something about sitting around watching smarter, harder-working, more talented people talk about the amazing things they are doing while I do nothing, is deeply satisfying to a particular part of me. It’s probably the being lazy and doing nothing part. Also there’s something about listening to people who are much better equipped for tackling those ‘change the world’ topics you usually find in TED Talks that gives us all hope for the future of human kind, without actually having to get up to do anything about it ourselves. Or am I the only lazy one? Just me? Okay.
Maybe I’m over-thinking this. I love Ted Talks because they’re like YouTube, only you actually have to think. What makes Tim’s talk so special and qualifies it for my TED Talk hall of fame is how simply and neatly Tim explains a problem that is so huge and yet so tiny, so silly and yet so major, so global and yet so relatable, in a way that doesn’t seem conceited or pretentious. He’s talking about the simultaneous dangers and pleasures of procrastination. That’s right – it’s like a long, spoken version of those tweets you always see from panicking students that are spending their time looking for memes about how soon their assignment is due instead of completing their assignment. Seriously, just watch it.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘sooo relatable!’ and ‘such a funny dude!’, maybe even ‘he’s kinda cute…’ and that’s all very nice of you to think but is not enough reason for me to write a post fawning all over Tim Urban’s blog. There is so much more to his writing. Granted, he’s covered topics that wouldn’t look out of place on Buzzfeed – Why You Secretly Hate Cool Bars,
Why Bugs Ruin Everything, 12 Types Of People You’ll Find In Every Hostel. But (and it’s an important ‘but’) the bulk of his writing is on topics that would look more likely to be on a Stephen Hawking discussion forum – Horizontal History , The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence, Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future. This is why I often have to make time to read WBW posts. I have to prepare myself mentally, emotionally and timeously. There’s no skimming through a 10 000 word essay on the politics of Elon Musks’ genius and how Tesla is changing the world quietly in America’s backyard.
Now, I know Tim is smart. I know this mostly because of the way he structures arguments and explains very complex topics is such a simple way that I understand them, even if it’s just for those 2 precious seconds before something distracts me and I’ve lost all understanding of anything ever.
Einstein once said “you don’t truly understand a topic if can’t explain it in a simple manner”. The fact that Tim can understand these various, unrelated topics even though he is not necessarily an expert, plus he also manages to explain them so well that a simpleton like myself can feel like I understand cosmic science, has to be a sign of remarkable intelligence. But I have to say that a lot of research has to go into each of these posts. And I don’t mean watching a Youtube video, scanning Wikipedia and copying and pasting a few quotes you happen to come across, type of research. I mean real research. With reputable sources. As well as theories and facts. So many of the facts. I’m exhausted just thinking about the facts. In fact, I’m often exhausted reading it. Yet how dare I be lazy to simply sit and read when all this amazing content was researched and explored and structured in a simple way just so that my simple brain could understand it? Add to that the fact that it’s also put in a simple and humourous manner so that my useless little brain can be bothered to pay attention for more than ten seconds and it was put on the internet for free. We are not worthy. But we are eternally grateful.
The humour I mention is a particularly important element of WBW. I have a lot of admiration for content creators who tackle large topics that may be complex, unfamiliar or just uncomfortable for their audience but they target large audiences anyway because these are the topics we should all probably be trying to engage with the most. It’s all that much more important that the general public are informed about a subject that isn’t normally addressed. That’s how you fight ignorance and encourage curiosity and open-mindedness in more than just a small niche audience. It is especially impressive if these content creators are visibly trying to avoid speaking into eco chambers of their specific fields of interest (their niche audience) by attempting to make their content relatable to the average user. Tim does this effortlessly in WBW posts, during his talks and just about everywhere I’ve seen him express himself – usually using humour. WBW is a funny blog. It has funny posts and seriously, heavy posts addressed in a funny way. I mean the blog’s main software for creating illustrations seems to be Paint.
I have to admit of course that some posts are funnier than others, you didn’t really think the From Muhammad to ISIS: Iraq’s Full Story post would be funnier than the Why I’m Always Late post, did you? What I mean is that some times the topic is so large and so complex that there just isn’t any space left for humour to squeeze into the dynamic without being conceited, breaking the post’s flow, or just confusing things. So don’t expect to be slapping knees and rolling on floors with every single post. You can expect to think though. Whether it’s about science or social anxiety or religion or mental health or who you’re going to marry or e-mail manners, you’ll be thinking about something you probably don’t think about often or that you do think about all the time just with a very different perspective.
And if you’re anything like me, you’re also going to think about spending every cent you have on WBW merchandise.