YouTube is a terrible addiction, and one that is hard to kick. The reason, of course, is that each time I select a video, a computer algorithm registers my interests and feeds me more of the same.
So, it is not surprising then that I spend an ever-increasing proportion of my spare time watching films of fleets of glamorous new tractors trailing equally sparkling new kit across perfectly level fields, interspersed with videos of Lionel Messi doing spectacular things with a football for Barcelona.
Whether it be the greatest footballer the world has ever seen (or will ever see) or the most expensive tractor Fendt has ever made, the effect is the same: I sit in gob-smacked awe for hours on end.
Apart from wasting huge segments of my time, I’ve always thought that these endless distractions are relatively harmless pursuits.
“Machinery” or “Messi” porn is surely a better bet than the other sort. But am I kidding myself? Am I being complacent about my Youtube habit?
What can explain my obsession with watching all those John Deere tractors or Claas combines going about their superbly synchronised manoeuvres?
Is it a secret desire that one day I will be able to afford kit of this quality?
There are all sorts of farming videos to watch on the internet, including “farmers’ diaries” that show farmers doing their daily farming routines. These are not for me.
Here I sit, congratulating myself on managing to get work done on my farm with equipment thatis so old it has started to appreciate in value as “collectable vintage”
Their mundane subject matter (mending a cattle feeder or loading a very large trailer with dung) is just too close to my own working day for it to be entertaining.
On reflection, I think the truth about my addiction to high-tech videos can be explained this way.
An important discipline of farming the mostly very low-quality land that predominates in my home county of East Sussex is keeping machinery expenditure to a minimum.
I used to submit my accounts to the government’s annual Farm Income Survey, and they were always very interested in my machinery replacement policy.
While my crop yields, lambing percentages and beef finishing weights were invariably poor to average, one figure stood out: my machinery depreciation per hectare was a quarter of the average for a typical farm of my type and size.
I have never forgotten how impressed the University of London academics were by my featherlight investment in kit.
So, is it some sort of bizarre inverted snobbery that drives my obsession with tractor videos?
Here I sit, congratulating myself on managing to get work done on my farm with equipment that, in some cases, is so old that it has started to appreciate in value as “collectable vintage”.
I am proud that my chequebook sits gathering dust in a forgotten drawer; I’m still in business. The truth is, my obsession with tractor videos is nothing more than harmless escapism.
I wish I could say the same about the Messi sequences. I still play football twice a week, but teammates have started to observe disturbing changes in my behaviour after scoring a goal.
Rather than politely thanking someone for the assist, I now run to the touchline to milk applause from a non-existent crowd, kiss my shirt, remove it and finally wave it over my head.
Whatever the algorithms suggest, I will have to try to stick to just tractor videos from now on.