Had you asked me in 2005 whether I thought a video-sharing website like YouTube could have a large cultural impact, I’d have probably said no. That it might have become a popular and frequently visited site wouldn’t have surprised me. But that it might become a lasting cultural phenomenon with real social clout would have seemed a tad ridiculous.
This, of course, is coming from someone who still doesn’t own a cell phone. Nevertheless, I’d like to think that I keep my ear to the cultural ground, so to speak. I’d also like to think that I have more than a few good gears still turning up in that noggin of mine.
Good gears or not, culturally aware or not, I would have been wrong in my estimation of YouTube’s impact. In the years since its inception, YouTube has gone on to affect significant change not only in the way we spend our leisure time, but also in the way many people make a living.
Below are several videos that illustrate how our favourite video-sharing website has been leaving its mark on our society. If there’s something you wish to add, please leave a comment with a link to your selected video.
VLOGGING (GONE WRONG)
Many of us are bloggers; more and more of us are also becoming vloggers (i.e. someone who blogs through video). When done well, a vlog can be comical, insightful, thought provoking, you name it. Trouble is, some vloggers (typically younger ones) don’t fully consider the consequences of the videos they post. Take eleven year old Jessi Slaughter, for example. In this video, she tells her “haters” that she’ll “pop a glock in [their] mouth and make a brain slushy.” Never one to take things sitting down, the Internet community fired back. Jessi’s next video (seen below) responded to the numerous comments she received, but it only fuelled the fire, what with its tearful hysterics and fatherly threats. Sure, the video is funny, but it raises the important issue of how, when a site like YouTube is misused, people can and are getting hurt.
In days of old, you could get your official news fix from only one of three places: the newspaper, radio, or TV. But then the Internet came along and official media outlets broke onto the scene—now your news was only a click away. With YouTube, however, we’re starting to see more and more amateur news shows, such as my own personal favourite, The Philip DeFranco Show. Three days a week, Philip DeFranco (or PhillyD) gives his opinion on current events, politics, and celebrity gossip. He is often profane and sometimes vulgar, but he’s also insightful, empathetic, and full of irony and wit. Though his show is clearly biased, DeFranco adds a sense of humanity and relevance to weekly news—perhaps a cure to the much-bemoaned apathy of the current generation.
Of the millions of videos on YouTube, a large chunk of them are ones purporting to be funny. I sometimes wonder how much America’s Funniest Home Videos is hurting now that most people upload their filmed fails, pranks, and practical jokes to the Internet. In any event, if you’re looking for a laugh, YouTube has your fix. The problem, however, is trying to pick out the gems from the junk. And that is where Toby Turner (Tobuscus to his friends) comes in. Each week Turner hosts a show called CuteWinFail, wherein he shows three clips, and then has viewers vote to decide which clip is “the most epic.” The show is short and amusing, sure enough, but it also brings a level of professionalism and formality to an Internet phenomenon that has for too long been left sloppy and excessive. To my mind, CuteWinFail and its like are part of a process to better cultivate a more productive and creative Internet community.
Speaking of community, it’s long been said that the Internet connects people from across the world, bridging the gaps between cities, provinces, countries, and continents. But never have I seen such a stunning and imaginative example of that connectivity as I do with Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir. To hear the full background story, click here. In short, Whitacre, a popular American composer, filmed himself conducting a piece of music he’d written, and then asked for singers across the world to send videos of themselves singing the various parts of the piece. All the videos were spliced together, making a virtual choir. The result is astounding, and says a lot about the potential sites like YouTube have to offer.
Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.