YouTube; The Cultural Benefits of an Underestimated Platform.
History has shown that many aspects of the internet have never been received with a wholly one-sided opinion, or at least not a positive one. Social media sites Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc were created to reconnect, and in general to make the internet more interesting, but through the development of peoples ideas of what can be done with these sites, more negative opinions began to spring up and all of a sudden we had this large black cloud shrouding over a large proportion of the internet. Metaphorical road signs lined the cyber-social paths reading in block capitals “DO NOT ENTER. DANGER AHEAD” taking the more real and physical form of parents, teachers, and overly worried users of the sites that only saw the bad side of things and never the good. One site in particular that has spurned continual debate over its users, its motives and whether its existence has actually ruined generations is YouTube.
At only ten years old YouTube has delivered some incredibly diverse and creative content. In my early teens when I first came across YouTube I can only remember looking at musical content, but even then there were channels challenging perceptions and creating new ideals. One of the very first channels that I can recollect watching and being impressed by, especially in hindsight was Jamal Edward’s SBTV. What makes this particular channel so interesting to talk about especially in the context of its creation is that it began to improve the view and quality of urban music. Urban music has always had a stigma attached to it, and even now at some point there is a negative label connected to the genre, but nowadays it has a greater range in its audience and sub-genres that confront formats already set in stone. YouTube has been a great player in this evolution.
As YouTube grew, and I aged into my mid-teens, checking YouTube and watching the videos my subscriptions had created became as routinely imprinted as the school lessons and homework that came before it. It was a daily occurrence, and was something that I did naturally, videos of musicians such as Tori Kelly, Kurt Hugo Schneider, Christina Grimmie etc would be played as soon as I got home. Some would say that the fact it becomes routinely imprinted is a negative thing, and that it can only lead to self-isolation. For me at least, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Picture it, it’s a common image; a young man, confused about so much of the world, and at the same time fascinated by it all, but too scared and too shy to try to understand it all. YouTube was an escape, and a motivator. I would come home and watch videos of musicians being so impassioned about their work that it put a smile on my face just watching them, YouTube was a platform that allowed them to connect to their fans easier, which in turn made us feel as if we were a part of their rise to fame, and their online family. What’s more is the fact that so many of these musicians were young, and doing what they loved, which began to break down the walls of doubt that so many of us felt.
Vloggers are a more modern thing, they also get some of the largest criticism and negativity. They are slated for not having any talent, for just setting up a camera and being themselves and getting paid money for it. This view is rather ignorant. I know from my own experience and the experience of friends, and other internet fans that these videos are so incredibly useful. It is so much more than a camera and ‘life’. It is creating new content every video that interests fans and inspires them. It is dealing with the marketing side of things, that can have them working just as hard and as long as the many nine-to-fivers that slate them. It is dealing with that negativity and continuing on, knowing that everything you do is worth it. It is dealing with fans stalking their every move and often entering their houses.
At its core, it is a community full of fans willing to help other fans, to help the creators and to help themselves. It is a place where creators get to live their dream careers, or at least start them and inspire others just like them to not give up on what often seems impossible. This community now has so many other amazing sub-sections to it as well; magic tutorials, booktube, film production tutorials, writers, beauty etc which allow typically ‘outcast’ types to be given a platform to share their passions with likeminded people.
This article was not to present YouTube as an untouchable, perfected, euphoric place that all ages and types of people may enter and be greeted with lollipops of protection that mean they are immune to any harm. However a better perspective of YouTube and the possibilities of its cultural benefits reveals just how incredibly pivotal it can be in the progression of our collective mental health, our comprehension of each other, and our personal development.