Like Twitter, and basically all of the most popular websites on the Internet, YouTube has developed a reputation as a time-waster. I believe that reputation is well-earned. The voting of the masses on the most popular videos has always been mystifying to me, with very few exceptions. Cute animal videos are a black hole from which only sadists can escape, probably. Despite all that, I’ve been using YouTube for over five years and find it indispensable. For better and for worse, the time I spend watching internet videos could be spent watching television. Many claim we’re in the midst of a TV renaissance, but this is a phenomenon I’ve only read about, having seen practically none of the shows themselves. I don’t really want to talk about that, though. There’s not much to say, anyway. What I want to talk about is the things I love about YouTube.
In a sense, this post is partially outdated. My consumption of YouTube hit its peak a few years ago and has been declining since. Now some of the time I could spend watching videos is spent reading, and I’m okay with this. But I’m still subscribed to all the same channels, and some new ones, so I can return to them from time to time. During my college years and a little after, there were only a few channels that I followed closely — the satire and parodies of Barely Political, news on upcoming films from Movie Buzz, sung versions of famous movie themes by Goldentusk, political news and opinion by Philip DeFranco, the surreal and hilarious short films of Waverly Films, and the observational humor/one-woman skits of communitychannel. I enjoyed all of these so much that, for a few years, I tried to watch every single video they produced. With my blogging efforts and my increased presence on social networks (2011-present), that passion waned. It’s for the best, since a few of the above names aren’t even putting videos out very frequently anymore. But there are two types of videos that will keep me on YouTube for the foreseeable future.
One other thing I’d like to mention related to film clips and TV clips is that YouTube users have contributed to my enjoyment of them, and not just because they uploaded them in the first place. The particular clips shared, descriptions from the uploaders, and some illuminating comments from other users, have occasionally helped me appreciate shows and movies much, much more. Take the show Community, for example. To begin with, I gave the show a “try-out” by watching clips and bloopers on YouTube before I decided to spend a free-trial to Hulu Plus watching the show’s first three seasons from start to finish. Now it’s among my all-time favorites. It’s amazing to me to think that a year ago, I’d never seen it (I told you I haven’t seen much TV lately). Anyway, observant fans of the show (which is really a redundancy — if you’re a fan, you adore the intricacies and will be looking for Easter eggs everywhere) put up specially edited clips and comment on the clips that are already there. In this way I discovered the Beetlejuice cameo, Abed delivering a baby in the back of a van, Troy whispering (I think) “dude, we need to eat those tacos,” Annie trying to cry into the chloroform rag, and Abed’s cameo on Cougar Town. Little stuff, I admit, but I’m glad to know about it. Another example is the movie Punch-Drunk Love, which has grown in my estimation each time I’ve seen it. YouTube commenters, often maligned as rhetorical infants, are also the reason I know that the word “love” is written across Barry’s knuckles after he punches a wall, and that Lena is in the background, following Barry from a distance, during the supermarket scene. At its best, YouTube helps fulfill the promise of the whole internet: sharing experiences with a limitless variety of people and communicating what’s great about those experiences, thus making them even better.