Analyzing YouTube

John Gottron

COMPSTD 2367.04

Seth Josephson

March 11, 2015

Few websites possess the ability to grow as furiously and as quickly as YouTube has since its creation in February of 2005. What started out as a project to create a video based dating site saw its creators make the life-changing decision to change the website to a destination purely for sharing and watching videos. The inability to find a video of Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction and the problems contributed to sharing video files over email influenced the creation of one of the most widely used and most popular internet databases the world has ever seen (1).

When a new media, such as YouTube, is introduced, it is not easy to analyze until it has run its course for a number of years. With YouTube passing the decade mark since its inception (2), it now holds the ability to be looked at on a deeper level consistent with the likes of social media mega sites. Thanks to the immense nature of the website, there are many different viewpoints one can take when approaching the subject. However, there is a fundamental fact that remains true from all views; the creation and growth of YouTube has changed the way people see the world.

One of the most obvious observations when in the process of analyzing is that YouTube is an archive; it holds videos from the past unless deleted by the uploader or flagged and taken down for violation of terms and policies. However, the site is much more than a simple archive for videos. Videos can possess the power to exhibit an archive of feelings. Especially with many of the videos hosted on the site being related to history, sports, or current world issues, the viewer has no problem connecting with the material. Likewise, if there is a video that revitalizes past experiences or memories of emotional previous events, a nostalgic effect is likely to occur. This specific database of videos is not only an archive for the moving pictures, but also an archive for feelings and emotions through which one may have gone. In fact the example of YouTube is very relatable to Ann Cvetkovich’s An Archive of Feelings. For instance, on the very first page of the introduction, she mentions something interesting about music; “The music helps return the listener to the pleasures of sensory embodiment that trauma destroys.” This sense of escape is not unique to music. Instead, the same effects can be experienced when surfing through different videos. YouTube is not just an archive that holds videos, it also assists the user to access their archive of feelings related to the videos they watch.

In a much different, yet equally interesting, approach of one of the most prominent websites today, one can look at self-representation on YouTube. As the internet has become something most claim they cannot live without, the digital self has become a larger issue. It is extremely easy to present oneself as somebody or something they are not. In some instances, the ease of changing one’s qualities can have a positive effect. However, more common is the case where the opposite occurs. Undeniably, many YouTube users abuse the abilities that online representation has allotted them. Now, there are two basic, distinct groups on virtually every video posted to YouTube. There are the creators of the video, and there are the commenters that follow. Many of the popular videos seen by millions of people are the videos that contain dangerous or ridiculous stunts. Obviously, if there was no camera to document these actions, if there was no drive to get millions of hits on YouTube, the creator most likely would not take part in such an outrageous, sometimes health threatening action. They change their process of decision making and change how others see them because they desire to create content to post. As far as commenters go, well, they have anonymity unless they voluntarily forfeit that option. As a result of this anonymity, a large group of people who use the comment sections choose to not use any filter. Thoughts are posted that would likely not be expressed if a true identity was known. Sometimes the motive is to share an opinion one truly believes in. Other times, the motive is to simply cause an argument or to upset others reading the comment. Either way, the available anonymity drastically alters online self-representation. Noted in the essay Studying the Digital Self, “The expanding range of virtual environments makes identities increasingly manipulable.” YouTube is a prime example of this statement.

Even though a long list of examples as to why YouTube has a negative effect on society, there are stronger arguments in favor of a positive overall effect. First and foremost, YouTube creates an impressive global village. Of course, Marshall McLuhan wrote extensively on this subject and noted how the radio also created such a situation. However YouTube takes the concept of a global village to the next level. With the capability to share important issues to those outside city, state, and national borders with pictures and videos, those receiving the information more easily connect to the issues. Thanks to this, they have a deeper understanding of the current events of the world. Not only does the viewer know more about what is going on, but they also are more emotionally invested in the events. For instance, seeing videos of a protest or political movement can convey the struggles of the oppressed to those across the globe. There is a natural human sense to help those in need. Visual representation of the problems of others only enforces this need to extend a hand. According to Pew Journalism Research Center, approximately twenty-one percent of all YouTube videos are related to politics in one way or another (3). This high percentage of videos related to politics, along with political issues being one of the most commonly debated topics of everyday life, causes the creation and growth of a community who rely on YouTube to receive their news. The majority of their opinions and knowledge are formed from a single website hosting seemingly endless amounts of videos on any subject imaginable.

Statistically, approximately seventy-nine percent of all videos remain for other topics not related to politics. A common mistake may be to conclude that the video not containing dialogue based on crucial international events leads to the viewership being completely domestic. This is rarely the case for any video with a decent amount of views. It is reasonable to say videos that are not politically driven are more likely to navigate the web more quickly than their counterparts. Many people log onto the site to get an escape from the world; they want to forget the problems they face on a daily basis. Many of these problems are also related to politics. When turning to this expansive database to gain an escape, many users, despite nationality or latitude and longitude, enjoy the same type of videos. For this simple reason, the global village aspect of YouTube does not stop at political troubles or successes; it continues on to enjoyment. The mixture of cultures is being seen in a way that has never previously been possible. Not only are the videos able to connect different people from all over the world based on interests, but scrolling through the comments creates a sense of unity. There are many different languages seen all talking about the same subject; it brings people together. No matter if it is a cat playing with a baby, or a protest in a nation on the other side of the world, the sharing of videos brings a sense of unity between people who would have never interacted in any way if it was not for YouTube being a worldwide phenomenon.

One tangible aspect of YouTube not mentioned so far is that of new opportunities. There are endless opportunities created by the immense size and convenience of the site. Some of these opportunities are more obvious than others, but all were not born until February of 2005 and the creation of the world’s second largest search engine. With more than one billion unique visitors, the growth has exceeded the expectations of even the founders (2). As well as this crowd helping to create new modes of advertisement, there are new chances for individuals. Rising to success and fame after being discovered on YouTube is not uncommon. Either with talent, specific skill sets, or other attractive qualities, a company or agency can find somebody on YouTube and turn the posting of videos into unforeseen success in the real world. However, an exhilarating rise is not always the goal. Sometimes the creation of YouTube content is meant solely for enjoyment, but it can also be used as a legitimate career path. With the YouTube partners program providing monetary compensation for different conditions of a video, such as view count and ads in the videos, it is possible for more popular YouTubers to lead extremely successful lives by simply creating and posting videos on a regular basis. It is estimated that the most popular YouTubers make upwards of five million dollars annually (4). The site has truly created a new field of jobs that simply did not exist ten years ago.

YouTube is still a relatively new media and it is still growing rapidly. However, in the past ten years since its creation, it has fundamentally changed many aspects of the lives of many. From creating a global village to representing oneself online to creating new career opportunities, the impact YouTube has already left on the world is more substantial than ever thought possible. New ways of communicating and learning are now possible thanks to an idea for a dating site that turned into much, much more.

(1) Elliott, Amy-Mae. “10 Fascinating YouTube Facts That May Surprise You.” N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2015

(2) YouTube Statistics. YouTube, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.

(3) “Is YouTube a Good or Bad Influence on Society?” Mic. N.p., 06 May 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.

(4) Jacobs, Harrison. “We Ranked YouTube’s Biggest Stars By How Much Money They ” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 03 Mar. 2015

Fabrications of the Mind

The media is society’s main source of entertainment these days, ranging from current news and radio shows to romance dramas and superhero movies. The average student spends countless hours on Netflix and Hulu. The goal of a producer is to make a profit off of their ideas and to do that they must capture the audience’s attention. What are the current social matters? What interests the younger generation? What does society really want?  Although television shows and movies are supposed to be a depiction of “real life,” they have had more of an influence on society instead of serving the purposes of plain entertainment.

At first, while reading a book, often times a reader will imagine scenes and create images of the characters, creating a sort of mental movie. Technology has made this easier by physically creating movies that audiences can see. Readers will also place themselves in the story to the point where they have created an emotional attachment to the book itself.

As humans, the mind is always looking to improve itself based on more successful people or role models: people who have overcome a personal difficulty or have reached that distant success, even if that person is a complete fabrication of someone else’s mind.  The most influential point in life is childhood; children see and children do. A child looks up to their parent for guidance on how to eat, talk, interact, and all the basics of life in general. Kids grow up watching Saturday morning cartoons and, of course, awesome animated stories about the endeavors of superheroes. Through these, children normally relate their first few experiences of emotional sadness, excitement, and awe-struck wonder.

Disney is the largest animated entertainment company whose primary audience is children. Thanks to Disney, young girls have a false sense of love and boys have the desire to be brave and powerful. All of the original Disney princesses fell in love at first sight, causing young girls to have a fantastical view of love. What girl would not want to be beautiful and have a handsome prince sweep her off her feet and take her to live in his majestic castle? The kind of love depicted is mainly infatuation by physical appearance; in Snow White, the prince did not speak a word to her before falling in love with her and taking her to his castle. Many girls will grow out of the thought as they mature and understand that life isn’t a fairytale, but some girls will not. Jennifer Hardstein wrote an article about “Princess Syndrome,” in which she believes that these unrealistic ideals can affect later self-esteem. Hardstein argues that children grow up with the wrong values and that, because of Disney, young girls grow up believing their worth is in their appearance and material possessions (5).

Alex Kristelis wrote an article that even Disney had an effect on young boys by creating a repetitive pattern in what “men” are “supposed” to do; for example, the guy always has to rescue the girl or the good guy is always handsome and strong (5). Movies like The Lion King, Hercules, and Toy Story feature a brave main character who overcomes ridiculous hardships and eventually comes to the rescue. They become role models for children and, yes, it is possible that they learn and become better people by that. However, it is also possible that they will grow up thinking they are brave and invincible and not understand that struggles in real life as they grow up are very different and true love is not simply handed to them. Even though older Disney movies are classics and well loved by many, there should be a distinction from the fictional world and the real world and perhaps realistic life lessons instead of a silly fantasy.

After getting through the fairytale and knight in shining armour phase of life, youth culture should be about making friends and enjoying relationships while you are young. Too bad it has mainly become about parties and sex. Gossip Girl is essentially about the struggle for popularity, all of the conflicts between two friends, who had sex with whom. Asking someone who had seen all six seasons, Tara Schwinger said, “What makes me most upset about Gossip Girl is how dumb every single situation is; honestly, the show is just very unrealistic. It gives kids unrealistic expectations of what their parents are going to allow them to do. No parent is going to let her 16 year old daughter go to a Greece alone with some random people that she doesn’t know (4).” Schwinger, being from New York City, even said that the majority of schools there are not even close to what is depicted in Gossip Girl, with the exception of some of the private schools.

Most all girls have at least heard of gossip girl and it’s ridiculously over dramatized situations. Lesley Blume wrote an article about how Gossip Girl is killing youth culture, naming the article “15 going on 50” because this 15 year old seems to be doing things out of her age and maturity range (1). Blair Waldorf is in junior high and her life is consumed by drugs, sex, and backstabbing friends. In reality, junior high was remembered for braces, awkward first kisses, and awkwardly trying to make friends. Even in college, where an alcohol and sex culture is very prominent, there is not that much drama. Gossip Girl was supposed to be an example of modern life when it could probably depict the life of Khloe Kardashian instead of the average adolescent. No person could possibly be so mature as to be calmly composed and directly talk to their significant other who had cheated on them without screaming, crying, and maybe throwing the nearby book. Situations like these are influential and affect how real relationships are handled because events like this do exist and they typically involve sensitive girls being over dramatic and overthinking everything. Blume, in her article, wrote, “[…] Gossip Girl seems to tell us that there’s nothing to look forward to, and there will be nothing to look back upon … except more of the same. We’re not just destined to become brittle materialistic adults; we already are brittle materialistic adults (1).” This unrealistic ideal of life growing up should not take us straight into adulthood or tell us that life is about materialistic gains and popularity or attention from the opposite gender. Girls should not spend their youth fantasizing about cute boys and sex. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that every young woman spends her youth looking forward to her first kiss, and the rest of her life looking back upon it (1).

Recently the show Breaking Bad had become extremely popular amongst young adults, mainly college students and early graduates. Breaking Bad is about Walter White’s financial struggle to support his family and pay for cancer treatment. He has all the right morals but he turns to an extremely illegal business to make the money to do so. White starts his own methamphetamine lab and begins to distribute the substance. This action gets him the money he needs but eventually leads him into a very long hard struggle with the wrong people.

The use of methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is illegal worldwide. Along with the influence of shows like Disney and Gossip Girl, this one is a bit more morbid. Breaking Bad has introduced the concept of meth to those who had not known much about it and it makes it less of a taboo in conversations (2). Although Breaking Bad does not directly influence uses of meth and other drugs, it does open society’s eyes to how drug cartels and illegal businesses function. The show depicts to what extent people will go for money and there is no doubt that it would give the desperate person some ideas. A regular side job that pays minimum wage is insufficient for a college that costs more than $20,000 a semester. Some college kids are known to go into the pornography or prostitution business to pay for tuition and maybe even marijuana or other drugs. White’s choice to manufacture meth to make money for a good reason is admirable but that just gives people the idea to unknowingly do dangerous things instead of working hard in a real job. This type of behavior, even though it is not actively glorified, should not be something that a viewer should be spending hours upon hours watching and unintentionally learning from.

The mind is highly influenced and there are constant everyday struggles with peer pressure, stereotypes and expectations. These struggles are dealt with by everyone, from the time we are born to the day we die. The problem is that the influence still works when there are fictional people with fictional lives. The media is a great archive in that it preserves our lifestyle and show technological advancement, but its main purpose was to entertain, not to influence. Media, in the words of McLuhen, counts as an extension of our minds; but the more it influences society, the more it changes to become an extension of our actions.

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Works Cited

Blume, Leslie. “Huffington Post.” 15 Going On 50: How Gossip Girl is Killing Youth Culture.

Huffington Post, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.

Ewing, Blake. “Breaking Bad Normalizes Meth, Argues Prosecutor.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 28

Kristelis, Alex. “7 Problematic Lessons Disney Movies Teach Boys About Masculinity.” Bustle.

Bustle, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.

Feb. 2015.

Schwinger, Tara

Wellman, Victoria. “Are our girls suffering from ‘Princess Syndrome’? Disney heroines teach

us  to trade on our looks and value material things, claims new book.” Daily Mail.

Associated Newspapers, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2015.