I touched on the coming age of television in my last posting about wanting to be a young boy again. It was an exciting time for the visual medium. The future for television was wide open. The first monumental task, at least in its technological development, was to master turning the pictures from black and white to color. That really didn’t happen on a mass production basis until the 1960s. And, just as it did in the 50’s when TV was replacing the popularity of radio, there was a whole new surge in sales as people purchased color sets to replace their old B&W ones. Then, if we stay in the technology end of the business, the next huge leap came with high-def flatscreens. What’s next? Who knows!
And what about all the stuff people were watching on television? That too went through an incredible evolution that was highlighted by endless benchmarks along the way, such as Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation (one of the first things I remember watching on TV), to baseball games and other sporting events, to live drama, to the Kennedy’s and King assignations, to Lee Harvey Oswald being shot, to Roots, to Nasa rocket launches and moon landings, to the Olympics and I am sure tons of other events I can’t begin to list. The medium of television has been pretty remarkable and as Marshall McLuhan wrote, it itself became the message.
And now we have social media, which I think has stolen more audience hours from television than anything to date. And while it’s taken me three paragraphs to get to where I’m going with all this, I cannot help but think that YouTube has become a dominant player in the field of visual mass media.
Now, I admit I am a bad example because I do not watch very much television anymore. I spend most of my time looking into my computer’s monitor and, lately, a lot of that time has been spent watching YouTube.
YouTube is as fascinating to me as television was when the box with the little 11” picture tube first took up space in our livingroom. What is special–and different–about YouTube is its access. Anyone can participate, from oddball weirdos to professional brainiacs, to amateur and seasoned performers. They are all here and in abundance.
I have repaired three major appliances in my house simply by watching how-to videos on YouTube. I’ve torn half of my 22-year-old refrigerator apart while following step-by-step instructions presented by repairmen who volunteered sharing their knowledge on YouTube. In fact, if they weren’t available for free, I would have probably replaced my beast of a coldbox by now. But hey, it still works great!
Meanwhile, if you want to be entertained, YouTube has it all, from individual wannabe’s to well-established stars. If you like music you can pick your genre and watch an endless variety of performances. If you want to watch everyday people doing everyday things, or things extradinary—it’s all there on YouTube. I could not believe I spent over an hour the other night watching self-made videos of boyfriends executing their plans to pop the question on their unsuspecting girlfriends. And if you like tears of happiness, there’s a string of homecomings of Amerian soldiers and sailors showing up unexpectedly at a child’s school or a mother’s workplace. If you’re into sports you can watch some of the greatest, most hilarious, most outrageous plays in baseball, soccer, football and probably even ping pong. Wait, I just checked…yep, plenty of table tennis videos to watch.
If you like tradition, there’s plenty of that on YouTube. You can watch traditional ceremmonies, tradtional speeches, traditional people. If you like a twist or turn, there are videos for that too. Example, I watched a great interview with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Lawrence. No, there was no entertainment reporter hosting the interview. It was just Adam sitting across from Jennifer as they asked each other about their careers, movies they made, criticism they’ve taken and the entire challenge of acting. It was better than any “movie star” interview I’ve ever watched.
I could go on and on, there is so much variety of experiences on YouTube that so accurately represent who we (us humans) are and how we function and what we mean to each other. YouTube is a whole new universe to explore and if you venture through its cyberspace you will be taken places and feel things you’ve rarely, or even ever, have experienced before. And that is a key word: experience. YouTube is indeed all about experience. But be careful, it can be addictive….though not to worry too much, you’ll find plenty of addition videos on YouTube to help you cope.