When I tell my parents that I’m just ‘catching up on YouTube’ they look confused, shake their heads and walk away with an air of ‘young people these days’. They, and many people older than my generation, are well aware that YouTube is great for looking at funny videos of cats and babies, seeing music videos and film trailers. However there is a whole other role that has developed that makes YouTube much, much more important than this.
There are hundreds of communities that use YouTube to connect people, educate each other and share common interests -beauty, gaming, nerdfighters, vlogging – all these communities and many more have hundreds of thousands of creators and viewers contributing to them every day. Not only does this allow for a huge, unlimited exchange of ideas (often with both positive and negative results), but creators are able to connect much more readily with a large audience thanks to the popularity of YouTube around the world. Yes, much of what is uploaded to YouTube may not be of high cultural value, but a large portion of the content can be educational and entertaining for its dedicated viewers. The interactivity possible with YouTubers is probably where this success comes from; you are not just being talked at through a screen, but encouraged to ask questions, give comments and even contribute to future projects. This makes YouTubers far more accessible than your average celebrity, and so seem much more real. It also shows how attainable this online status is, and YouTubers are constantly reminding viewer of this fact when asked ‘how do I start making videos?’ – You just have to turn on a camera and talk about something you are interested in.
Moreover people are making entire careers out of being a professional YouTuber, some earning well over $1 million per year, yet general opinion of career opportunities in new social media are incredulous at best. I can cite countless hugely popular YouTubers who decided either not to go to University, or to drop out, because they see YouTube as a better and more focused use of their time (for example JacksGap and charlieissocoollike). Ever since I was small I was told that to achieve my goals in life I would need to go to University. This is just not true anymore, particularly for creative young people who can learn the skills they need by doing instead of by studying. Obviously this does not apply to everyone, but more and more people nowadays aspire to emulate the success of famous YouTubers, and being a professional vlogger, beauty guru or musician on YouTube is now a viable career choice for those willing to spend 2 or 3 years building up their channels. As we all know, an online presence is vital for new companies, bands and celebrities to gain the attention of the younger ‘tech-savvy’ generation, and YouTube personalities are particularly skilled at utilising all aspects of the internet to build up a following. Much like more conventional celebrities, YouTubers have thousands of followers on Twitter, crowds gather at meet ups to see them in real life, and the success of events like VidCon (a conference for online creators and consumers) shows just how well this new media is doing. Much like blogging, the possibilities for YouTubers are endless in terms of what they can progress to doing – there are collaborative channels, huge events, some have even migrated to radio and TV!
I think the point I am trying to get across in this post is that many people still don’t quite grasp the importance of new social medias; they have enormous power to connect people and ideas across the globe (in an unobtrusively profitable way as well!) So next time you hear somebody saying they are catching up on YouTube, maybe ask who they are watching? You may discover a whole new world of entertainment through your computer screen!