The emergence of YouTube nation

Christine Guerrini

I can’t seem to escape YouTube. My friends constantly send me links to the site.

On occasion, the clips have relevance: a song I should hear, a movie I should watch or something that actually pertains to things I do on campus.

More often, they are clips like the one someone sent me just before I wrote this article: inmates of a prison in the Philippines doing a choreographed dance to “Thriller.”

And that’s not even the most random or outrageous material that YouTube has to offer.

Since its creation and launch in December 2005, the site has grown into the fourth most visited Web site in the world.

When Google bought YouTube in 2006, the acquisition opened the way for partnerships with big providers, such as CBS, Warner Music Group and the NBA.

The site holds upwards of 69 million videos and boasts five million user channels.

The estimate of users is rough, at best, due to the fact that people can access the majority of videos without registering.

Everyone from 2008 presidential candidates to your next door neighbor uses the Web site.

So, why is YouTube so inordinately popular? I’ll admit I battled writing this article because I got caught up in YouTube videos while trying to form my opinions.

Half of the material posted on the Web site passes for little more than juvenile amusement or another excuse to procrastinate.

The other half consisted of things that also exist in the mainstream culture on TV, DVD and official Web sites. What makes this site, like Facebook and Myspace before it, a cultural phenomenon?

It’s the ability to reach and be reached by an entire world full of people.

Yes, the Web site provides access to a wealth of information and entertainment at the click of a button.

One can laugh at “My New Haircut” or sing along to leaks of the new Panic at the Disco single.

But, more importantly, users can communicate through videos across state lines and even oceans.

They can interact with people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Web site allows aspiring actors and musicians to gain support, recognition and, in some cases, their big break. It lets people who feel misunderstood find others with similar interests.

It forms a network and community through which people make connections.

And that’s something that everybody wants.

Everybody wants to belong to something bigger than themselves.

First that something was MySpace, then Facebook and now YouTube.

One can only guess what type of new Web site will come along and unite the next generation.

Until then, we’ll just have to gather together and laugh at Chris Crocker crying over Britney Spears one more time.