By Christopher Hansen
Youtube has been shaping our definition of modern celebrity for years, but before the site became a dependable source of income for independent creators, it served as a platform for some of the internet’s most random content. Youtube is unique in its success in distributing user messages to the masses, and once acquired by Google, the company provided a vibrant and stable environment for creatives online. This made Youtube a great place to—as the company loves to say—“Broadcast Yourself.”
If they weren’t “good”, the first uploads were at least genuine in their message and attempted to channel emotion through the digital landscape in entirely new ways. In the mid-2000s, people were experimenting, asking themselves, “what would others find interesting?” Some early Youtubers—if they could even be called that back then— found the answer and saw their subscriptions skyrocket. You may recognize some of their names: Smosh, Nigahiga, and Fred. People wanted comedy; more importantly they wanted relief, which these honest videos supplied in abundance. But what do I mean by honest? Comedian Bo Burnham conveys the idea on the H3 podcast when talking about his favorite video, Cooking with Hoarders: Cooking hot dogs and peaches: “The internet to me is, like, dirty and weird and crazy and, like, so human.” An honest human is still imperfect—every human is imperfect—but their desire to share their imperfections with the world through their art, or other form of expression, is something to admire.
Fortunately, experimental content is still thriving, still acting as a defense against the overwhelming expectation of perfection imposed on us by our society’s culture and corporations. You may have stumbled across one of these videos, wide awake at 4AM with nothing to watch. You may have laughed and you may have thought, “Why does this exist?” But think of what the world would be like without the weird. There would probably be nothing left—nothing enjoyable, anyway. The entertainment from these videos may be fleeting, but the deep message of these videos is nothing if not concrete: life is crazy, so get used to it.
And people are getting used to it. My high school physics teacher has a pretty tough job, but he gets a kick out of watching airport luggage auctions on Youtube. I once sampled a compilation of weird 90s commercials for an English project, turning a stressful assignment into an afternoon of fun. This weirdness and craziness doesn’t just define the internet, it defines us. We each think we are weird compared to others, but this Youtube phenomenon assures us that we are not the only weird ones out there. We are swamped by ads and social media posts that tell us what we should do, provide for us an image of what we should be. The lack of exposure we have to diverse personalities in popular media, leave us vulnerable and searching for authority. We think ourselves inadequate and look for a guide to show us the way. These videos bring us back to reality. You are not a failure if you stray from the crowd. And you should embrace who you are.
Channels with dumpster dives and hydraulic presses get millions of views. If people love these things, they will most definitely love you. So free yourself, be yourself, and, most importantly, “Broadcast Yourself.”