Friday, February 18, 2011

YouTube: More [than] Procrastination

In order for me to begin, I need you to travel back in time with me. You can ride shotgun in my DeLorean as we warp way back to the year 2005. Don’t forget to say goodbye to the Stormtrooper!

time traveling DeLorean

We’ve arrived at the parking lot of my high school. It’s Friday night and the only available spaces are a hundred yards away from the entrance. This can only mean one thing: there is a dance going on.

We enter the building and follow the muffled music into the darkness of the cafeteria-turned-dance-floor only to find my past self standing against the wall wondering what a “Hollaback Girl” was instead of letting his body find out on the dance floor.

This is bad—if I don’t do something, I will cease to exist!1

As you can see, I was never comfortable at school dances in my early years of high school. I only went because I had nothing better to do. I was just one of the guys that stood on the outside with his buddies to criticize how stupid the other guys looked while they were having the time of their lives. The truth was that I was very shy, inhibited, and I couldn’t dance.

Unfortunately, this pattern persisted through the rest of the school year. It was not until the summer of 2006 did I finally discover the cure for my stiff feet: YouTube. With tips from my step dad and free instructional dance videos at my disposal, I learned how to dance and use moves like the moonwalk, the airwalk, the six-step, and many others for an enjoyable dance floor experience.

From then on, the only time that I would stand against the wall during a dance was when my legs were so tired that I could barely walk.

To put my story into perspective, just one video-sharing website had dramatically affected my social life for the better. It helped me learn how to dance, have fun, and even lower my inhibitions. Even today, I still refer to the website if I ever need a quick tutorial for Judo techniques.

It should be obvious that YouTube is much more than a website that we go to for procrastination. There are many other things it is used for: tutorials, music, and comedy are just a sample of its potential. This includes the It Gets Better Project which generates YouTube videos to reach out to the bullied LGBT youth who need support. If learning a few dance moves affected my life so significantly, I can only imagine how such a project affects its audience around the world.

As we go further into the digital age with the world at our fingertips, we are still figuring out what kind of affordances the Internet has to offer. In my case, it has allowed me to develop a skill in the comfort of my own home. For others, it could mean finding support for a particular situation or creating a catalyst for social activism. Online forms of social media and entertainment have certainly proved that they are capable of doing much more than simply to entertain. The possibilities are endless.

My final word is that we should be thankful of YouTube for Justin Bieber.2

I'm a Belieber

1 Did I push my Back to the Future reference too far? I didn’t think so either.
2 Yes, I also referenced the Biebs in my last post. How could I not mention YouTube’s most successful star in this one?