Bring Back Broadcast Yourself: Why does YouTube feel so empty?

It feels to me that YouTube is becoming less about people and more about, well, I’m not sure. Maybe getting this rant out will help me articulate what I’m trying to tell you.

If you’re old enough to remember Chocolate Rain, you’re old enough to remember when the internet was populated with people, not companies trying to profit off your boredom.

Before I go any further, I’m in favor of creators making money. I want creators to succeed. It’s just that back in 2005-2013~ being a creator meant turning on your camera to talk, sing, dance, do a backflip. The internet of old was filled the possibilities of carefree human creativity, a childlike joy totally unconscious to the idea of brand sponsorships and algorithm blowjobs. Whether you were into Hey It’s Fred or Filthy Frank, you’d visit YouTube to watch a real person broadcasting their creativity, bringing joy to peoples lives through nonsense and fun.

Thing is, individual creators still exist. They’re just being turned into marginalia. Big companies and influencers with a lot of money can design content – engineer content – for views, likes, comments, subscribers. The algorithm then recommends that content to all the accounts that demographically match for whom the video was designed for. This is not how it used to be.

Back in the days of Ultimate Showdowns of Ultimate Destinies, YouTube itself did not recommend your next related video. Virality used to be a human force, not a mathematical one. If millions of people were watching The Evolution of Dance, the video would appear on YouTube’s front page. Yeah, unless I’m experiencing a Nelson Mandela effect, I remember YouTube having a front page that was identical for everyone. Most of it populated with Naruto AMVs and Star Wars Kids. Shit was rad.

The first AMV I ever watched. I was 13. Turned me into the hardcore techno weeaboo that I am today. Thanks, old YouTube.

In my opinion, by far the best kind of internet content shows human beings doing what they do best: being their ridiculous, incomplete, imperfect, unhinged and very unserious selves. Absolutely the best example of this was Surveillance Camera Man, who’d film random people on the street without their consent (No longer on YouTube. You can guess why).

Although…

I have a ton of respect for all the hardworking editors, writers, voice actors and scriptwriters who do everything themselves for their own channel, or leverage their skills to help a brand grow their presence online. As a video editor and marketer myself, I’d be a total hypocrite to say otherwise. I love a well-produced video. But I also love total unhinged human bullshit. So I feel pulled on different directions when I say I’m both a huge fan of Filthy Frank and people who embody the modern “YouTuber” archetype, like Matt D’Avella.

Just because a style is popular doesn’t mean that that’s the way you need to do it. Hyper polished and edited videos are very impressive and they work to get views fast. But that’s not the only way. That can’t be the only way.

YouTube is starting to feel more like a strange mix of Hollywood and a bootleg toy store. Hollywood, because everyone wants to Make It Big as an Influencer. Bootleg, because hyper polished content that regurgitates information from Wikipedia feels as fake as Bart Simpson saying EAT PANT.

But I think there’s hope. There’s already a lot of creators out there – genuine human beings sitting behind a camera – using YouTube to spread humor, joy, and wisdom, all straight from their hearts, not engineered for attention retention, answering to no one but themselves, to the call of their creativity.

Human beings like this:

Broadcast yourself.

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