YouTube’s Evolving Cultural Influence


Ah, YouTube. Of all the things that the Internet has given us, few have impacted our world as much as that little post-a-vid venture. I mean, before it came along it took quite a bit of effort to find ways to waste your time on the Web.

But then three former PayPal employees—Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim—registered the domain in early 2005 and created a way for some average shlub to post videos of himself and his girlfriend having a picnic at the beach, or as a means for a few local kids to share a clip of their band at the high school talent contest. It was just real, average, reality, sent ’round the world.

“That’s what we’re all about,” Chad Hurley said in 2005. “We’re the ultimate reality TV.”

By November of that year, YouTube’s eager let’s-give-this-thing-a-try users were uploading what the site’s founders defined as the equivalent of “one Blockbuster of videos every day.” By December, when the site moved from Beta testing to an official launch, it was up to two Blockbuster video stores worth of posted vids per day. And by November of 2006 the site was daily drawing in 65,000 new posted videos and 100 million views. Oh, and it was snatched up by Google for a cool $1.6 billion.

As you know, things didn’t simply remain all about silly cat videos or viral clips of chubby babies chomping a sibling’s finger, however. In time there was public demand for YouTube favs, YouTube channels and YouTube networks. Mega corporations started buying up everything. Eventually, average-guy-next-door YouTubers were quitting their jobs or dropping out of school so they could put some serious time into their online careers.

And, of course, as you start blending money-making zeal and other mixed motives into the batter, you get an online sugar treat that’s more apt to start shaping culture than just chronicling it. It’s a point this [irony alert] YouTube video makes with ease as it jabs a seriously satirical finger at YouTube and YouTubers for becoming everything that they have become. (Note that it contains a bit of immodesty and a few unnecessary song lyrics that may get under your spiritual skin.)

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My brother is really into YouTube original content--mostly reviewers and gamers; he's quite a snob about the channels he watches, actually.

I, on the other hand, remember discovering YouTube in, like, 2008 and I couldn't use it until 2010 or 2011 because we still had dial-up internet. I use YouTube today the way I used it then, for "official content". For example, I watch clips from real TV Channels and News Sources, Music Videos and Concert Footage, and Intellectual Talks and Debates from scholarly/ activist organizations. It's a cable replacement. Maybe, I see some of that You Tube culture through the Podcaster content I watch, like stuff from conservative commentator Steven Crowder. But he acts as a filter because he is kind of fighting or actively engaging some of that YouTube culture which is really liberal. Liberal even in the sense that people (especially kids and teens) think it is normal and okay to make a career of playing video games or being crass and cynical.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Jim Jones Jonestown Massacre aptly illustrates what is happening on YouTube.  I like some stuff on YouTube, and I regularly watch my favorite channels, but it's so easy to get sucked into the "YouTube Culture."  Thanks for sharing this funny yet convicting video, Mr. Hoose.  I enjoy your blog posts (even when you strike a tender chord).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I accidentally watched this video without reading the warning of immodesty and the spiritual stuff; whoops :)

However you can't deny that kid is a talented singer though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

By the way, did anyone else laugh at the 'drinking the koolaid joke'?
Alex Clark More than 1 year ago
Honestly I found that video to be very cynical.  I don;t think the YouTube scene is that bad at all.