A Love Letter to 2000's YouTube
I had this conversation with my sister Jenn the other day, and this post essentially came out of my mouth over the phone.
Before algorithms, video monetization, and influencers, early Youtube was totally amateur. And I loved it!
Some animators in the industry that are around my age can point to Newgrounds as the place they started messing around with their craft. (Many guests on Creative Block talk about this shared history.)
Some folks in the web development space got their start customizing myspace and tumblr themes (or neopets in my case!)
Not everyone that fooled around here went on to careers related to the website, but for kids, the draw was that is was a very open space and probably that no one was doing it particularly well!
Youtube was absolutely that for film directors, sketch artists, and memesters.
I would share with you one of my videos, but it's honestly PRETTY EMBARRASSING! Just think early Smosh, but a lot more wholesome.
An amateur space has the same impact that professional sports has on kids. They see people playing soccer at an incredibly high level, but can easily throw a ball in their own backyard and understands the concept of aiming for a net. (This insight actually comes from watching a Game Theory video on eSports from 7 years ago — a really deep nugget!) Creativity is encouraged through less than perfect models.
Especially as a kid! Most of the videos I adored were filmed at their parents house, in their bedrooms.
It comes back to what I was talking about with Terry Pratchett and real life influences. I was a kid! I had a camera! I had Windows Movie Maker! I could do it all too!
Skip ahead a few years. It all changed for me when Oprah opened a Youtube channel. The environment pivoted from DIY to a marketing machine. Then followed algorithms, monetization, and the site eventually becoming the second most visited second only to Google.
The other day in a grocery store I saw a box named "Influencer starter kit." It's wild to me how industrialized the space has actually become.
All this to say a few things:
The internet is full of highly polished final products. But I'm trying not to sweat being an amateur. It's what was special about that time on YouTube. Many of the people I admire even still take on that spirit!
Those spaces for fooling around are still out there. Discord servers, forums, online groups.
Blogging is a pretty safe arena for this, by the way. You're separated from metrics, it's a bit more of a quiet corner (a morning breakfast table, as Trent Walton puts it.) And it feels like home.
Also, don't ever delete your videos. No matter how cringe!