I love YouTube. LOVE IT! You can watch snotty freshman college women philosophize with confidence on the myriad of ways they’ve learned the world is messed up and how the average joe on the street is to blame. Or you can watch cats do flips. You can learn a language. You can watch music videos. You can figure out what’s wrong with your car. You can damn near do anything with YouTube. It’s the closest thing to perfect on the internet there is.
But maybe that means it’s too perfect.
Readers of this blog will know that I have many degrees I’ve gotten for many dollars over many years. I’ve gained experience, money and credentials from all the work I’ve put into things over the years. I’ve taught classes of other people on different topics. Now, virtually all of the knowledge I have is somewhere on YouTube and you can learn it yourself for free if you know where to look and put in the time.
I’ve been thinking for some time this troubling question: “What else in the world is as perfect as YouTube and continues to exist for long?”
Think about that for a moment. Can you name something? I can’t and I’ve thought long and hard about.
I’m reminded of eBay when it started. When ebay first started many moons ago, it was this awesome site with a simple idea: “Hey, I don’t want this stuff anymore, but it’s still in pretty good shape. You want to buy it at a discounted price for what you’d have to pay in a store?” And yay, everyone was happy and there was much rejoicing. Essentially, ebay was this wonderful endless garage sale where someone else’s junk was your treasure for a pittance. It was amazing!
It was amazing for about 6 months to a year. Because quickly, people just started buying up all this cheap used stuff and putting it together as various independent online stores. What they would buy on the cheap from some people, the would have to mark up to sell on their independent channel. After enough people started doing this, eBay became what it has become: pretty much the average user here and there surrounded by hawking independent online stores that have driven the prices up to about the same for what you would pay for an item new. Worse, it’s a lot harder to find good deals, because full-time independent sellers that get loot for their stores are constantly grabbing things up that are good deals and marking them up, so that most of what you find is through those sellers with those marked up prices. It’s like going to playground as a 35-year-old average dude looking for a pick-up game of basketball only to find all NBA players waiting for the next pick-up game. The short of it: ebay was great. Now it blows.
Reenter YouTube, a land of free learning, free entertainment, free communication throughout the world. Every one of those things costs a lot of money on their own and if you were to walk up and ask anyone in any other place to just give any one of them to you in great quantities, someone would grab you by the ankles and turn you upside down and shake every last nickel out of your pockets.
This suggestion is not just hyperbole. I actually lived it. I went to my grad school and noted the value of having more clinicians in the field and asked them to significantly lower tuition, or even make it free to help the world. The told me to get fucked. They extolled the virtues of social justice while making sure everyone that graduated was treated equally…….equally as a person in massive debt is treated.
But it’s much worse than that even. Because I went on YouTube to learn this language thing for a computer project. I wanted to learn it, I went and found something on it, and I learned it, employed it and now a project in the world exists because of it that people use and get function out of.
Opposed to that, I went to my graduate school(s) and said, “I want to learn this.” They said, “I don’t know about that. Are you good enough for us? We’ll need you to fill out a long application that you have to pay for just to apply and go through a lengthy and unnerving application process. Have you spent a bunch of money getting credentials from a 4 year school? Were your grades good enough? Did your GRE scores reflect your high attainment? What were your extra curriculars? Do you have a deep belief in social justice and are you dedicated to changing the world? Do you have the massive amount of money it will take to complete our program? Are you willing to deal with douchebag professors judging your every move to see if you’re indeed good enough, knowing they could label you “clinically unsuitable” in your 3rd year if they wanted too after you’ve spent around 60 thousand dollars? Are you willing to put up pettiness on a massive scale from your colleagues and superiors? Are you willing to dance, monkey? No? GET FUCKED THEN! WE WON’T TEACH YOU AND WE’LL OBJECT TO YOU USING ANY KNOWLEDGE FROM OUR FIELD AND MAKE SURE YOU CAN’T BE LICENSED EVEN IF YOU DO FIGURE OUT HOW TO STEAL THE KNOWLEDGE! PLAY OUR GAME AND GIVES US ALL YOUR MONEY OR ELSE!”
That’s learning for you in our modern America, even at the highest levels. Why would they give it away for any reason?
But let’s not kid ourselves: entertainment isn’t any better. There’ s a word for getting any entertainment for free any time you want it: “piracy”. To be fair, you are forced to watch ads on YouTube somewhat, but they’re not that bad (yet: and I’ll come back to this). And there have been movie sites that have sprung up like Hulu that offer free versions of things, but their ads are pretty ridiculous now, almost, if not as bad as network cable. But you get the point, usually, you’re asked to fork over money for the privilege of hearing music. The music industry jerked off with all the money they made off our limited listening ability due to technological constraints for decades pushing jacked up prices for that privilege. And let’s not forget Lars Ulrich and his quest to jack up Napster for having the audacity to circumvent a corrupt system.
Communication is the only thing that’s pretty cheap these days of the three. You can talk to people virtually anywhere online (and in real life for that matter) for free, Facebook being the biggest place obviously. But communication when combined with the other two (entertainment and learning) is what we’re really talking about. Because when educating content (even entertaining content) has many people communicating about it, that constitutes a growing community of people creating meaning and learning in the same space. It’s pure growth.
And it’s unbelievably diverse and democratic. While one person shows you how to draw comic book characters, a director talks about his most famous movie. While a comedy troupe does skits that amuse, a cadre of women speak softly (ASMR) giving men masturbation material while they pretend it’s just an interesting non-porn thing they’re into (it’s totally porn). It’s like a giant shopping mall where the cream rises to the top through the amount of views, but what constitutes cream changes per sub-community, with the MRA groups elevating the snarkiest dude about Anita Sarkeesian and the Photoshop Community upvoting the best tutorials. It’s people choosing what they’re into; sometimes being dicks, but all in some kind of interaction with other people growing the world none the less.
How can YouTube remain all of those things when there is even an ounce of money to be made by divvying it up and finding ways to force people to pay for it? You may say I’m being paranoid, and I hope you’re right. But take credentialing and college. There is little reason I can tell for paying all the money you have to pay to get knowledge at a university when all of that knowledge is available at least online if not on YouTube directly. But by god, professors making 150 grand a year and not just gonna stand by and have to get real jobs because some motherfucker decided to give all of their knowledge away for free. They’ve never shown even a hint of caring about increasing access for people to knowledge; if they had, they wouldn’t have increased their prices to make taking out loans not even enough to pay for college now (your parents often have to take out loans as well for undergrad in what’s called a Parent Plus Loan).
There are monsters that wish to take your money and your time and make you work for their vision of the world, and that vision does not include you enjoying yourself doing whatever you want, watching whatever you want, and learning whatever you want. I mean, what if you watched or learned the wrong thing?! We can’t have that!
It’s also a poorly kept secret that YouTube has never made a profit for Google. On the contrary, it’s a massive money loser for them. They only keep it afloat for its sheer popularity that contributes to the Google brand. Essentially, Google is making so much money, they can afford to have a large money pit as long it makes them look good. But even that has its limits, which is why YouTube is constantly refining and trying different monetization schemes.
It tell ya, folks. Cherish your YouTube. I fear the dogs of greed are coming to take it away, and but soon. I pray that I am wrong.
In the movie the Outsiders, Ralph Machio plays a roughian paralyzed that recites a poem from Robert Frost that says “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. The scene ends with the great line he tells to the main character Ponyboy. He says, “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” That’s what I hear in my mind when I think of YouTube: “Nothing gold can stay. Stay gold, Ponyboy.”
Because I really do fear nothing gold can stay.