April 23rd, 2005 is a date that will live in infamy. This is when the first video was uploaded onto YouTube. The subject of such a momentous upload? Was it perhaps images of the Berlin Wall coming down? Was it a black and white Neil Armstrong bounding across a barren lunar tundra? Was it Big Foot? Brace yourself. It was …
No, not me. Him. Jawed Karim, one of the three cofounders of YouTube. The story is that the idea came when two computer geeks, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, got frustrated trying to do something simple with their computers – share a video of a dinner party at Steve’s place on the internet. Now, most of us get frustrated with our computers every day, it’s just that the rest of us are more likely to channel that frustration into a gamma-induced rage than create a multi-billion dollar enterprise. (Picture the Incredible Hulk: “Hulk angry! Hulk smash! Actually, on second thought. Hulk think Hulk may be on to something …”)
YouTube is our modern Prometheus — a champion of mankind doomed to suffer an eternity of ravens picking at its liver. The “gift of fire” can warm our souls gently, such as YouTube’s most popular video ever, “Charlie bit my finger — again!” Or it can turn up the heat from “toast” to “deep fry.” Type in any of the following searches on YouTube if you never want to sleep again: Holocaust denial, white supremacy, poverty in the world, actually, let’s stop there. You get the point. Horrible though these things are, they’re not really what pecks at the liver. Rather, the liver pecking comes in the commentary of these videos.
In its 2006 “Person of the Year” issue (the one where “You” were the Person of the Year, remember?) Time Magazine lamented the byproduct of YouTube’s global sharing for harnessing “the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.”
In fact, YouTube has long since cemented its role as one of the great equalizers in media. Rich or poor, literate or illiterate, trained journalist
or nut-job hack, YouTube offers a platform for all. You can comment, too — if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get into it in a Jerry Springer-style matchup with a belligerent, one-legged midget prostitute. (I imagine these must be the people advocating all of that misspelled hate speech over there.) USER BEWARE: If you’re going to argue with an idiot — be prepared to lose. He’ll drag you down to his level, then whip your butt with raw experience.
Of course, I also love YouTube for its gems.
Here are some of my personal faves: John West Salmon Bear Fight, William Hung’s American Idol audition, Laughing Baby Rips Paper, Worst Fight Scene Ever, Supersonic Electronic, (“5, 4, 3, 1…off blast!”) and no YouTube list would be complete with Numa Numa.
Please, please please include some of your favorites in the comments section below. Funny is a must, positive is preferred. 😉