Thursday, October 10, 2019

There’s a second YouTube inside the YouTube that everyone knows

NYT wrote about PewDiePie:

One crucial thing to understand about YouTube is that there are really two of them. The first YouTube is the YouTube that everyone knows — the vast reference library filled with sports highlights, music videos and old Comedy Central roasts. But there’s a second YouTube inside that one. It is a self-contained universe with its own values and customs, its own incentive structures and market dynamics and its own fully developed celebrity culture that includes gamers, beauty vloggers, musicians, D.I.Y.ers, political commentators, artists and pranksters. The biggest of these personalities have millions of subscribers and Oprah-level influence over their fandoms. Many Inner YouTubers never watch TV and develop elaborate parasocial bonds with their favorite creators. For people who frequent Inner YouTube — generally people under 25, along with some older people with abundant free time — the site is not just a video platform but a prism through which all culture and information is refracted.

I started hanging out on Inner YouTube in earnest a few years ago, and its scale and insularity was jarring at first. Imagine a genetic mutation that gave everyone born after 1995 the ability to see ultraviolet light. Imagine that these people developed an identity around UV light, started calling themselves “UVers” and became suspicious of any media product made exclusively on the visible spectrum. As an old person with normal eyes, you would experience this change as a kind of slow cognitive decline. Every day, as more and more of the world played out in UV, you would struggle to catch glimpses of it. All of a sudden, people would be talking about Area 51 or eating Tide Pods, and you’d have no idea why. This deep chasm of understanding between Inner YouTube and the rest of the world has proved to be the defining problem of Kjellberg’s career.