Have you ever opened up Youtube fulling intending on watching a single video, and somehow you find yourself giggling at cute babies-playing-with-puppies videos forty-five minutes later? If yes, then you are not alone. If not, then you are both seriously deprived of a whole lot of cuteness AND a liar. The black hole you enter while mindlessly clicking from one video to the next is exactly what Youtube wants from you. It has (mostly) nothing to do with your impulsivity and lack of attention span, and everything to do with the evolution of Youtube’s web design and algorithms. While this phenomena is very interesting and potentially a topic of interest for a future blog post, it is not what I want to dive into at present. Instead, this blog post is a compilation of my thoughts and reactions to my most recent youtube binge… and it all started with @kosarajm‘s blog post from last Tuesday.
Miranda Sings… and gets a divorce
Last week, @kosarajm wrote an intriguing blog about user generated content and its social implications, specifically cyberbullying. In her post, Manika used youtube personality Miranda Sings and her new Netflix series “Haters Back Off” to delve into this conversation. Prompted by this post, I opened youtube to re-familiarize myself with Miranda’s parody channel when I saw a video by Colleen Ballinger (The real human behind the personality Miranda Sings) pop up on my side bar. When I clicked on it, I couldn’t believe what I was watching was genuine until I reached the end of the video. The video, titled “Life Update”, consisted of the distraught twenty-nine year old holding back tears while she talked to the camera as if it were a close friend or family member.
Needless to say this video left me feeling pretty uncomfortable and frankly as though I’d seen something I wasn’t supposed to. If you don’t want to take the entire 11:47 minutes to watch the video in full, I suggest you start at 6:14 and watch on from there as it is most relevant to my discussion of this weird viewer experience. As I sat and tried to understand what to make of the intimate seen I had just encountered, I noticed another video pop up in my sidebar…
Watching two complete strangers pour their hearts out to me about the tragic nature of their divorce made the human development and behavioral science major in me feel pretty uneasy. It also sent me into analysis mode which bring us to the current conversation.
Digital Disruption and Community
Recalling content from week one of this course, we can use Aligning The Organization For Its Digital Future as a start-point. To refresh your memory, this review, in a nut-shell expresses the transformative nature of digital as it pertains to the workplace. Social media and digital content have revolutionized the business archetype, and in order to be successful, companies now find themselves in a race to digital maturity through the alignment of their people processes, strategies and business models in a rapidly developing digital environment. While these insights are essential to global business and the revolution of culture and people-processes, this most recent youtube discovery has me more interested in the interactionist and social side of things. How are these new digital norms transforming the way we both define ourselves, and the way we exist in community with others?
These two youtube videos support our previous conversations about how digital media allows humans to interact in an unprecedented way. Relationships are made and social webs are formed through the interactive nature of social media. Not only are we consuming content, but we are touching it, responding to it, interacting with it. On the same token, not only are our digital selves consuming content created by other digital selves, but we are forming communities, meeting people we otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to meet outside of the digital world. Youtube personalities are a perfect example of this. Youtubers like Colleen Ballinger and her ex-husband JoshuaTV become household names. Their viewers are not simply viewers, but they become friends and fans- people invested in their day-to-day lives without ever having actually met them. Digital interaction provides us with a way of connection-making that has never previously existed, and in my opinion, it’s redefining our traditional notion of relationships.
I think this redefinition also calls into question the concern of digital privacy. However, I think this conversation is different from ones we have previously explored because of its consenting nature. Colleen and Joshua willingly published the personal details of their divorce, fully knowing that the content would then be out there for the entire world to see and touch and respond to and interact with. To me, this is almost more concerning than the more traditional privacy conversation regarding cyber-information sharing and targeted marketing ploys. The reason for this is because its voluntary- they want to publish this vulnerability because they feel they owe it to their consumers. As Colleen describes in her Life Update, “I’m making this video for the people who care about us and who have been a part of our relationship… I do feel like you’re part of our family… I’m really sorry.” I don’t know about you guys but this whole idea that she feels like she has to answer to an online community of strangers she doesn’t even know really weirds me out.
I’m not sure if there is a name to this digital-social phenomenon, but I wasn’t able to find much research conducted on the topic. While I am encouraged and overall in support of the disruption that digital media and social media networks have created in both the corporate and social spheres, I’m not sure what to make of this whole youtube experience. I think maybe from now on I should just stick to my cute baby and puppy videos.