I can’t tell you what brought me to YouTube in 2006, and I certainly can’t recall the first video I watched. However, I do know it was before LonelyGirl15 was exposed as “fake” and I do know Brookers was dominating the most subscribed list (For context, her channel has 60,000 subscribers. Today there are almost 2,000 channels over 1 million subs.) I also know that by that time, I knew I was obsessed with online communities and I knew I wanted to be a part of the YouTube community. Not because I saw it as an emerging, revolutionary platform, but because I was seeing connections happening on YouTube that were unlike anything I had ever been a part of (even Neopets guilds!.)
2007 was the year of John and Hank Green’s Brotherhood 2.0., a project in which the brothers set rules to cease text communication and only video blog. From that project forward, the YouTube community permanently intertwined itself with my life.
YouTube was something so special and dear to me, but I rarely tried to share it with anyone in real life. Describing the value of YT in 2007 was accepting the fact that you would have to attempt to explain a handful of foreign ideas and still be met with confusion and sarcasm.
For those first few years, video responses were the heart and soul of the community, so that’s usually how you got your in. It was important for people to be able to put a face to a username, and from there, your recognition steadily grew. All it took was a tweet from a quasi-famous YouTuber and your subscriber count doubled. I lurked for years before posting my first video. It was never my intention to gain YouTube popularity, but I was dying to have a voice in the community. So, I did it. I was in.
Soon my Friday nights were spent on BlogTV streams and Skype became a daily fixture in my life. We were all just friends with a website in common. I was doing collabs left and right. Gifs starting happening. I signed with the multi-channel network Big Frame and was beside myself. In 2013, I asked people to post a 10 second video giving a pun, and there were 40 video responses within a few days. The fact of the matter was, I could make dumb stuff and still have my friends on board.
After a couple years of this, I slowly made making videos much less of a priority and shifted my focus to design, dev, and strategy for talent and small companies. I haven’t made a video in well over a year now, but I still consider myself a YouTuber. I still go to Anaheim for VidCon. I still get awkward when people ask where I met so and so, and I’ve got to admit I still get most of my jobs because of YouTube, too.
It’s 2016 and things are insanely different, but that’s okay. To be living through a period of time where we can reflect and watch the rise and fall of online communities, social platforms, and commercial on-boarding… that’s cool as heck. To this day, one of the most rewarding things has been seeing the small and mighty communities get closer despite the inevitable commercial growth. Whether that be in the form of panels that feature smaller creators at conventions like VidCon and Playlist Live, or ongoing community projects like OneTimeStories, that shares stories by artists, writers and/or online video creators based on different themes.
The creators using it as a creative outlet or a platform for discussion, that’s where the true value lies. Is there money there? Maybe not. But authentic relationships and meaningful discussion… that’s what YouTube meant to me. That’s where my passion lies: in the cultivation and preservation of enriching online communities. That’s my YouTube.