By M. Alexander
While I was growing up, I was always told “you should read more books and watch less television. Reading is educational and television is mindless.” This did not make much sense to me. What makes television “bad” and reading “good”? I could pick up a trashy, pedestrian novel or I could watch an enriching television show. Television is merely a medium; what I do with it is up to me. YouTube is the most recent medium that is on the receiving end of this unfair treatment.
Conan O’Brien blamed YouTube for The United States’ economic crisis stating “We’re all watching monkeys in propeller hats flush themselves down a toilet”. On October 5th Mashable.com responded with an article entitled “5 YouTube Projects That Are Making a Difference”.
One project is called invisiblepeople.tv which shares videos of homeless men, women, and children around the country. A headline on the website says “Some content may be offensive. Our hope is you’ll get mad enough to do something.” The videos grabbed my attention and sympathy, showing the stories of people I often pass by as “invisible”.
It Gets Better was launched by gay rights activist Dan Savage in “response to the suicide of a teenager who was being bullied about being gay”. Members of the LGBT community are able to post videos of their stories: how it was, what happened, and what it is like now. This is a safe outlet where teenagers can go to seek safety while they are going through a rough part of their lives. They do not yet have the opportunity to leave their home or their school, but they can connect with likeminded people, hopefully preventing further suicides and other tragedies.
The other initiatives mentioned in the article are Streetside Stories which brings “literacy and arts education into the under-served San Francisco classrooms”, I Talk Because… which is an AIDS/HIV mission, and The Uncultured Project which is raising awareness about global poverty. Each one of these projects is doing something important to the advancement of our society. They highlight disenfranchised, fringe groups in a way that books, magazines, and television cannot. Certainly, YouTube contains an endless supply of mindless dribble, but certain groups have realized YouTube’s immense power and taken the words from Spiderman to heart “with great power comes great responsibility”. With the aid of these projects, YouTube will advance society rather than contribute to its intellectual devolution.