Avoiding Antiquation in the YouTube Generation

To be antiquated to society frightens me.

I feel like it’s important to always be kept in the loop with what is going on in the world around me. Maybe I don’t understand every bill entered into Canadian parliament or can tell you what’s on Tuesdays on CBS but I at least have a general idea of what’s popular, what isn’t, what’s going on and what’s going to come.

Having follow Laci Green on Twitter, I noticed her talking about a guy named Sam Pepper. Sam Pepper is some British guy who was on Big Brother in the U.K. and has an extremely successful YouTube channel. He likely makes a lot of money on something I don’t really think about much. Learning about Pepper wasn’t just about his stupid butt pinch video and the excuses that followed, nor was it on how he looks to be accused multiple times of sexual assault with minors (Dude you’re 25), but about the people that follow Pepper. And follow those like Pepper. The YouTube generation might sound like a really stale, boring way of saying “What teenagers are into today” but for me, it’s a real thing. And it’s a thing I’m not a part of. From the Shane Dawson’s to the PewDiePie’s and so on, I’m not turning on YouTube every day to watch a person talk about their day or do a parody video. I do watch a ton of YouTube (my friends like to call it the “YouTube Hole” whenever I get going on finding videos) but it’s rarely these voices of a newer generation. I do watch a lot of stuff from John Green, but I’d never refer to myself as a Nerd Fighter.

It’s interesting to think about if I’d be right with them, and yeah, I would. If I was born in 1995 instead of 1985, I’d probably have a YouTube channel I’d be updating every week while also being an avid member of the “YouTube Community”, a term I hear folks like Laci Green say quite a bit. I’d know these people and I’d be a part of their world. I’d probably also be making some really terrible videos of my unfiltered opinions as a 19 year old in 2014, similar to how I used to deliver my unfiltered opinions as a 19 year old in 2004 on message boards and a LiveJournal and a website. Terrible, ignorant, stupid, selfish opinions I can remember and I cringe thinking about the ones I don’t.Thankfully, 99% of that stuff is buried deep in World Wide Web Landfills. Sam Pepper might be haunted by his cheeky sexual harassment videos forever. I’m glad I don’t suffer the same, but I worry for those that do.

As a young adult I’d be scoffing at the idea of anyone having to vet my opinion when I can just record a YouTube video and say, “THERE, DEAL WITH IT” but a lot of these kids are growing up in the spotlight with millions of fans all over the world and absolutely zero sense of an editing process beyond Adobe Premiere or an editorial filter beyond themselves. Some research, but most just want to get your attention. What we do for attention as teenagers and young adults should only haunt us at family reunions and high school reunions. It shouldn’t be archived on the Internet for anyone to watch. It’s a massive psychological effect. Or maybe it should. I guess it’s something I’m noticing, but really not a part of.

While on one side I see that I’m on the wrong generation side of what is deemed popular and financially successful on YouTube, on the other side I see what a lot of my friends do based on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. What I see is a lot of people still suck in the same era they were when they were teenagers, or young adults. They also don’t seem to consider it appealing to try anything new. They might say they are open to it, but it’s a lot easier to listen to what Kevin Smith says he’s doing or checking out than it is to dip your toes into unfamiliar territory or make a new friend who doesn’t like the same things you do.

It sounds odd to a lot of people but my father wasn’t in a perpetual loop of 70s classic rock and unwilling to break out. My dad listened to modern music, almost as much as I did. When he turned on the radio, he preferred stations that combined both the staples from the 70s with what was going on today. If he couldn’t get it, he didn’t just stick with whatever was playing AC/DC and Led Zeppelin at 3PM every day. He’d goto the alternative/new rock stations and see what’s new. That’s why he loved bands like Bush, even though they were popular with kids my age. The age gap didn’t matter for him. What he liked did. I always appreciated that. And I always hoped to do the same.

On Facebook, it feels like too many of my friends prefer their comfort zone. It makes sense when you look at new media today. For every complaint that there’s too many sequels and reboots, you don’t see many saying that they are tired of comic book movies (I mean, aside from me). Comic book movies and TV shows fulfill the same thing comic books, comic book videogames and comic book cartoons fulfilled in the 90s for them, only with a greater budget. My friends who watched WWF in the 90s and early 00s still watch the WWE. They will watch the occasional independent wrestling show but chances are if they watched 10 hours of wrestling in a week? Most of it was on Monday nights with a Sunday thrown in for Pay Per View. Their enjoyment, however, is nowhere compared to where it used to be. It’s now a habit they can’t break. If I have a friend who listens to rock and roll, the majority of music they listen to is from artists who were around when they were a teenager. They don’t really hunt down new rock acts, and if they know one? It’s because they opened for a band they liked as a young adult.

I’m certainly not saying this is everyone, or that I don’t have some of these same habits (I’ll probably own a classic Super Nintendo before the end of the year because of course I will) but it’s disappointing to see at 29, my generation is already starting to settle into their habits and their nostalgia. There is an unwillingness to see what the younger generation is doing, and observe it without a sense of superiority. While I don’t want to be that old guy in the mall (I’m already fearing becoming the old guy at the club) hanging out with teenagers because I’m in arrested development (I think there’s a movie coming out soon where a woman my age does just that), I don’t want to be left behind in society for however long I have left to live. I want to be in touch with my modern culture, even if I’m not the tastemaker anymore (as if I ever was). I can still appreciate what I enjoyed in the past while also exploring, discovering and interacting with the present.

I guess, more than anything, I look back to someone I mentioned earlier in this: Kevin Smith. I think about how I used to really love his films, and how there’s such a disconnect for me today. I think a big part of that is that Kevin Smith early films and most popular “Askewniverse” films were largely about being an adult and looking back at your adolescence, discussing the medium in a more mature viewpoint. To see it today is two layers of nostalgia, one for the 90s and the other for the 70s and 80s, placed on top of each other, and trying to digest that not as a 90s child looking back, but as an adult in 2014 looking back at those looking back. No longer are we just nostalgic, but we’re nostalgic for a time when our nostalgia was simpler. And I just don’t want to be that person ever.

In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if the person who is stuck in the past is actually me. While my friends realize that nostalgia is just another leg of modern media, I feel like nostalgia is antique furniture. Great to own, but best to not use every day. Maybe they are right. I’m just not ready to settle.

Contact me on Twitter @AaronWrotkowski or send me an email Have a good one.

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