YouTube’s Psychic Wounds

Nicholson Baker at Columbia Journalism Review:

When I first started watching YouTube—in 2006, just before it was bought by Google—it was a fairly intimate place. Renetto (a/k/a Paul Robinett) made a clip with “EXTREME GRAPHIC CONTENT,” in which he chewed a mouthful of Mentos and drank Diet Coke and feigned a gastric explosion. Suddenly he was famous. Boh3m3 (a/k/a Ben Going), a voluble young man with an appealingly crooked smile, was one of the first to reach ten thousand subscribers; he shaved his head for the camcorder and made funny sounds with compressed air. Janemcwhir (a/k/a Jane), a Canadian teenager with a pierced lower lip, talked about her friends’ phobias and celebrated her mild crush on a fellow video-uploader named lightrayface. In one of Jane’s videos from the time, “Sneeze,” she suddenly sneezes. Nothing had ever existed like this. Everyone was talking to everyone else about their lives. We had all become diarists. It was tremendously new and fun and confessional: first-person journalism.

more here.