YouTube served as my first outlet to 3 of my favorite things — music, creative inspiration, and gay shit. Each of these 3 things has changed, and continues to change, my perspective and my life. Thank you YouTube.
Music + Videos
My love for YouTube began with music videos. Before services like Apple Music and Spotify, the options for streaming music (legally at least) were very limited. The iTunes Store was the option for most, but not for me. Growing up, I couldn’t afford to pay $.99 or more per song. I remember asking my parents if I could use their card to update my music library, and the consistent “no’s” that followed. When Christmas rolled around, I’d often be gifted with an iTunes gift card, but that wasn’t nearly frequent enough to keep up with my ever-changing music taste. So I turned to YouTube. YouTube was free, easy access to my favorite music right at my fingertips.
At first, I was just using YouTube to listen to the music. Then I got hooked on the videos created from the music. Because of YouTube’s embedded algorithm, each new music video brought me to another which brought me to another, and so on and so forth. I remember sitting at our desktop computer for hours watching videos like “Say Goodbye” by Chris Brown, “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne, “Ice Box” by Omarion, “Check Yes Juliet” by We The Kings, “Year 3000” by Jonas Brothers, “Lip Gloss” by Lil Mama, and so many more. Each new video in the algorithm allowed me to experience a new song that I may not have experienced otherwise. I accredit much of my vast and sometimes random taste in music to this YouTube algorithm.
I have always been obsessed with music. The idea of telling a story though lyrics in a song blew my mind. And watching a song’s correlated music video opened my mind to a whole new way of experiencing music and story-telling. Before music videos, I don’t think my immature, naive mind truly understood the variety of stories that can be told through lyrics. YouTube taught me this lesson — and, now I don’t even need a music video to view a song from an unexpected light lyrically.
To this day, listening to music and watching music videos not only soothes me but also teaches me limitless lessons — from learning how to channel my emotions, to dealing with loss, to understanding love. I truly do not know who I’d be or where I’d be mentally or emotionally without the power of music and lyrics. YouTube was my channel to music and music has channeled me in ways I can hardly begin to explain.
Interviews + Creative Processes
As we all know, YouTube’s platform and services expand much further than just music videos. I don’t remember exactly when or why I started exploring other videos. Somehow and somewhere along the way I became invested in watching press interviews — whether it was a press tour for an upcoming film, or a musical artist promoting a new album. I was interested in watching an interviewer question celebrities about their work. These interviews allowed me to connect with the artists and actors — and most importantly gave me a glimpse into other creative minds. Either each new video, I gained a better understanding about the creative process. Each artist approaches their process a little differently, and I took away at least a little something from each artist. I learned the meaning behind a song from the person who wrote it, or how an actor pulled from certain emotions or experiences to play a role. In a way, YouTube was like my creative process school and the artists were my creativity teachers. This second sense of school was important for me. When I was at actual school, I never took many music or theatre classes — what I wasn’t getting in school, I was getting from YouTube. YouTube was what truly connected me to my own creative instincts — and ultimately inspired me to use them.
Identity + Sexuality
Along with connecting to my creative side, I began discovering other aspects of my identity through YouTube. In fact, YouTube helped me find what ultimately became my favorite parts about myself … the gay parts. I don’t remember exactly how it happened; but, somewhere down the algorithm I started watching lesbian YouTubers. One lesbian led to another lesbian who led to another (which is how I imagine what living in LA must be like).
For most of my life, I tried to ignore my sexuality in hopes it’d change or go away. News shock — it never did (and bless the gay gods for that). Listening to lesbian YouTubers tell me their coming out stories or how they knew they liked girls helped me accept and normalize my own sexuality. I didn’t personally know many gays growing up in suburban Wisconsin (shocker) so YouTube was my link to my community. Without having lesbian YouTubers around like AmbersCloset, Rose + Rosie, Cammie Scott, Amy Ordman, and Shannon Beveridge, I wouldn’t have known what it meant to be gay or how to deal with it. They each brought me something during my “sexual awakening” — whether it be answers to my questions, comfort through my loneliness, confidence in my identity, or humor through my confusion. I am beaming with pride knowing I found my gay ass self and my gay ass community — which is all thanks to YouTube.