YouTube: Where Strangers Interact Through Social Media

I just watched this great video on YouTube. I was laughing and laughing about a hyperactive dog who was running around and chasing his tail. This of course led me to about 100 other videos about animals doing crazy things. It is like YouTube knows me. I could have spent hours watching all of those videos. Thankfully, I did not.

However, I did notice one other thing in common between all those videos: they each had comments underneath from viewers. I had an epiphany. YouTube is a social media outlet. Anyone can upload a video of just about anything, including their dog, a cover of their favorite song, a cooking demonstration, or a concert they attended, as long as the content is not offensive. Then, as long as the audience is not limited and comments are enabled, anyone with a Google account can “share your thoughts,” as YouTube prompts in the box below each video.  The thoughts shared on the dog video were outrageous. People wanted to diagnose the dog with diseases, others said they had powers as dog tamers, some even claimed to have seen this dog in the park.

This is the first way YouTube is a social media site. Videos are not just watched. Owners of videos and viewers can interact with each other in real time by posting and responding to comments about a video. While communication among users is the defining feature of a social media site, on YouTube, much of this interaction occurs among strangers. The common ground is the video, which is all people need to begin to engage one another.

The idea of commenting on content while interacting with others is similar to Facebook, but taken to a new level. To even see public posts on Facebook, a log in and account is required.  On YouTube, no account is necessary to watch videos, only to comment. On Facebook, most people have privacy setting so that only their ‘friends’ can comment on their posts. On YouTube, many users post videos that are completely public, for the specific purpose of receiving as many views and comments as possible. Oftentimes, the user’s goal is more channel subscribers. The more people who subscribe, the more views the next video might receive.

It takes courage to put a video on YouTube and wait for the public to react to it. If a video is public, there is no way to control the response. YouTube is a community. Some comments might be positive, while others might be negative. Why then do YouTube users want as much publicity and coverage as possible? The chance that their video might go viral, “or spread quickly from person to person” (  Because YouTube is a social media site that allows for communication between viewers, the phenomenon of going viral is possible if there is a very rapid increase in these online interactions.

If you are the owner of a viral video, the publicity is exciting. You are like an online celebrity.  Sometimes one video jump-starts a career that is not limited to the Internet. Talk show appearances and contracts might follow if the right people, in the right industry, watch the video. To be noticed, however, the audience of the video needs to be public, which means that all Internet users, most of whom are not looking to hire someone, can see the video as well. Yet, this publicity is the second way YouTube is a social media site. Comments on videos are only possible if a large audience is reached and engaged in the content.

This site is a prime example of the possibilities of social media and the power the masses have in deciding whom and what they like.  YouTube is easily compatible with other social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, through the ‘share’ button at the bottom of the videos. This compatibility also increases a video’s audience, and in turn, the number of views.

YouTube—a place to watch hilarious videos—is also a social media site, enabling communication among people from around the world.  You never know, YouTube might be able to help you find your next job or career.

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