Dispatches from the wilds of YouTubia

(Wherein our intrepid hero contemplates the primates behind the glass)

When it comes to people writing comments on internet forums, there are two observations that one may feel confident espousing:

1: People that post on internet forums have a prevailing tendency towards stupidity.

2: People that post on YouTube are especially stupid.

In fact, the first observation may be made slightly more detailed. In general, as it progresses, the proportion of stupidity in any given forum discussion increases, until it approaches 1 (that being pure stupidity). Hence the existence of Godwin’s Law. This observation is not especially novel, and I make no pretence of being the first to notice such a phenomenon. Nor do I make any claim to being the first to observe the relative stupidity of YouTube comments compared to those on such weighty topics as Evolution vs. Creationism, American foreign policy, violence in video-games and eco-friendly heated toilet seats. However, as far as I know, no-one has yet attempted to explain this curious phenomenon. (Though I would be surprised, in honesty, to find that this is actually the case – if I were to bother actually looking.) Thus, I present to you my thesis on the relative stupidity of YouTube commentators. First, a quote:

great video, but ducks actually partake in necrophilia

– Shorteus

Now, to be fair, if you watch the video, you’ll find that this comment is actually not all that stupid. It does actually relate to the content, and may possibly relate actual factual information, AND manage to do all that without calling anyone a “fag”. That said, it is, when taken out of context, delightfully bizarre. To be honest, it wasn’t actually even the quote I originally had in mind – that quote is actually a better demonstration of what I’m talking about:

and cane toads have been recorded trying to have sex with roadkill ones. So necrophilia is not a human only thing.

– Romnipotent

Again it is still, in fairness, relevant and possibly factual, but the lapses in grammar give it that delightful not-quite-right feel (I would like to point out, by the way, that it is not paraphrased, rather, the author chose to begin his statement with “and” for reasons which I find wholly unapparent). Of course, if you haven’t watched the video yet, you must be wondering what the hell I’ve been watching of late. Go ahead and watch it, it’s not bad (or rather, the series overall is good, this particular clip might not be the best, honestly I can’t recall – but it has some great comments…) I don’t mind, really. I’ll wait for you.

Back? great. Now, as I was saying, I was about to present an explanation for why I think YouTube comments are so exceptionally stupid. First, let us consider the normal (if they can be called that) forum user. These are a people who are seeking intelligent intercourse on intellectual matters, such as politics, science, philosophy, society, &c. – now it is true that their standard of intellectual discourse may differ a little from yours or mine, but in principle, this is what they seek. Furthermore, in furtherance of this aim, they are willing to read. Oh, they might not necessarily peruse academic journals, reputable media, novels or Wikipedia articles not concerned with the canonity of certain Doctor Who plot points, but nevertheless, they do read – their fellow forum members’ posts, of course. Well, mostly. Some of them don’t, but they usually read at least the topic of discussion before sallying forth with their opinement. The chief concern of these websites is, indeed, the consumption of written material. YouTube, on the other hand, is not so inclined. The principle medium of YouTube is, of course, video. Consequently, we can appreciate the difference between the these centres of discussion with this simple analogy: YouTube is to forums as television is to print media. The analogy is delightfully apt, I think, because it accounts for the variances that exist across YouTube and internet forums at large. Whilst it’s true that the majority of YouTube content is unmitigated crap, shining islands of intellectual delight occasionally rise from the mire of mediocrity, so it is with television, where Black Books coexists with Big Brother. Similarly, whilst there is a general level of intellect on internet forums, it must be appreciated that whilst some forums are alike The New Yorker, others fall slightly closer towards New Idea, while most, – in view of their speciality and general obsessiveness – are perhaps closest in nature to that most venerable of print institutions that is Cat Fancy.

Thus we can visualise the difference between our participatory audiences and hence the differing quality of their contributions: YouTube being frequented by pungent couch-jockeys whose distended singlet-clad abdomens are graced by a healthy smattering of potato-chip remnants and unclassifiable stains, whilst our regular internet forums are filled with a combination of erudite New-Yorkers who enjoy a cup of tea (or more probably some excessively complicated coffee production) at their local café as they sit cross-legged reading The New Yorker one-handed whilst nimbly munching on a biscotti – so as not to get any fragments on their black turtlenecks – whilst retaining an air of unconcerned disdain, and lonely souls whose lack of companionship has driven them quite mad, resulting in an obsessiveness that borders on dangerous as they wander barefoot around their apartment, surrounded by the 32 cats with whom they regularly converse, and name after famous historical figures, (most notably Napoleon) and who have been removed from society for so long that when they encounter some unfortunate bystander they soon drive them off with their curious and mildly disturbing mannerisms.

Naturally of course, on entering the internet environment, they all take a -10 hit to intelligence.


Published in: on November 17, 2007 at 1:31 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ha! It has finally happened! Someone has finally quoted me! Oh happy day!

    Aside from that i derived some entertainment from your article. Thank you for helping me fill up my useless free time.

    • No no, thank you for your incredibly informative comment.

  2. But what about comments in response to YouTube videos about evolution?

    • I’m not sure I follow you. Are you suggesting that comments on YouTube videos about evolution are uncharacteristically erudite and intelligent?

      If so, I suspect you may need to realign your standards…

      • Not at all. It’s just that you seemed to either suggest that all discussions of evolution were intelligent, or that YouTube videos did not cover such weighty topics. That such videos exist, and still fail to induce anything more than your typical episode of “Insight”, merely indicates the hierarchy that is at play here.

      • Ah, I see. I think I might do some hand-waving and claim that when I wrote this article three years ago YouTube was more about videos on the evolution of dance than primates, but yeah, in that line I was drawing a distinction between YouTube comments and forum posts.

        Overall, however, I would argue that YouTube comments on evolution are generally stupider than forum comments on evolution; but when you’re that far down the pointy-end of the bell curve, frankly, it can be hard to tell.

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