1. Youtube Dislike, Part 1

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Youtube comment trends fascinate and intrigue me. There is a very organic nature to the way that memes, jokes, and ideas evolve within the response format - but I am also frequently surprised by the strange things that separate to the surface of this subset of the pop conciousness.

    Today, I'm going to focus on one trend in particular: The entirely shocking amount of time and energy people dedicate to being irritated that other faceless human beings do not like the things that they do.

    "If you don't like this, you are wrong."

    "who ever disliked this is deaf"

    "199 people have no soul"

    I can definitely understand the initial sting of witnessing a hair-raising moment (be it music, a touching story, an amazing near-miss) and having someone else dismiss it entirely. I have had times in my life where I stand in total awe of what I am priveledged enough to experience, and turn to share that feeling - only to see the person next to me totally unengaged. This is a bummer, no doubt.

    But in the case of Youtube, I'm am baffled. Even baring in mind the many countries without widespread internet access (to say nothing of safe drinking water), there are dozens of cultures, languages, religions and lifestyles represented amongst Youtube members. People talk about the 'Youtube Community', but aside from the ability to watch, make and rate videos, there is no common thread or culture to the website.

    In the most basic terms, Youtube is a video player, a feedback section, and a whole pile of server space. That's it. Someone watching the same video as you may not be old enough, speak the language in question, or understand the culture necessary to respond to the video in remotely the same way.

    In an effort to understand the 'intolerance of dislike' phenomenon, here's one theory to get the ball rolling:


    Despite the staggeringly vast number of videos on Youtube, certain features (notably the frontpage) make the site feels artificially small. This is definitely on purpose. Most super-websites like Facebook and Youtube offer tools specifically designed to make the online realm feel a reasonable size. Facebook simply starts everyone off tiny, and allows them to slowly increase in size. Youube on the other hand uses Subscriptions, Recommendations, and the Frontpage to show you things that are similar to things you respond to, or things that are generally popular and well-liked. This has an innocuous-seeming, but powerful effect:

    Frequent Youtube users tend to see more things that are related to them, than things that are unrelated

    This seems like a no-brainer, but the end result is that it becomes easy to forget the simple fact that Youtube is made up of people with nothing in common but an internet connection and a desire to watch moving pictures. If we watch video upon video of related things, it starts to feel (at least for me) like a real community, and with that comes the desire to reinforce the norms and behaviors of that community. What I think is important to remember - and what is lost in this latest flavor of 'shun-the-non-believer' - is that an overarching 'community' on Youtube isn't a reality, but rather an feeling aided by sorting algorithms and directed website navigation.

    Anyone who disagrees tripped and fell on the dislike button.

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