YouTube as a Medium for Change

Jack Kochansky, Writer

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Consider YouTube. That great mess of useless cat videos and free music. Basically, it is the epitome of procrastination and time-wasting. But can it be more than that?

 

YouTube was initially created as a website for videos of all sorts, from mindless entertainment to informative teaching clips, but as any teen can attest to, its primary purpose is generally the former. Some studies have found that teenagers in America spend up to nine hours a day watching videos, scrolling through social media, playing video games or otherwise using electronics for entertainment. Lately, though, a shift has begun to bring a more noble purpose to YouTube. Sometimes, YouTube can still be meaningful.

 

Last month, the Black Eyed Peas released a new song, titled Big Love, along with an incredibly powerful music video. In the midst of our troubled times, it addresses two of the most pressing problems: school shootings and the separation of families at border detention facilities. The lyrics also touch on several other concerns, from prescription drug abuse to reckless American international policies.

 

In line with the current March For Our Lives movement, the Black Eyed Peas challenge ineffective gun laws, which have allowed mentally unstable people across the country to obtain deadly weapons:

 

“People lovin’ guns, more than cases and season

And they say the reason is to protect their freedom

But we don’t believe ’em”

 

And even in a more general sense, the artists aim to express the general feeling of frustration that many young people have today:

“A day in a life of a kid in America

Everyone’s a critic, watch them criticize your character”

 

Big Love is a long song, and it is clear that its main purpose is the expression of certain ideals as opposed to the maximization of popularity. The music video is an unusual nine minutes long and includes powerful, shocking scenes of mass shootings and maltreatment of young migrants. This isn’t your typical YouTube video.

 

As special as Big Love is, it is not the only one of its kind. A few months ago, musician Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) released his controversial song and music video This is America. That video, which attracted lots of media attention, touched on similarly hot-button issues such as police brutality and racially-driven mass shootings. Other lesser-known artists, such as the pop band AJR, have also used their music videos to express concern over social media abuse and the distortion of truth in America with songs such as Pretender and Burn the House Down.

 

It is no mystery that teens spend much of their free time on media such as YouTube. But works like these demonstrate that protest has expanded beyond just marching in the streets or posting flyers. Young people continue to express their beliefs in new ways, including over Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media. When artists bring attention to problems that need it most, they can do a lot of good in facilitating discussion and creating change.

 

But it is not just public figures who can use media to bring to light many of the conflicts dividing America today. By supporting those with similar ideas to our own and even being active participants in social media campaigns, such as the #MeToo and #MarchForOurLives movements, we can help mold our society to become safer and more equal for all people.

 

We may be young, but we can make a real difference when we find ways to unite and communicate; it is up to us to organize and encourage support. By utilizing YouTube, Twitter, or other means of communication, we can rally to create change.

 

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