I’m not an idiot, right? Wait, stop, that’s a rhetorical question. I took a few marketing courses in college – which was pre-Internet, admittedly. I even worked, briefly, as a social media consultant. Well, until I got let go for laughing at clients who would pay anyone to be a social media consultant. In reality, I got that job because, as the business analyst, I was the strongest writer and most-experienced blogger at a 12-person company, and the old social media consultant had quit. So, for six months I got paid to ghostwrite a tremendously uninspiring blog about underground utility detection (“Call Before You Dig!”) in an effort to establish expertise and drive business to a company that needed to pay off the loans on their metal detectors, or something like that. Then, once a month I created a report detailing how much extra traffic I had driven to their website in order to justify my high rate of pay. Oh, you can laugh, but I am now an expert on GPR (Ground-Penetrating Radar … for you lay-people) and have first-hand knowledge on why that construction work at 96 than Allisonville was running three months behind schedule back in 2014. Beyond that meager professional experience, I’ve spent fifteen years drumming up awareness for this silly on-line radio station in my basement that only plays music from bands and musicians you’ve never heard of who live primarily inside the 465 loop of Indianapolis. Believe me, I was thrilled when I converted my traffic and bandwidth reports into local radio market share and realized I was actually within striking distance of beating the last-place terrestrial stations in town. (A business news channel and a few of the 60 Christian music stations on the far ends of the dial.) I’m not “big time,” but my live broadcasts consistently have around a 20% audience engagement (putting even a top-rated station to shame), my on-location shows and charity radiothons have drawn hundreds of people, I’ve been nominated for “best radio station” and “best radio personality” multiple times by two different local publications (never won, obviously), and I was given a very nice “Cultural Visionary Award” once. So, basically, while I intentionally avoid mainstream appeal, and have no chance of ever being famous outside of subset of a niche in a local market, I’m very proud of my small but dedicated audience … and the crystal hockey puck that hangs on the wall behind my console.
That said, apparently, if I had just suggested we do away with all that boring typing and just posted a video of the company president reacting to ground-penetrating radar scans, I could have turned them into a multi-million-dollar company overnight. Okay, maybe I don’t get YouTube and its appeal at all. I am completely dumbfounded at millennials who, arguably, have a medium and the capability to transmit their personal message and crusade to the entire world, free from the burdens of conventional publishing routes. Every author, filmmaker, musician, and artist from the dawn of time has struggled against the woes of “not a big enough marketing push,” “too small a print run,” “bad placement at the museum exhibit,” “not enough radio airplay.” This is true power without restriction … and the millennial generation uses to record their facial expressions the first time they watch a movie, or play a game, or listen to a song, eat some exotic food, etc. Hey, it’s your statement. More power to ya, I guess. Some people create art … some people consume art … some people try to make art out of consumption of art, I guess. It’s all very “meta,” isn’t it? I mean, could you imagine if Shakespeare’s biggest contribution to the literary world was a series of videos of him, sitting on the couch, reading Chaucer, and occasionally fake-laughing out loud or pretending to be surprised and shocked by the actions of the Wife of Bath?
I know, I know … “Okay, boomer.” Har, har. Cool burn, bro.
I first encountered this phenomenon a couple of months back, which is surprising because it’s been around for at least six or seven years — I’m just that unhip, I guess. I watched a video consisting of several groups of children reacting to the the infamous (spoiler) “Luke I am your father” scene from Empire Strikes Back. Admittedly, this was cute. Then, in the suggesting views below, it had a two-hour video of a self-described “hot geek girl” watching the entire movie, she claimed for the first time, and reacting to it. This created so many issues in my brain. Somebody would actually film themselves watching a movie? Somebody would actually spend two hours watching somebody watch a movie? What cave did you live in if you made it to adulthood without seeing that movie? And how can you go out in public after you loudly proclaim, “Ohmigod, guys, I had no idea, he was Luke’s father! Wait, no, he has to be lying!” Okay, I’m revoking your [apparently self-annointed] geek cred and your Internet privileges. To add injury to this insult to my intelligence, the suggested viewing under this video linked to the same girl apparently watching five other Star Wars movies, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the Matrix movies all for the first time, and reacting to them. Seriously?! Better still, there were at least 20 other identical channels of similar self-described “hot geek girls” who had also never seen these movies. What, are you all readers instead of movie chicks?
Of course, true to form, for the next month, even though I only skimmed through one of these videos, YouTube absolutely floods my suggested viewing with even worse sins. “First time hearing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon,” “First time hearing Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight,” first time playing “Call of Duty,” first time eating a Lou Malnati’s Pizza, first time watching some other YouTuber’s reaction video because I can’t come up with anything interesting to post today … Oh, and then for the veteran “reaction actors” there’s the inevitable, “Let’s go back and I will react to my old reaction videos.” No, seriously, these things exist, and I can only assume in 30 years, there will be another hubris-filled “middle-age self, reacting to twenty-something self, reacting to some now-sixty-year old piece of pop culture.”
Typicallyt, each of these videos is 30-60 minutes long, though some people want to post themselves reacting to an entire movie unedited, followed by their crack expert review and enlightened opinion for us to digest afterward. Uhm, no, the time to review this stuff was decades ago when it was fresh and relevant, and the fact that you just now got around to seeing it means your opinion is so irrelevant you might as well be giving your first-hand account of how the socio-political climate of post-World-War-Two Poland later impacted your hopes and dreams as a slacker seventy-five years later. Oh, and then the video usually concludes with ten minutes of “like, subscribe, and click the little bell” instructions along with links to your other videos, because, like the obligatory “leave a message at the beep” portion of your voicemail greeting, you never know who out there may just sit there dumbfounded, staring at the screen after you stop talking, not knowing what to do next.
Hey, I suppose I did equally bizarre things as a kid that baffled my elders. So I’m just giving my perspective; not judging the merits of “your art.” I mean, not to call out the self-centeredness and narcissism of any one person in particular, but this is taking selfies to a whole new level, isn’t it? I haven’t even gotten around to changing my social media avatars in the past five years. Instead I would like to call out and shame the viewing audience who contributes to millions of views and thousands of subscribers these videos get pretty much overnight. Granted, I agree, “reality TV” is now “my parent’s TV,” and certainly it says a lot about the quality of television and movies in the 21st century if people have determined that their idea of “entertainment” is watching a [possibly underage] girl sitting on a couch with impractical amounts of cleavage badly-overacting, fake-laughing, and making the most inane facial expressions to something we can’t even see or hear. Maybe it is secretly amusing to hear the host humble-brag about the millions of hits they have, the hundreds of letters of admiration and support they get, and how they have quit their day jobs and now make thousands of dollars a month off YouTube advertising, a Patreon account, and selling t-shirts advertising their super-human ability to [pretend to] [over-]react to things on a screen. Okay, never mind, don’t explain it to me, I get both the supply and demand side of the argument after all, I just don’t get why SNL hasn’t made a skit out of this yet.