A requiem for the unashamed, unafraid, inescapable creativity of my early adolescence.
I’ve been a participant on YouTube for over a decade now. It’s kind of astounding to think about – Spread across several channels, I’m probably approaching somewhere in the 800 videos uploaded range. That’s astounding to think about, isn’t it? Eight hundred videos that I’ve put online, presumably for other people to watch? Absolute strangers who know nothing about me could piece together my life through these. It’s all there, too, my growth from age twelve to my current age, and I’m probably not going to stop putting things on YouTube at any point soon.
The amount of easily accessible filmed data on me, a mostly unremarkable kid from the Kansas City suburbs, probably far surpasses even the most important adolescent born fifty years before me. Like, do you think there’s as much film evidence of the growth of a Prince Charles or John F. Kennedy Jr from age 12-23 as there is of this dipshit? I kinda doubt it. And I put it up there of my own volition.
Mmrythnkr was the channel. Named after the Fall Out Boy song from 2007. I lied about my age to open the account (I was twelve at the time and the minimum age back then was thirteen). These videos were filmed on a Flip Video camera and edited in Windows Movie Maker, and mostly featured me, alone, in my bedroom or the basement of my parents’ house. Sometimes my friends joined me, but for the bulk of my videos, I’m alone.
My common joke is that I put work on YouTube primarily out of narcissism, but I’d like to think my first videos were out of something else – maybe I was just seeking a creative outlet and YouTube was just what broke through. Looking back at it, my experience with creative work in public school was very rigid. There were no creative writing classes, I was discouraged from taking art classes, and music classes were limited to what was on the sheet.
But I had always been a creative kid. Maybe if I were two or three years older, coming to adolescence in 2005 instead of 2008, that creative outlet would’ve ended up being LiveJournal or Blogger. But for me at thirteen, it was YouTube. Right place, right time.
I put a hell of a lot of effort into YouTube work now. I plan videos out, I schedule myself, I put hours and hours into editing, I start and add on to different series. I hardly ever find myself putting something on YouTube for the sake of putting something on YouTube the way that I did in 2008.
Unfortunately, the first video that I put up online was basically an afterthought. I’d been making these little stick figure cartoons in a free animation program for years, and I would put them to music in Windows Movie Maker so I could send them around via email. I had one of these, a collection of stickman hijinks set to a Weird Al Yankovic song, saved on my mom’s old Dell and basically put it up just to see whether I could or not on the first day of March, 2008.
I kinda wish it was more romantic than that, but I find it kind of emblematic of that spirit. I wasn’t dreaming of success there. I didn’t expect to get thousands of views. I barely cared to get any views. “Pivot Randomness Things” went up online basically by chance, one of a few different .wmvs in my Videos folder on that Dell. It could have been anything, it could have been a slideshow of Maui vacation pictures, it could have been any of the heavily artifacted gymnastics accident reels my mother had stored on the PC for whatever reason, but for whatever reason, my first imprint on YouTube was “Pivot Randomness Things”, something made by my own hand.
Later that night, my friend Sam and I put up a video we entitled “Bloopers”, where him and I basically took turns jumping off of a small trampoline onto different pieces of furniture in my parents’ basement. (The version to which I’ve linked is a reupload, as the first version was taken down due to my auxiliary involvement in a 7th Grade Talent Show cyberbullying scandal which rocked my junior high school). That video – which was edited diligently in Movie Maker and uploaded right around midnight – provided me one of my favorite internet memories: When him and I logged off of the internet (something you could still do in a pre-smartphone era), the video had no views. When we got up the next morning, it had twelve. Twelve! Twelve people had seen our video. There were twelve somebodies out there somewhere that had seen us doing our dumb little basement stunts.
That joy of being known flourishes. The feeling of being noticed by someone who has no obligation to notice you is powerful. As I continued on YouTube, and YouTube continued on around me, turning from a simple place where short little videos were shared into the dominant monopolistic platform it is today, that feeling shrunk. I don’t put up very much just for the sake of putting it up anymore, which is a shame. Maybe I should get back to that.
This channel has lain mostly dormant since 2009 or so. One time in 2015, I accidentally logged into it and also accidentally uploaded a video, but aside from that weird anomaly, it’s been dead, preserved in time, a relic of a different era. Not unlike the masturbating guy in Pompeii, moments that I didn’t expect to amount to much are going to stay where they are forever – Partially because I wouldn’t want them to be lost, and partially because I’ve forgotten the password to the account and I can’t shut it down now.