More Than a Chatroom With a View

One of my favorite activities during high school and college, back when I had idle time to relax and enjoy TV on a regular basis, was to watch music videos and trash-talk with my friends about how ridiculous or retarded pop videos had become. We picked apart every single element with pretentious posturing ("ugh, it's obvious that that video is a rip-off of Kubrick’s Lolita" or "what an insipid use of irony" or even "those dancers are so busted-looking"), and it was super fun. I thought this was a thing of the past for me. And then the other night, in between closing project tickets online, QA'ing copy for a client, and getting up to speed on the latest Manhattan gossip, I started watching a music video on YouTube called "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice (great video, by the way, I highly recommend it--more so if you are a self-professed hipster). Out of nowhere, on one of the guys' t-shrts featured in the video, the words "Internet Killed the Video Star" flashed in retro eighties colors. Woah.

While the idea is nothing new, I realized all of a sudden that what I used to do before with my friends I do it now online with strangers, on YouTube and Break and MetaCafe and even Facebook. I still love to watch videos and psychoanalyze them to death and pretend I am too cool to walk this Earth, but today I do it online. I am one of those avid commenters that always has something to say about a clip I see on the Web. And then there's the insta-satisfaction I get when reading the comments offered up so freely by other users--sometimes mean-spirited, oftentimes grammarless and retarded, other times thoughtful and insightful, but usually very funny (not to mention random). For me, the World Wide Web is one giant chatroom--a chatroom with a view.

What is TMZ.com if not a digital free-for-all where we all can satisfy our inner voyeur by trashing celebrities from our high horse, along with other users? It's watching TV with our friends, but times ten. The Internet is about looking, but more importantly, it is about participating. Sure, television can satisfy and titillate, but it doesn't captivate or connect in the ways that the Internet does. The music video I saw last night got me thinking: The Internet appeals to the senses much like TV does (through sight and sound), except it also incorporates an extra level of engagement--the sense of touch. By typing away and mousing objects around, users have an active role in shaping the digital media landscape, and this power is evident with every Submit button we click on, every photo we tag, every experience we rate, and every comment we share.

No comments: