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Much like other corners of the Internet in the mid-aughts, the early days of YouTube were essentially the wild west. One could get away with things that simply would not fly in today’s hypersensitive culture.
Although wildly insensitive and just flat out stupid, Logan Paul most definitely could have posted that video of him in the Japanese suicide forest in 2005 without any backlash from Twitter users or YouTube commenters.
I remember spending hours on YouTube as a pre-teen, but it wasn’t until the first ever SNL Digital Short “Lazy Sunday” came out that the website became a phenomenon for kids my age. Without Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell starring in that video, I’m not positive that Youtube takes off like it did.
It was a video that has no doubt influenced a generation of internet celebrities. It was the first video of it’s kind, debuting in late 2005 when streaming video sites were just coming into their own and iTunes was one of the few legitimate ways to buy and listen to music.
YouTube had not yet been acquired by Google and the website wasn’t bootleg (per say), but it certainly wasn’t what it is today. From its humble beginnings with “Lazy Sunday” and an astronomical number of videos showing people making their cats dance to music, YouTube became this site where people could become famous by making strange videos. “Going viral” was a phrase that started and ended with YouTube, and if you got enough hits back in those early days, you’d get featured on an episode of “Best Week Ever” on VH1.
I think I paid something like $1.29 for the video of “Lazy Sunday” in 2006 and then I was bummed out a few days later when a friend of mine showed me this website called “YouTube” where you could watch this kind of stuff for free.
“Leeeeeeeeeeeeroy Jenkins” was a phrase commonly heard in the hallways of my high school, and that video inspired one of the most popular South Park episodes of all time about World of Warcraft. Simply saying “Goddamnit, Leroy” at a lunch table or under your breath during math class would elicit raucous laughter from peers.
Bizarre videos like “Aicha” by GellieMan and the quintessential hit “Chocolate Rain” by Tay Zonday were at the forefront of Internet culture and further distanced the millennial generation from their parents.
Kids all over the country sat in their computer rooms laughing like hyenas to these videos while their parents sat idly by, utterly confused by what they were watching and why it was considered funny.
I remember finding this video — one that pokes fun at hipster culture — late in my high school career titled simply “I Love My Life As A Dickhead” and showing it to anyone that would listen to me. That video alone shaped my life in a lot of ways, and it’s so accurate of the 2008-2011 “Urban Outfitters” scenester that had a fixie bike and wore large rimmed glasses with no prescription in them.
Early pregames — the ones that I attended late in my academic career as a high school senior and bleeding into freshman year of college — were dominated by YouTube.
Someone would have a laptop out on a kitchen table and people would take turns DJing, oftentimes typing in something like “Pony (lyrics video)” on YouTube to find the highest quality version of the song without having to sit through a VEVO advertisement. Later on, of course, Spotify came on the scene and Youtube lyric videos fell by the wayside, but for a short time, that was all we had.
Occasionally I’ll find myself down a Youtube rabbit hole, but nothing as intense as what I would do in the mid-2000s when I was bored. As a youth, I’d spend hours just watching clips on YouTube and seeing absolutely nothing wrong with that.
YouTube is not what it once was, a shell of what it used to be. Makeup tutorials and asshats like the Paul brothers dominate the scene now, and if you asked a high schooler what Chocolate Rain or Leroy Jenkins meant to them they would stare at you blankly and probably capture the entire conversation on Instagram Live so that they could roast your ass with thousands of other teens.
If you’re sitting around bored today, just take a break and watch a few of the classics. Search for a song with “(lyrics video)” in the search bar and remember what it was like before corporations ruined YouTube. Remember the simpler times. .
Image via YouTube