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I remember when we all saw it on YouTube …

October 16, 2012

Video: Amanda Todd tells her story through handwritten note cards.

Saturday, I watched an intense teen drama with a tragic ending.

Sunday, I watched an adventure show with a stunt that had me on the edge of my seat.

I don’t have cable. I have YouTube.

This is becoming the norm, not just for me, but for wired citizens worldwide. I happened to watch on my laptop and my TV set, but many others tuned in via smartphone and tablet. Advertisers buy TV spots to reach mass markets, but the masses have quickly added YouTube to their daily viewing.

The teen drama came from 15-year-old Amanda Todd, who told her story without saying a word. Bullied at school and online by other students, she narrates her story through handwritten cards, accompanied by two songs. Very effective, heartbreaking and moving.

Her classmates beat her, taunt her to her face, mock her on Facebook and through texts. Amanda moves, only to find more bullies. She suffers from anxiety and depression, cuts her arm and cries from misery and loneliness.

Last week, she was found dead at home, of apparent suicide. By the way, this wasn’t a fictional Web series: This was the untimely death of a real-life Vancouver teen.

(Note: If you’re considering suicide, or have suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.)

Her YouTube video has close to 4 million views. Watching it, I remembered how it felt to be picked on as a nerd and a “foreigner.” I also recalled how I bullied some classmates with my words, something I regret deeply.

Amanda, we failed you when you needed us. I hope you are at peace.

I saw a man jump from a tiny space capsule 24 miles in the air on Sunday.

It was the talk around watercoolers on Monday, though when I asked my friend Jen if she saw it, she said, “Well, I saw the GIF.”

Felix Baumgartner floated up in his capsule carried aloft by a helium balloon 424 feet in diameter (a standard hot air balloon is about 50 to 60 feet in diameter). He reached an altitude of 128,000 feet in 2 hours, then stepped out. At one point, he was traveling 833 miles per hour, breaking the sound barrier.

The spacesuited daredevil landed safely via parachute 23 miles away from his launch point in the Roswell, N.M., desert.

More than 8 million people watched live on YouTube, an audience bigger than the ones for most of Friday’s network prime time shows.

Watching him take that leap was inspiring and absolutely terrifying. I get dizzy halfway up a ladder. Our generation has grown up with Big Moments on TV: the Space Shuttle explosion, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, “Ice Ice Baby.” That those moments have migrated to digital streams broadens the audience, but also makes them feel more disposable.

Maybe it was merely a 3-hour commercial for sponsor Red Bull.

But it certainly raised the bar for 3-hour commercials. I watched attentively and talked about it with others online and off.

The old model, which still works well for those who can afford it, is to buy airtime on TV channels to tell 30- and 60- second stories. The new model is that each of us, whether on our own or with a mega-corporation, can broadcast our stories on YouTube for free.

Those videos can be short or long, slick or raw, highly personal or broad and communal. They can bring us to tears, make us leap out of our seats or compel us to take action.

I saw the best and the worst of humanity this weekend. All through the same tiny window.

Video: Highlights from Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking 24-mile-high space jump

• • •

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2012 3:08 pm

    I fast-forward through commercials on TV because I almost never watch live (if I’m not fast-forwarding them, I’m muting them). It’s harder to skip ads online and I admit, they stick with me because I am usually captive to the small screen when they’re on.

    • October 18, 2012 12:36 am

      Not every video on YouTube has commercials, though.

Trackbacks

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