Once an online destination for viral videos usually starring cute babies, dancing cats or wonderfully bizzare Britney Spears fanatics - in recent years it has crossed over to become part of the everyday life of the majority of 12-25 year olds.
At 33 years old myself, I'm somewhat outside of this demograph and even I would say that I spend more of my time watching YouTube content than traditional television these days.
But so many people find it difficult to understand just what exactly is so appealing about YouTube and its many "stars".
I can only speak from my own point of view - when I first started watching YouTube videos around a year ago I initially found the concept of watching "vloggers" (those who record diary-style clips from their lives, either daily or weekly) quite strange - why would I want to sit and watch the life of a normal person that I don't even know? What's so interesting about that?!
Well who knows, but it certainly sucked me in and before long I was subscribed to a good 30+ channels and enjoying their content on a daily basis.
I no longer cared so much about catching the latest episodes of Orange is the new black or keeping up with Modern Family - as long as I got my daily dose of The Shaytards I was all good!
After having watched these and many other vloggers for the last year or so, I have started to notice something that I thought was pretty cool.
A little while ago I was having one of THOSE days...you know, where nothing goes right from the moment you set foot out of bed in the morning...I'd burnt breakfast, I was short on some bills that needed to be paid, I'd missed an important phonecall...things were generally just not going my way.
At this time, I was supposed to be on a diet...and after feeling so down in the dumps about my day, I decided I was going to have a chocolate bar to cheer myself up.
Almost right away, I felt guilty...Now i'd just made everything worse! Now my diet was ruined for the day on top of everything else....and I thought to myself "Well what's the point?! I've already ruined the day by eating that...I might as well just blow the whole day off, get a takeaway for dinner, eat whatever rubbish I want...start again tomorrow!"
Then I heard a voice in my head...
"When one of your car tyres gets a puncture, you don't go around and put holes in the rest of them do ya? Just coz one tyre is ruined, does it make sense to ruin them all?!"
And just like that...my whole attitude was turned around.
Of course I didn't need to keep eating junk for the rest of that day or the rest of that week because one mistake had ruined it all...
One mistake is just that...ONE MISTAKE, that anybody can have. It's whether you let that mistake spiral out of control into a ton of other mistakes that counts.
And then I wondered...why did I think that?! Where had that voice come from? That wasn't the way I usually thought...
and I realised...it was an analogy that Shay Butler had used in one of The Shaytards videos I'd watched a few months prior.
I remember smiling to myself and being grateful that someone had taught me a more positive way to think.
Another day, I was riding in the car with my partner Jon and our toddler son Tyne....we were in a hurry to make it on time to a Dr's appointment...the car in front of us was going a little too slowly for Jon's liking, and he was getting impatient....getting a little too close, getting tetchy about it....
I found myself saying "Calm down, you don't know why they're going so slowly....maybe they're taking soup to a sick relative and they don't want to spill it."
Jon laughed and said "You know that's something Ellie said in an Ellie & Jared video we watched last week, don't you?"
I hadn't realised it was....but just like before, I was grateful that somebody had taught me a more positive way to look at a situation - Jon agreed that this was true, nobody knows why that driver was driving so slowly and maybe they had a very good reason, so we just needed to be a bit more patient.
Since then, I have noticed these kinds of things cropping up on MANY occasions.
I'll be going about my day as normal, and some little annoyance will pop up somewhere - and I'll have a thought that just gives me a little perspective, that somehow makes it easier to deal with - something I heard from a random person that I've never met, that without this YouTube world I would never have known in any way, that has had a positive impact on my day, on my thought process, on my life.
And how amazing is that?
That technology can open up our lives to people who can enrich them without us ever actually meeting them or truly knowing them?
In our day to day lives, we tend to only be exposed to a few kinds of people - family members, some friends we might have grown up with, neighbours - the people we interact with daily are most likely going to be from the same backgrounds as us, and most likely will lead similar lives, with similar belief systems and similar life experiences - that's just the way it is. Not everybody of course - but the majority of people we are exposed to are not likely to be a whole lot different from ourselves. It's natural that we surround ourselves with similar people who have similar lifestyles and similar beliefs and morals.
But I believe we can learn so much from other people that it's a shame that this is the case - and in my eyes, YouTube is a cure for that.
The Shaytards are a mormon family from Idaho, USA - they are a 30-something couple with 5 young children - their lives are nothing like my own - they are not people I would ever have known, they are not like anybody I have ever met in my life.
Their life experiences are different from my own, and so they think a little differently - their outlook and perspective is different from my own.
And so, through watching their videos and seeing their lives and personalities and family dynamics, I have learnt certain things that I otherwise wouldn't have been likely to have been exposed to.
The Shaytards are all about tolerance and acceptance of other people, and I feel that some of that attitude has rubbed off on me a little just from watching them.
One thing that is always stated in their videos when they pass the scene of an accident or a funeral procession is how we should take a minute to appreciate the fact that someone else is having a very different sort of day to us....and this is something I have taken on board too...and just that moment to feel empathy for another person and feel grateful that your day has not taken that turn for the worse is humbling and refreshing, and something I feel thankful to have learned.
Lately I have also been watching videos by people such as Daniel Fernandez and the RandomAltruist - videos showing these people going out and doing good deeds for people, giving Christmas gifts to the homeless, dedicating a whole day to celebrating the birthday of a homeless guy, leaving $10 on somebodys car window - things that make me emotional to see and that inspire me to want to do more good and spread more positive energy in the world.
And even without big gestures being made, something as simple as sending a message of love and acknowledgement out on Christmas Eve to anybody spending the holiday alone like Jared Mecham does at the end of this video (at 10 mins50 seconds) could be something that turns somebody's day around - that actually makes a difference in somebody's life.
With so much negativity online these days with trolling and so on, I just feel it's necessary to acknowledge all of the good things that are out there.
YouTube can be a great place to while away an hour or so watching funny videos, it can be a lot of fun to look at life through somebody elses eyes for a change - but it can also be an enriching and eye-opening opportunity to learn from other human beings, who are just out there living life their way.
It will never cease to amaze me how much inspiration and positivity there is to be found in fellow human beings, if we just open ourselves up to it.
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