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Sunday 25 July 2010

YouTube Is a Social Network.

Social networking has been in the news once again this week, with the news that Facebook has passed the 500 million users mark. As i mentioned in a blog post the other day, the reporting of this story is not unusual these days.

One thought i did have about this story was, that  i wondered what some people will make of the fact that a jeans and t.shirt wearing 26 year old, runs a website, that if it were a country, would be the worlds third largest? I'm sure that's pretty scary stuff in some quarters.

In the light of the Facebook story, the BBC reported on a recent survey, which compared all of the main social networking sites. It was called "The ups and downs of social networks". All of the usual suspects and major players were there. Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, Twitter, Bebo, etc etc. Some faring well and others not so.
But, in my opinion at least, there was one major website missing from that survey. YouTube.

For most people, YouTube is perceived as a video sharing website and this it undoubtably is. It has become the number one site for online video viewing. The place where the vast majority of Internet users will go to first if they want to find a silly viral video,  a clip from their favourite tv show, or the latest music video by their favourite artist.
But, for many other people, YouTube is also a social networking site. So, why isn't it ever viewed as such?
Maybe, it is because of YouTube's perceived association with the sillier and less serious side of the Internet?

Whatever the reason, for me at least, YouTube was my first foray into what i would now call social networking.
It was on YouTube that i first started to interact with fellow Internet users, from across the world, in a meaningful way.
It was on YouTube that i first "met" other like minded Internet users, of all ages & backgrounds.
It was because of YouTube that i first met, in real life, fellow Internet users and felt confident in doing so.
It was because of YouTube that i have travelled to the USA on two occasions, exclusively to meet and travel with fellow video makers and have a great holiday into the bargain.
It was on YouTube that i first discovered a shared sense of there being an online Community.
Now, that's what i call social networking.

Maybe, i feel this way because YouTube was the first site of this kind that i stumbled onto?
Although i knew of and visited sites like MySpace when i first started to explore the social side of the Internet. It was YouTube that drew me in and made me dig beneath the surface and explore that little bit more than before.
For me, it was the way that i could see, through their videos, the people that i was interacting with. I could see their faces and look into their eyes. Something that you just don't get on many other, so called, social networking sites. Surely, it is far safer if you can actually see who you are intereacting with? Yes, i'm sure that this can be falsified. But, not nearly as easily as on a mainly text based site.

Since i created my YouTube channel in August 2006 and started making videos there, i have made some great friends. Some i have met in real life and this have often led to real and genuine friendships. Some i have yet to meet. Some, i may well never meet. But, i would still consider them to be friends.

I do wonder that if i was now a newcomer to the world of social networking, whether i might feel differently? After all, sites such as Facebook and Twitter, both of which i now use, were not really on the Internet radar back in 2006.
That question, of course, can never be answered.
All i do know, is that i am more than happy that my first experiences in the world of social networking were through YouTube.
I consider YouTube to be as real a social networking site as any of the others mentioned in this blog post.
I just wish that the rest of the world would view it in the same way. Maybe some day they will?


  1. I'm surprised that YT wasn't included in the survey you mentioned. YT certainly is a social networking site for all the reasons you speak of. Your own experience w/ YT is proof positive! Maybe the general thinking is that YT is strictly entertainment, sans serious interaction. How wrong can that be?

  2. Well, as the relative noob here to YouTube-As-Social-Network, I would suspect that YT, or similar platforms as they develop, develop wider acceptance as a social platform. Most of my friends and associates, like myself, have been using YouTube as a video sharing sight, but are energized and excited when I have the opportunity to explain the potential of YouTube as a social network.

    Of course, the great difference between a site like Facebook and YouTube is that it does take much more dedication to actually become a fully participating part of YT (beyond commenting) . Writing an update on Facebook or Twitter is infinitely simpler then recording even a 30 second update on YouTube.

    Perhaps YouTube and its sister sites (including the live video sites like blogtv) will, socially speaking, ultimately develop further as the critical social communities for creative types....?

  3. Willy: Maybe part of the problem is that YT have never "marketed" themselves as a social network? I doubt they ever thought of that possibility, even though they have encouraged the Gatherings & even had Community personnel at one point. It is now all about the entertainment. Vloggers don't really don't make YT any money. But, as long as we know there is still a Community here, that's what counts.

  4. Rich: You make a good point about the level of commitment needed to get really involved on YT. But that commitment really pays dividends, as i'm sure you're seeing yourself?
    I still believe that there is a lot of potential for YT as a social network. But, i'm not sure that YT themselves really see that these days. That's a pity because, as you say, there are still plenty of new people who are still discoverung that side of YT. I haven't found another site like it, yet.

  5. Interesting post, and good comments so far. I've met people "IRL" from other online activities, but it's always been around a creative endeavor.

    Previously, it was through writer/writing communities. So, like YouTube, it's that extra bit of effort that brings people together. That common interest and creative spark. To get something out of it, you have to put something in.

    Whereas, as much as I use twitter and facebook, I've yet to make *new* friends through either one. They're only used to reinforce and build upon relationships established elsewhere.

  6. Ken: I have met some local people via Twitter & i do find it useful. But, it's not the same as YT.
    As you said, for the most part, Twitter & FB do just cement relationships made elsewhere.

    I do agree with the comments made about the creative aspect probably making a difference to our YT connections. When i think of the good friends i've made through YT, they are all creative people. I never really considered myself to be creative before. But, i think i would do so now.