A reader writes:
Your post regarding Britney Spears and the YouTube response touches on the untended (and unintended) sore of this whole YouTube thing - what I call "disproportionate response."
Take the Miss Teen South Carolina episode: Two years ago, that gaffe was the sort of thing you either a) saw live because you actually watched the Miss Teen USA Pageant, or b) you heard about it at the office or from a friend the next day. Most likely it was a second-hand anecdote that you'd chuckle over briefly and forget about. The whole event would have run its course in two days' time.
Instead, I had it forwarded to me in YouTube form by no fewer than 5 people, and I'd wager I'm in a low percentile in regards to having things forwarded to me. My initial response was sadness. The girl obviously became flustered, lost track of her thoughts, and the whole thing snowballed on her the longer she was under the lights. Perhaps the girl isn't particularly bright (but how would I know?), and poise certainly wasn't her strong suit, but she also isn't a celebrity or public figure in the true sense of the word whose error warranted this much attention.
So instead of her public embarrasment dying a quick, self-contained death, it became unending fodder for columnists, talk radio, and late-night monologues. The response was disproportionate for the offense. And this is what this whole YouTube business begets. And frankly, it ain't good. I'm sure there are positive applications to be found in some of its corridors, but like most media, it quickly becomes co-opted and corrupted by the more base elements of our society.
I mean, it's right there in the buzzword, isn't it? How often is "viral" ever a good thing?