YouTube's interesting informality

I watch a whole lot of YouTube. I watched a ton of videos over this summer holidays while I had little to do. During these weeks I’d found a few channels whom I’ve come to love, and I watched those whom I’ve watched for years. One of those newly discovered is Fredrik Knudsen, who’s channel is primarily host to “Down The Rabbit Hole” which is “a series of videos diving deep into the strange parts of the internet as well as confounding and absurd elements of history”.

A screenshot of Fredrik Knudsen's youtube channel

I discovered Knudsen through a video called “TempleOS: Down The Rabbit Hole”, one of his most recent videos as of writing, and it’s a great watch, but there was something I’d noticed with this video that I hadn’t while watching other “documentary” style YouTube videos - it was that even though the script and narration is very informational and formal, as if it had been written for a TV documentary, there is still a tinge of informality. And it wasn’t just this video or video series, after I had thought about it I’d realise that most YouTuber created content had this quality to it. After a while of thinking (and binge watching some other videos in the series), I think it comes down to the barebones visuals. For the most part the visuals of the videos in the series are just screenshots of whatever Knudsen is talking about, which then fade to the next screenshot when the time comes, its very barebones, and is purely functional, he only shows exactly what the video needs to with no bells and whistles. It’s also worth mentioning that the pacing of the videos is great in most cases and there is a nice rhythm to the videos where there is an interesting story. In a good example like the TempleOS video (which is paced beautifully), this is great since the barebones visuals and informative tone lets the story just hook you completely and there are no distractions from it, like an audiobook with screenshots. This said however, there are a few examples of Down The Rabbit Hole where videos fall flat where the story/subject is quite dull and it can be hard to create/pace a narative.

I’ve gone completely off topic, oops.

Anyway, the unique tone of Down The Rabbit Hole got me thinking about the ton of other channels on YouTube, Nick Robbinson has a similar informational yet informal tone with his videos, but they’re also far more comedic than Knudsen’s, Kurzgesagt, a science educational channel is also quite informal despite its clear goal to be a professional animaiton studio, the list goes on and on and on.

A Kurzgesagt video titled "What if We Nuke a City?"

And this is why I love YouTube as a place for people to make stuff, because you can just tell that that video was made by one or two or three people who are really passionate about videogames or science or internet culture or whatever else, and the way that shines through is that tinge of informality, that basic video-editing, informal writing or that “hey thanks for watching…” that reminds you that they’re just people making videos on the internet because its fun.

I also recently discovered Captain Disillusion, a “kids” superhero who “guides children of all ages through the maze of visual fakery to the open spaces of reality and peace of mind”, he has a catchphrase at the end of each video which always catches me off guard for being sincerely thoughtful and heartfelt:

“Love with your heart, use your head for everything else”

A screenshot from a Captain Dissilusion video

Captain D’s videos all have a really high production value, certainly beyond that of your average hobbyist channel, but you can still tell that it’s mostly just him and a few other people making these videos, and it’s great! It absolutely beats any TV show outright, its far more entertaining because you feel like you know the person (even though you may realise that you don’t and it’s just a character) because YouTube is part social media, part content provider, part platform.

Yeah I don’t know how to end this and I don’t have much else to say, YouTube content creators are great and far more entertaining than traditional TV (in my opinion), partially because every video is laced with informality and personality that you just can’t quite get elsewhere.