It always ends with YouTube – Extremes of Entertainment

Over the past months I’ve noticed that all social gatherings now end with people huddled around a computer looking at YouTube videos. (And no, not only geek gatherings!) References to funny or interesting things will stack up in conversation throughout the night until someone just can’t take it anymore and pulls out the laptop. As the first video is run, a crowd gathers round, and the crowd attracts others until the whole party is circled round. When the video is finished, people will request other videos, calling out search queries like magical incantations: “ikea lamp!” “chuck e cheese booty!” “buffalo lion alligator!” “will it blend ipod!” “phil collins gorilla!” “my hands are bananas!” and “FUCKING AWESOME!”

Any one of these videos would have rocked my world just 10 years ago. Most of the videos that get sent to me daily are far better than what was on America’s Funniest Home Video.

I’ve been thinking lately about how damn entertaining all of this is, and what it means for us as a culture. Like many of you, my savvy readers, the bar has been raised really high for what counts as entertaining these days.

Our filters and funnels for content have gotten really really good. (Even though they certainly can be made better.) Mass filters like Digg and TechMeme use thousands of people to sort out what is really interesting. My friends around the world IM me links, often mere minutes after someone has IM’ed the link to them. The internet has made the attention market very efficient.

I’m mostly happy about this, and of course am entertained.  But it seems that when you were forced to endure mediocre content (like old network TV or magazine articles), you appreciated the gems more when they came along. A bowl of rice tastes better to a starving man than the most expensive French dinner eaten by an urban foodie.

Will future generations take good entertainment and interestingness for granted as much as we now take good food for granted? (Or am I just becoming a curmudgeon?)