MacDonald: YouTube can entertain or inform: You have to choose

Alexandra MacDonald

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of The Collegian or its editorial board.

The amount of information we have at our fingertips is undoubtedly overwhelming. One of the most popular sources of accessible information is YouTube. We can spend countless hours watching YouTubers like Jenna Marbles, laughing at clips of puppies or even learning new skills. 

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YouTube can entertain and inform, but you make that choice.

YouTube has become a database that allows its users to teach themselves things that were previously unavailable to everyone. The website, when enough time is spent watching videos on a topic, can be a place of education. As college students, we should start using it this way. 

There’s the option to visit YouTube for a mindless study break — like simply catching up on a certain YouTuber’s latest video — or for a lengthy video explanation of something misunderstood on this week’s homework. According to Education Week, students often rely on, and even prefer, video tutorials for complex math questions or a crash course on history. 

But students shouldn’t stop there. Anyone can better their understanding of any subject by simply searching it on YouTube.

There’s no credentials given after spending an obsessive amount of time going down a rabbit hole at 2 a.m., but there’s something to be said about what a person understands after a YouTube binge. 

Want to know how car engines work? Here’s a lecture from a mechanical engineering course. Don’t know how to knit? A grandmother somewhere made a video about it. Not entirely sure how the War of 1812 went down? Young adult author John Green can explain. 

More often than not, people want to watch their lessons instead of reading them — that’s what makes YouTube so attractive. It’s personalized, concise and visually appealing. If a specific video doesn’t grab your attention, just click on another one. 

It’s common knowledge that going to a university isn’t a cheap option, and even then we can’t say it’s perfect after that. Not everyone who attends college around the country will receive the same quality of education. 

But access to YouTube is completely free with an internet connection and the prerequisite of being in a country that allows it. Even if you aren’t in college, you still have the access to the resources that college students use. 

There’s no credentials given after spending an obsessive amount of time going down a rabbit hole at 2 a.m., but there’s something to be said about what a person understands after a YouTube binge. 

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As a public forum, anyone can post or watch whatever they want. There are videos on all sorts of things, from basic algebra tutorials to pirated ’80s movies dubbed in Japanese. Consumers are free to choose whatever hole they fall into, and they’re free to question what they watch afterward. 

When we think of YouTube, we think of entertainment — but that just isn’t the case anymore. It has grown from a basic video sharing website from 2005 into a hub of internet culture and education. Use it.

Alexandra MacDonald can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexandramacc.