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My vote for best invention of the Digital Age goes to -- insert drum roll here, please -- YouTube.

I know, I know, you're probably thinking, "YouTube is so darn 2005."

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Mark Kennedy

But stay with me here. Let's say you are stranded on a deserted island -- one that happens to have Chattanooga-fast high-speed Internet -- and that you can only choose one online tool to bring with you: Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

Which would you pick?

If you choose anything but YouTube you are, technically speaking, a doofus.

Facebook would help you keep friends in the loop as your ribs begin to surface from slow starvation. And Twitter would let you vent pithy remarks about those pesky mosquitoes in 140 characters or less. But unfettered access to YouTube would actually give you a fighting chance to survive your island adventure.

With a few keystrokes, you could watch videos on how to desalinate ocean water, how make fire from flint and how to break open a coconut with a purposeful head butt.

YouTube is the best do-it-yourself tool ever invented. American schools are not designed to teach actual practical skills anymore. But in one short decade, YouTube has collected all the how-to videos you'll need to live a relatively happy life.

I know this about YouTube because I see it in action every day at my house.

Just this past Sunday -- during the NFL playoffs, incidentally -- I was treated to a two-hour magic show from our 8-year-old son, who has turned into some sort of Baby Amazing Kreskin. (If you don't know who the Amazing Kreskin is, you can look him up on YouTube. The 80-year-old mentalist has his own YouTube channel.)

Faster than you can say abraca-YouTube, my son read my mind, demonstrated a card trick and made a party balloon appear to swallow my iPhone.

"Where does he get this stuff?" I asked, turning to my wife on the couch.

"YouTube," she said. "He gets all these tricks from YouTube."

YouTube is perfect for my younger son because he changes interests once a month. Today it's magic, last month it was making Christmas ornaments from origami paper. His other short-lived hobbies have included cake decorating, Rainbow Looming and paper airplane manufacturing.

Don't you wish YouTube had been around throughout recorded history? Wouldn't it be fun to watch a video of handwriting tips by John Hancock? Or going back even further, what about "10 Ways to Part the Red Sea" by Moses?

My older son, age 13, watches instructional videos on YouTube, too. For reasons I don't understand, he watches videos of other people playing PlayStation games, which is -- by my reckoning -- two degrees of separation from actual life.

He also watches videos of other people playing war games with Aerosoft guns. He's got one of those GoPro cameras, and he plans to start filming his own little imaginary gun battles soon. Who knows, I might be feeding Apple Jacks to the next Steven Spielberg.

On the practical side, my wife and I have used videos to help the kids with homework. I have it on good authority that Santa Claus borrowed my laptop computer on Christmas Eve 2013 to watch a YouTube video called "How to Assemble a Ping Pong Table."

I once watched a YouTube video on how to lubricate a garage door spring, and another on how to change the cabin air filter in a Toyota Camry. Those two videos alone probably saved me 100 bucks.

There's just something comforting about knowing that, for every little human task, there's a video of some Joe in his basement in Wichita who shows you, step by step, exactly how to do it.

So for all you social networking junkies out there who think YouTube is passe, put that in your Facebook and tweet it.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

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