YouTube comments are the last sincere space online

It's meant for one specific person who will likely never see it

YouTube comments are the last sincere space online
Duxbury, MA

A version of this piece appears in my book Welcome to Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia. My book of short stories A Creature Wanting Form is out soon.

People tend to say the comments section on YouTube videos are one of the nastiest corners of the internet and that’s saying a lot because there are enough nasty corners on here you’d have to invent an uncanny geometric shape that doesn’t seem natural to hold them all. That’s not a shape you’d say but it is some nerd would insist. Hmm you’d say alright man I’m not the shape expert. Fuck you motherfucker he’d say and then it’s a whole thing and that’s how the internet goes.

It’s true that the comments section on YouTube videos are nasty because people are nasty and the internet is a performance enhancing drug for our nastiness but there is another thing that is true about the comments section on YouTube videos and it is that they’re also one of the most nakedly human and vulnerable spaces we have left and when you come across sincerity online it’s shocking it’s like finding a burnt onion ring in the bottom of your order of fries. What the fuck is that oh I see I don’t want that that doesn’t belong here but you eat it anyway and it was pretty good.

People talk about lately how whatever it is they start watching on YouTube the recommended videos always end up bringing them to some corrosive white nationalist horse shit like Jordan Peterson or Ben Shapiro videos or videos where Sound of Music looking ass teens play video games like I.Q. Genius where the goal is to measure as many scalps with a caliper as you can before the time runs out but that doesn’t happen to me for some reason. YouTube knows my Brain Force is too resistant and cannot be overpowered is probably what it is. In any case the gremlins that pull the steampunk levers in my own personal YouTube algorithm seem to have decided of late that no matter what video I begin watching I then want to hear a song from Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins next and they are correct about that.

I thought I’d let the YouTube algorithm take me on its data point journey and see what humanity people were experiencing for a little while this morning.

  • I didn't understand it at the age I was, but my dad once scrolled past it on the radio and frantically tried to find it again. As it played, I could visibly see his eyes wet and shining, talking about he and his friends taking a drive in an open convertible years ago. This song makes me remember that memory like it was my own.
  • Met a pretty french girl while in Montreal and asked her on a date.. we went to the Pumpkins show at the Metropolis. That was over 25 years ago,  since then we wed, had 2 kids and we still get euphoric ever time we hear this this song. Stop, listen and enjoy it while you can, trust me, im now 51 and time flies by faster than you think.
  • i got twenty one days for drug possession charges last summer, i lost my job, my girlfriend left, and all i had left was my empty apartment and my record player. this album was one of the few that wasn't popped and scratched to hell, and upon making it to this song i realized my life isn't over. even if i truly thought it was, i found a way to pull myself out, just like this song said i would. now i've got a new job and a new life ahead of me. it's not over.
  • my wife surprised me at our wedding with this song as our first dance. one of those moments I always visualized with a great song like this. to have it happen was something else.

It’s been twenty five years since this album came out. I would have been sixteen at the time which is an impossible age to imagine being it seems like it was yesterday but it was not it was twenty fives years ago. I tried to visualize what I would have been doing when we were first listening to this album just now I know we went to see them play it at the Lollapalooza I mentioned the other day and then I went to see the band a few more times later on and they fucking sucked I thought but the image that came to mind which may be a pastiche of other memories is my friend Richie throwing a frisbee into the wind on the beach in Duxbury. We’d drive along the curving marsh roads passed where all the rich people lived and I’d think about how nice it would be to live in one of those houses that basically have their toes dangling into the water not for long though lol and I guess I probably imagined that sort of life was an attainable one where you built a home by the water and put up a moat around it and kept people like me away. Richie would throw the frisbee into the wind and I would throw the frisbee into the wind and it would seem like it was going to disappear forever out over the ocean but the wind would boomerang it back and you’d either catch it or you wouldn’t. Sometimes we’d try to do acrobatic little jumps catching it. He was a lot better at the whole thing than I ever was I will admit but I kept trying it over and over.

I went back to that beach for the first time in years at the end of the summer just over a year ago and it was about to storm and so cold but I had to get into the water anyway. You walk across a long wooden bridge to get to the beach and then you jump in and it fucking sucks so bad it’s so cold and there are rocks and seaweed everywhere ah fuck fuck but you’re glad you did it afterwards is the point because a life where you can’t get into the ocean is no life in my opinion. Every few years I have to return to my ancestral homelands to replenish myself in the sea like getting your driver's license renewed.

  • I remember being about 4 years old when this song came out, standing in a pizza parlor while my dad was ordering pizza and watching this music video play on the TV in total awe.
  • Me, 13 years old, in the back of a bus on a scouting trip returning home from staying on a battleship in charleston, rain is pouring, ad I have this song on full blast in my headphones, dreaming about the girl I met for those 4 days.

I think we’re supposed to snicker at these people who leave comments like this on videos for strangers to read and there are probably times when that is the appropriate response but for me it’s not this particular morning in my life.

People think oversharing has become an epidemic and it has in some ways but I think what we’re thinking about when we think about the ways people are oversharing online is a manufactured version of who we are the immaculate Instagram life or the irony poisoned sociopathy of Twitter but all of these people who leave comments like this on songs that mean a lot to them is the point of music in the first place I think. It’s about erecting a sonic space where humans can spill into and find one another inside of the noise. Also it’s a good soundtrack for trying to find someone to touch your gross ass but that’s secondary to the point I’m trying to make right now so don’t think about that too much.

  • Sometimes when I am alone, I think of all the regrets in my life... I just wanted to kill myself and disappear... Never to exist. But then I listen to this song... Maybe I am not the only one suffering... Maybe I could stay alive a little more.
  • man, how cant I even explain what this song means, nostalgia is probably the closest we can get to the "life flashing before your eyes feel" pockets of feelings, time, space, and the people around you.  theres just no mistake; I know exactly where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling when I was deep into this album along side pavement.
  • I hate flying, I'm deathly scared of it but its life. Sometimes you have to travel. Still to this day, I crank up this song as soon as the plane starts to jet down the runway. By the time this song is over, usually the plane has leveled out towards our destination and I've relaxed a bit.

I think one of the things that makes me susceptible to the humanity of comments like this is the hopefulness of them in the midst of insurmountable odds. The futility of leaving a comment on a music video that is meant for one specific person who will likely never see it but nonetheless doing it in front of tens of thousands of strangers.

I used to worry about embarrassing myself by being vulnerable but I don’t worry about that any more.

  • Can't believe it's 2016. We're still here, together, in our own little midnights, missing you. I hope so hard you're free now.
  • I used to drive into Portland and walk down to 6th and Powell to buy cocaine and heroin ,  I know those stairs. This song brings up contradictory emotions for me; the horror and the thrill. Its a very strange nostalgia of being so glad to not be there anymore but remembering how fun it could be. RIP Elliot. Lost four of my own, 2 to overdose and 2 to suicide. And I really didn't have any to spare. ; Robby, Jeff, J.R. and York. I am honored to have know you, and I hold the memories of you in my heart.
  • I feel alone, don't know why I'm in this depression, I feel I have what I want, I try to fit in , I do everything to get noticed but just get pushed away I'm am alone

I think people think talking to someone who isn’t there is supposed to be a sign of insanity but it feels like the most natural thing in the world to me. The only thing different between leaving a comment for someone you miss on the internet and saying a silent little prayer in your heart that they’ll come back to you whispering I miss you when it’s dark and quiet is that there’s at least a one in a million chance they might actually see the internet comment. None of us are going to ever win the lottery but we still play anyway right because you never know. You do know but you never do.

  • this always reminds me of my sister. She and i are very close.I moved away from home because I didn't want my family to see me battle alcoholism and drug addiction. Im slowly getting better but I miss my sister,I cant wait to come home once I am healed and clean.
  • This comment section is full of such a beautiful array of life. I wish we could all sit down in a room and talk about the places we've been, the things we've seen, what has lead us to go out our way to listen to this meaningful melody. There is so much to learn, in such little time. So enjoy the little time you have here. Don't fill yourself with petty hate. What if you die tomorrow? What was the last thing you said to your friends and family? What was the thing that you said you always wanted to do, but for some reason never did? Would you be worried about your ego? all these materialistic items you buy? When you're lying there on your deathbed.
  • My best friend died in my arms in Afghanistan I used this song on a little video of him and played it at his funeral he made me promise. Goodbye Mikey. Till that morning my brother. I love you see you on the othetside
  • The girl I love brought me here. And guess what, she doesnt love me back
  • One of my best guy friends in highschool died suddenly at 15, about 8 years ago from a brain hemorrhage. It really shocked me and my whole grade. I still remember his funeral that we all attended and seeing his mum cry up the front as she spoke. I miss his laugh, and his ability to make us all happy as we tried to navigate our teen years through school. He was in drama class with me, and he had dreams of being a movie director making comedies. He never got to do that, or have a girlfriend, fall in love, get married and have kids. But I might be able to, and I ask myself why some people can have those things and others cant. Anyways this song made me think of him and this thing called life. We only have a short time here, so we have to make it count
  • Ive never wanted anything more than sofia to appear down the aisle at 2.27 of this song, she was my best friend, lover, soul mate but most of all she was my angel, i find it hard to breath without her, she is someone that can't and won't ever be replaced, she was, still is and will forever be the love of my life
  • My football career just ended a week ago. Can't help but tear up when I listen to this now. At least I went out on top.
  • Find that scared little boy or girl that lives inside your heart and hold them close. Look that child in the eyes and tell them that it's going to be alright. We've made it this far and we'll make it through more. It's what we do. We survive.
  • It’s been years, but a man I loved more than anything sent me this song. For a long time after he left me for another person I couldn’t even stomach this song without breaking down. It’s been a long struggle but finally... I can listen to it without overwhelming knots forming in my core. The person who sent me this may have broken me beyond repair... but hey, the song is nice.

  • My brother who passed away a year tomoz heard this song on come dine with me he looked it up and he had it on non stop in his flat he loved it I sat at his grave last week and I played it for him I miss him so much love this song whenever I'm down I listen to this ❤️❤️😢
  • She was so young. Only two years older than me. I am really sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.

Wait what?

Sometimes you read the comments and you find a new reason to be sad about a song you’ve always loved. I didn’t realize Carey Lander from Camera Obscura had died. I love this band so much. She died of bone cancer in 2013 I just read. I did not know that. Why didn’t anyone tell me that.

“It's probably too late to help me, but it would be great if we could find something in the future that means children don't have to undergo such awful treatment and have a better chance of survival,” Lander wrote on a fundraiser she posted shortly before she died.

That’s another thing we can do now I guess. Go and read the comments on medical care fundraiser after the people behind them are gone. Here’s one I just read:

  • As Carey's parents we have been deeply moved by all the gifts and messages on this page. They have brought real comfort to us. Please keep spreading the word and keep giving, so we can carry through her resolve that no other families experience this heartache and sadness.