By Cindy Kim, 15, South Pasadena HS
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Cindy learned how to play Justin Bieber's "Baby" on her guitar after watching a tutorial on YouTube.

It’s 3 p.m. when I get home from school. I lean my backpack against the wall of my room, change into my pajamas and sit down at the dining room table with my hamburger from In-N-Out. I place my laptop in front of me, press the power button and sit in front of the screen, impatient and hungry. It takes three bites of my hamburger for my computer to boot up. As I type in “YouTube” my smile widens because this is the moment when I get to enjoy life after seven hours of school.

First, I scroll through the “Videos Being Watched Now,” usually featuring an Eminem music video or a parody of the Twilight saga movies. But nothing compares to the channel Wong Fu Productions, where I go to watch short films and music videos. Then I check my subscriptions (a list of my favorite channels) to see the newest videos about fashion trends, music and art. Every 30 minutes, my mom tells me to get off the computer. “You should be doing your homework,” she says, glaring at me. I can barely mutter “OK …” before I click a new video that makes me crave more. About two hours later, I finally do my homework. Sometimes, I’ll sneak back on for another hour if I’m home alone.

If I had to give up my e-mail, TV, cell phone and Facebook, I would still be happy as long as I had YouTube. It’s cooler than all of those things because I get to watch videos of ordinary people who have the same interests as me. Also I feel connected to my friends who watch YouTube. I love the website because it’s like a good friend I can lean on. When I’m bored or moody or feel like having fun, I can watch YouTube.

I heard of YouTube three years ago. During lunch my friends were talking about a video called “How to be Gangster.” I didn’t know what they were talking about. I thought that if I didn’t watch it, I would feel left out. Plus, if the video was so funny that they couldn’t stop talking about it, then it must be worth watching.

After one video I was hooked

That day I went online and searched for “How to be Gangster.” It was about two guys who teach a nerd how to toughen up. I thought it was hilarious that the main characters’ names were R-Dizzle-Fo-Shizzle-My-Nizzle-Of-Da-Hizzle-Drizzle and Mike. They taught him different types of poses like the layback, the crane and the cameltoe. It was way funnier than I thought it would be. On the right side of the screen, there were more videos from the same guy, Nigahiga. A few of them weren’t as good but most of the videos made me want to watch more.

I was really excited to tell my friends the next day at school. “Wasn’t it funny?!” they squealed. My friends wanted me to watch more videos, so they told me about musicians and singers I hadn’t heard of like David Choi, AJ Rafael and FanninEleven. When I watched them sing covers of popular songs, their vocals weren’t much different from professional singers. They all personalize each song with their own style. In one video, David Choi performed “Telephone” by Lady Gaga. There are 12 small screens showing him playing the guitar, singing the lead and back-up vocals, clapping his hands and hitting water bottles with Sharpies to add sound effects. I thought it was awesome that he did everything by himself.

Illustration by Angelica Conde, 17, Los Angeles HS

I’ve found art too. I was on Taylor Swift’s music page and under her “favorite” videos there was one of a guy drawing her. It was an artist called Thekingofdefford, who says he never took drawing lessons. He creates delicate drawings of celebrities such as Katy Perry and Britney Spears. First, he sketches an outline of the person’s face. Then he darkens the color and creates more depth by shading. It takes him about two hours, but it’s not boring because the video is sped up. The hours are shortened to eight minutes. After watching it, all I could think was, “Wow.” His drawings made me want to discover my own talent.

Could I use it as a tutor?

Last year when I needed help with my algebra homework, I didn’t know where to go. My teacher was intimidating and I didn’t understand my textbook. My mom suggested I go online to find lectures. Skeptically, I Googled “conic sections.” Some YouTube videos showed up on the search results page. I was reluctant to give them a try because I didn’t know who the people in the videos were. After a few minutes, I was surprised by how helpful the videos were.

The lectures were by a 32-year-old man with a channel called PatrickJMT. The video showed only a white board, marker and hairy hand, and was narrated with detailed explanations. I came back to watch his videos when I needed help with graphing and other things. I’ve used YouTube videos for biology and chemistry too. The tutorials made me like YouTube even more because it’s not just entertainment—there are things that I can learn.

Unless it’s finals or I’m sick, I’m on YouTube almost every day. I laugh, sympathize and am awed by regular people who enjoy what they’re doing so much that they want to share it with others. It’s fun, like when my friend Sharon shows me hilarious videos at school. One time at the lunch table she pulled out her iPod touch and showed me a video of a woman who starts out dancing to “Single Ladies” but ends up banging her head on the corner of her TV. We laughed until our stomachs hurt.