Montreal-based writer/filmmaker Mark Slutsky might be the only person who reads the YouTube comments on a regular basis. As the curator of Sad YouTube, a feed of surprisingly moving stories culled from the video site's chatter, he estimates that he has spent hundreds of hours researching since starting the project two years ago.
"The more I looked, the more I found," Mark writes in a Buzzfeed article. "And I discovered that, secretly, the YouTube comment box had become the strangest and most wonderful place on the internet. A place that was fascinating, endlessly moving, and heartbreakingly human."
We are firm believers that great curation is one of the most powerful tools that storytellers have today. Jon Rafman's 9Eyes, a brilliant selection of found moments from Google street view, exemplifies this. And while the YouTube comment box might not be known as a destination for quality writing, we love that Mark recognized that in every haystack there must be a few needles and that he is now dedicated to capturing some of those moments before new comments push them into oblivion.
morel: Why "sad" YouTube? Why not odd, happy or mad?
Mark: The site is called Sad YouTube, but the word I prefer to use in describing the comments I choose is saudade. It's a Portuguese word that doesn't exactly translate to English, but which means an ineffable nostalgia for something forever lost. That is the feeling I look for when I read YouTube comments. Sometimes they shade happy, sometimes they shade sad, but there is always that feeling of saudade.
m: What is your earliest YouTube memory?
M: I can't remember my first encounter with YouTube, but I did recently dig up the first comment I thought was worth memorializing, on my personal blog. I had totally forgotten about it; it's a really sweet memory. You can read it here.
m: In general, do you leave comments? Or just read them?
M: I almost never leave comments, especially on YouTube. I prefer to dig 'em up.
m: What are you inspired by at the moment?
M: Right now I'm inspired by the wonderful non-fiction writing of John Jeremiah Sullivan, here's a couple of his pieces —Piece #1 and Piece #2 — and the music of Todd Terje and the films of Chris Marker.
m: If you had to write a fortune cookie, what would it say?
M: “There’s a lotta things about me you don’t know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn’t understand. Things you couldn’t understand. Things you shouldn’t understand.” — Pee-Wee Herman