Picture the scene: It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping. You, a hardworking college student, are staying indoors reading for Monday classes. You’ve just finished another four pages, which took no less than half an hour of reading and rereading.
That’s all hard work and a serious reward is due! So you say to yourself, “Let’s watch a YouTube video. Just a three-minute one, and I’ll be back to the book in no time.”1 The next thing you see out the window is the sun setting.
And let me tell you. It’s not getting any easier in grad school.
As a generation Xer, I am a latecomer to YouTube.2 Nevertheless, I am back at school and surrounded by millennials – or “Generation Like.” I can’t help but be fascinated by the role of technology in social interaction and how so many millennials are open to self-disclosure, particularly those who are YouTubers.
Within this group of millennial vloggers are the creative filmmakers, poets and storytellers, comedians and singer-songwriters.3 What strikes me most is the depth of their personal reflections on relationships, love and loss, and almost everything else life contains. What also make these videos stand out is the craft of the words and images through which the creators present their reflections.4
My three-minute break sank further and further into the abyss of YouTube algorithm that suggested yet another video I should watch. Eventually, I stumbled upon a channel of a young filmmaker, Emily Diana Ruth. It was not the short film that she made, which is brilliant, but rather a series of video letters.
This video project, which began in 2013, is called “Letters to July.” Some of her friends have since contributed to the series.
A personal letter is often a form of self-disclosure. It takes freedom and trust to reveal something personal about yourself. It makes you a little more vulnerable to those you let into your life.
In this vlog, the letter “writers” remain at a certain level of anonymity and distance from the viewers, since the letters are addressed to “July.” Nevertheless, the personal reflections in them are not mere performances. The viewers, you and I, encounter something about the self of the letter “writers.” That encounter is an opportunity for us to be opened to a new or different perspective on life. And that also takes freedom and trust on our part.
So, without further ado, I present you a sample of the “Letters to July.”
… things that really matter,
… and lastly, people and power. Something to ponder as we approach Election Day.
– // –