By now, one should see that this play on words is not to be taken lightly. While I do think we would all be better off if we committed to think a bit longer, harder, and more critically about the things we accept, assume, and take for granted, I also mean it quite literally – when we change the way we think, we can think in ways that create meaningful change
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While in graduate school back in 2010, I created a YouTube channel to host my “Think for a Change” video series. The real impetus for its creation was a personal frustration with the dominant messages of Dan Savages’, “It Gets Better Project.”
I appreciated the overall purpose of the project, but I didn’t like that so many people were telling young gay and queer kids that life would get better if they just waited it out, so I wanted to offer a different message, one that would have helped me understand that there is nothing wrong with being different from what others consider “normal” (i.e., it’s okay to be gay!).
I also wanted to offer the very things I had been craving all my life – tools to better understand my own experiences, and ways to think critically about what was deemed “normal.” I wanted to understand alternatives to the oppressive messages I had grown up with around sexuality, race, and gender. While I had those motivations, I didn’t have a means for providing such things yet, and thus, a YOUTUBE CHANNEL WAS BORN!
There was literally nothing fancy or complicated about those videos. It was just me in a room with a camera, and then I pushed “record.” For the first couple of years, I didn’t even have the capability to edit them.
Despite having very limited skills and equipment, I ended up touching on a lot of topics, sharing some of my favorite concepts and resources, and and weaving in some legitimate philosophy! (Sound familiar? Projects can revive and redefine themselves…)
If you go back through my old videos, you’ll probably recognize themes that show up in this project. (You’ll also see me with many different hairdos and a chronic sinus infection because Pennsylvania was an unhealthy place for me in many ways. Sorry for subjecting others to so much nasal congestion.)
Around 2013, once I left graduate school, I took a step back from creating YouTube videos (and blogging, too, for the most part). I had been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with inserting my voice on topics and issues that, although I had some ideas and opinions about them, didn’t seem like they were always mine to talk about. It was an odd but very important feeling to finally get to the end of graduate school and have a deep sense that I still had lots to learn.
Nevertheless, the Think for a Change project on YouTube was an important one for me, and I’m glad I did it. Despite being advised against it given that I was young graduate student who presumably should have been more preoccupied with building up my academic persona, I was already deeply committed to the value of publicly engaged philosophy. And now, I appreciate that those videos can serve as a reference, resource, and archive of sorts as I continue to explore new outlets for philosophical engagement.
I knew philosophy changed my life, and because of that, I felt like it could be a meaningful way for others to experience something similar. I figured that if I could help in that process, it was a worthy endeavor.
Watch the YouTube video that spurred the creation of all my other YouTube videos:
What does it mean to “think for a change”? Michel Foucault was one of my favorites on this one: