YouTube, not boob tube, now source for shared memories

Every generation has its cultural touchstones — those shared media moments on radio or TV that help define individuals as part of an age:

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the "day that will live in infamy."

The Beatles rocking "The Ed Sullivan Show."

"The Brady Bunch."

The last episode of "Seinfeld."


Fred Figglehorn.

Huh? What? You’ve never heard of Fred Figglehorn?

How about Charlie the Unicorn? Or the Potter Puppet Pals?

The odds are good that your 10-year-old or teenager has heard of them. The reason you may not know them is that they’re not on TV. They’re Internet phenomena.

Media experts say that, for the first time, there exists a generation whose collective memories are being created as much by what they experience on their computers, particularly on the video-sharing site YouTube, as what they see on TV or hear on the radio.

They say that as the Internet becomes increasingly ubiquitous and portable, with easy accessibility on cell phones, the greater the influence of computer culture is likely to become.

“I think that two out of three of the kids in my grade know who Fred is,” Phillip Woolley, 11, a fifth-grader at St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School in Kansas City, said of the antic character whose 35 short online videos rank as among the most watched on YouTube.

With titles such as “Fred Goes Swimming” or “Fred Goes Off His Meds,” the episodes have been watched more than 250 million times.

“Everybody I know knows him,” said third-grader Ruby Rios, 8.

For the uninitiated: “Fred” is a fictional hyperemotional and hyperarticulate 6-year-old with an Alvin & The Chipmunks voice. He is played by the character's creator, Lucas Cruikshank, a 16-year-old high school student from Columbus, Neb.

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