Imagine you are an archeologist in the year 2222, and you have come across an absolute treasure: A buried server farm containing all the YouTube videos of 2022. This should give you a brilliant opportunity to find out how people lived 200 years ago. Does it?
The first problem with that idea is that YouTube is obviously not geographically representative of the real world. The 40 million inhabitants of California produced a lot more YouTube videos in 2022 than the 1.4 billion inhabitants of Africa. To get an idea about China, you'd need to look a WeChat and Weibo, not YouTube. And even within the USA, YouTube demographics aren't representative: The average YouTuber is younger, whiter, more likely to be male, and richer than the average American.
The second problem with using YouTube to find out about the lives of real people is that the large majority of YouTube videos don't have the lives of real people as the subject. A huge number of YouTube videos are about fiction: Video games, movies, TV series, books, and so on. That would give an archeologist an idea what the entertainment in 2022 was about, but not much more.
The third, and probably most deceptive problem for the future archeologist is one that has plagued historians since the profession exists: Average people are boring, which is why they don't appear much in historical records. We know a lot more about the histories of kings and queens than we know about their subjects, in spite of there obviously being a lot more subjects than kings. YouTube has the same problem: It is easy to find videos about people driving Lamborghinis, although only 9,233 of these cars were sold in 2022. And you can probably find a lot of documentaries of people queuing up at food banks, or other cost-of-living crisis reporting. But good luck finding anything about a US household making around the median income of $70k per year. We know how the average person lives, because this is us, but we aren't leaving a lot of records about our lives, because even we think our lives are boring.
Now, the problems of future archeologists are probably not very important. But the lack of YouTube to show real lives of average people does have consequences today. All those videos with the Lambos have the driver get out of his car and try to sell you a get-rich-quick scheme or course. The glamorous lives of influencers cause depression and anxiety in the viewers, because it makes them think that they are doing a lot worse than they actually do. On the other side of the spectrum, people are making political capital by exaggerating the problems. This is the century in which people decided that they can't trust the press, so they instead turned to social media, which turns out to be significantly less trustworthy still. This is how we got into the post-truth society. Half of the people on social media deliberately lie, and the other half misrepresents because the misrepresentation gets more attention than the boring reality. The old motto of Google was "don't be evil", but I think they underestimated the evil that their search algorithms on the search engine, and the recommendation algorithms on YouTube would ultimately bring us.
Me being pedantic aside you describe a very real issue we already face when trying to learn things about our history. That's why organizations trying to preserve data and our modern history are so important.
Although realistically future historians might be able to guess how regular folk lived by picking through the ruins of our homes much like we do to ancient civilizations today and not by finding a cache of YouTube archives.
Secondly, how, exactly, is this different from the rest of human history, when no-one ever truly knew what was happening outside their own village and not always even there, either? Are you postulating a time when people, generally, did know, accurately and objectively, how people other than those they knew personally lived and did have realistic impressions of what was and was not possible?
Thirdly, YouTube? Seriously? DOn't you think TikTok would be a much better target?
There is still enough meta context in them to get an impression of the times.
"All those videos with the Lambos have the driver get out of his car and try to sell you a get-rich-quick scheme or course. The glamorous lives of influencers cause depression and anxiety in the viewers, because it makes them think that they are doing a lot worse than they actually do."
My first video result was from AutoTopNL and it's just 10 minutes of (boring) driving. So there goes the first part.
I can't really comment on the second part because I don't consume influencers but I would also question the absolute phrasing here. Sure, there are probably some people that get depressed because the aren't the Kardashians or whatever.
"This is the century in which people decided that they can't trust the press, so they instead turned to social media, which turns out to be significantly less trustworthy still."
The first issue of the press is: Average people are boring. "A dog biting a man" isn't worth reporting. Social media just improved on the clickbait for bloated content.
Sure, traditional media usually doesn't lie outright but they still control the spotlight.
Look at the last two years: filled with daily Covid updates, new cases, deaths, incidence rates. Where are these now? Covid completely gone or just not interesting any more? Before that we had every little fart from Trump analysed for what it would mean and who is offended by it. Now we have the proxy war in Ukraine.
There are certainly things worth reporting but I think a lot of it is the old trick of bread and games: keep the masses occupied so that they don't think of something stupid.