My web surfing is crap. There is so much good, intelligent, thoughtful content out there, yet I frequently surf the equivalent of junk food. I'm not sure why this is, though I do try to add something respectable in my browsing history once in a while.
Sometimes, however, my internet junk addiction sends me to interesting stories. A recent Cracked.com article about YouTube celebrities yielded the following insight -- there's a "YouTube voice." The most-popular vloggers out there affect a speech cadence that's made for the high-speed style of their videos. The Atlantic published an article about it, complete with an analysis by a linguistics expert and a list of basic characteristics. And holy crap, it's really spot on. I'm hearing the YouTube voice in my head now as I write this.
I thought a bit about putting on such an affect myself. For months and months, with respect to my on-stage storytelling, I've worried that I was missing something that held my craft back. Was it structure? Was it not opening up? Was it my image? My voice? So, I came back to those same old anxieties, and wondered if my voice should be worked on.
This isn't a misguided notion. I've heard the on-mic/off-mic voices of a tiny number of radio personalities, and yeah, people do talk differently on-mic. My most surprising example is 99 Percent Invisible's Roman Mars, who I listened to being interviewed on Jessica Abel's Out on the Wire podcast series. Chatting in a cafe Roman is NOT radio Roman. Well, yeah, sure, he's the same guy both ways. But he does have a radio voice, and there's nothing wrong with that. I need my own radio voice.
The YouTube voice is not really going to work for Random Waves. It's not like I'm describing myself playing a horror video game like PewDiePie. So, I Googled "podcast voice" and came up with the funniest impression of Ira Glass outside of Saturday Night Live (If you're a fan of This American Life, you will NOT be sorry clicking that link). I also found this lament on how "NPR voice" has taken over the podcast "airwaves". And so, it looks like my search is over -- there's an accepted way to sound on an intelligent podcast. Listen to Ira Glass, right? Of course, you can exchange "Ira Glass" with "Glynn Washington" or "Robert Smith" or "Zoe Chase" or whomever. It's still going to be the same story -- model my voice on someone else.
I've been having this conversation with myself over finding my voice. Do I emulate people I admire, and wait for my voice to emerge? Do I stumble around in the dark, using my voice no matter how it sounds now? Should I have the confidence to not be worrying about this at all? But don't the great the stars out there have stories about the idols they wanted to be in their youth?
I'm about to record narration for my next episode. I know I want to be more engaging on the mic, so I'll need to think about which way I'll go with it. I guess we shall see.