If you’ve fallen down the wormhole of YouTube, you’re familiar with clicking around the Up Next column, bouncing from Smokey Eye Tutorials, to I Have A Stalker (Storytime), to The Epic Cider Challenge *Vomit Warning*.
I’ve grown up with grainy videos with low budget special effects, that when I rediscovered the platform in the post 2015s, I stumbled on a community that was foreign to me, filled with terms I’ve never heard before— Vlog, Mukbang, Clickbait. I felt like an out of touch mother trying to understand what the kids are into nowadays.
With this platform, I am able to observe onto the lives of people I normally would never meet, through their eyes. I am able to see their friends, how they like their smoothies in the morning, where they walk their dogs and their thoughts which they choose to share with me.
It did not take long for my attention span to adapt; I bought into each flashy title that popped up in my Recommended. I was the curious sucker who wondered what playing The Midnight Man game was like. This type of seemingly honest, yet slightly rehearsed content can make any viewer wonder, what part is a character and what part is real. By saying *Emotional* or *NOT Clickbait* in the title, these tags contribute to the illusion that this influencer is something equal to a documentarian.
And it feels as if every other day there is an apology video uploaded, from forty-seven minutes explaining the mistreatment of a pet fish (thank you, Jenna Marbles), to a minute and forty-five of Logan Paul explaining to us why it was poor judgement to post a video of a dead body hanging in Aokigahara forest. And how many videos have I seen of a white person apologizing for a racial slur or blackface? Too many.
And the dedicated fans will flock to their defense, every time. I can find hundreds of comments underneath Logan Paul’s apology video, forgiving him for his actions, rewriting it as a simple mistake. And as the kids reminded me, if the video wasn’t monetized the person must be a saint.
We all have a right to our opinion and the freedom to express ourselves, but when it comes to humanity, there is only one answer.
This mentality had me very intrigued. Like the times I’ve researched cults, reading about Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate. In the realm of YouTube, I read articles about parents bringing lawn chairs to Logan Paul’s house to watch their kids stand outside his house in high hopes that he’ll notice them. Or kids getting trampled by mobs at Vidcon as they chase after their favorite influencer. People underestimate the power of a group of kids with an unchecked obsession; you will find them shoving their phone in your face demanding a selfie and knocking at your door come midnight. It all seemed too similar.
Everything is about shock factor: how crazy, how terrifying, how extreme can their content become? Everything is in excess: 200 packing peanuts, over 1,000 pounds of dry ice, and the exorbitant amount of food that is wasted. It took me too many ghost videos of me wearing headphones and replaying to realize I need to wake up.
And when I get a glimpse of their Range Rovers and mansion tours, I’m reminded that every click I give them is another Rolex on their wrist. It’s hard not to remain bitter as I’m over here struggling to make 12/hr while holding onto my morals. And when I notice my Canon camera sitting on my desk, I wonder what it would be like to try to vlog.
I spent the holiday recording Christmas Eve with my family, and I hardly spoke to my grandfather, as I was too worried about getting a good clip. Then I remembered a time I went swimming in an underwater sculpture park, where the only thoughts I had were, “Don’t drop the GoPro, make sure it’s recording, make sure you get a good shot.” Once I came up for air, the tour was over. I’ve seen Imagine Dragons with my best friend’s little brother who held his tired arm up the entire show, just to keep his Instagram live going. And when I go to festivals I’m watching the show through the phone of the person in front of me.
I am no indication of what is right and what is wrong, but to me, living life like this is very sad.
YouTube is an amazing tool that has taught me how to code and advised me on what camera to invest in. It shares free yoga practices (bless you, Adriene) and shows me places in the world I would never get the chance to see. YouTube is an accessible pool of opinions, tutorials, and information, yet at the same time, it raises many questions I ask myself every day.
If we didn’t videotape it, did it really happen? If we don’t post about it, do we genuinely care about it? If we don’t have a large following, does our opinion really matter?