YouTube: A Discussion (Part I)







I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but it is such a large and wide ranging topic that it seems impossible to know where to start, or even know where I want to end.


It is about ‘You-Tubers’. A culture that seems to have only really cropped up in the last 5 years, and seems to have become widespread in the last 2.


I am writing this partially for those who have no idea about YouTube, and partially as a critique / discussion / analysis for those who already do.


(I realise that the videos I use as examples may become deleted / taken down in the future, so I will screen shot some of them too, add transcripts etc as well as embedding / linking to the actual videos)


What is YouTube / What Are 'YouTubers'?


To explain, to an audience that may be unfamiliar with the concept – here is a summary of what a ‘You-Tuber’ is:



- A ‘You-Tuber’ is somebody who (generally speaking) films, presents, edits and uploads their own videos to the online platform YouTube (which is powered by Google).


- If 'successful' they can make money from their videos through advertising.


- Usually this consists of the person speaking directly to camera, in their bedroom.


- The videos can then be commented upon by anybody who watches them (and anybody can watch them, unless they are private videos – but then they would not count as a YouTuber in that case), and the view-count is listed below the video, as well as the number of people who have ‘liked’ it – a thumbs up sign that you can click to say that you really particularly enjoyed the video.


- These videos generally last around 10minutes or less, and the content varies widely.


- Certain conventions and ‘norms’ have popped up surrounding the ‘culture’ of how a YouTube video should be made. Some of those are beginning with ‘hello everyone’, and finishing the video with a ‘thanks so much for watching, please like, comment and subscribe’ or ‘love you all, please give this video a thumbs up’ – where the ‘Youtubers’ mimic a television style of presenting, and adopt a ‘I’m already a celebrity’ attitude (talking about their 'fans', and thanking them for their support), with the added requests specific to YouTube with regards to liking and subscribing etc.
(Subscribing, in-case you weren't sure, is where you can click a button which will mean that any video that this person makes, will automatically appear in your ‘news feed’ on your personalised home page of YouTube. You can even get notifications immediately for when a person uploads a video).


- The other ‘norms’ include things such as ‘Tag’ videos. Where one YouTuber might do a video eg. 50 questions about me tag. They then ‘challenge’ other ‘YouTubers’ to make a video of the same tag, answering the same questions.


- There are benefits to this 'tag' idea, it can gain you more followers / subscribers / views. For example, If JoeBloggsBlog ‘tags’ you in the video, ie says “and I challenge JohnSmithYouTuber to do this video” then a bunch of JoeBloggs’ followers might hop over to JohnSmith’s YouTube channel to see what he is all about. Equally, if there is a tag started by you, other YouTubers may give you credit for starting the tag, and if you do a tag that you were not ‘tagged’ in, you may still get found because people might simply search ’50 questions tag’ and find your video on the 50 questions that way.
It’s all about piggybacking on other people’s audiences.



There are a load of other conventions and norms that seem to have grown out of the YouTube bubble, but I will get to those later. For now, that is a brief explanation of what a YouTuber is and does.


By ‘YouTubers’, in this article, I suppose I am talking about a certain kind of person that puts content on YouTube. 
Perhaps what I mean more is ‘YouTube Personalities’. 
And more so, I think I mean (for the most part) mainstream ‘YouTube Personalities’.



There are a few topics / rough headings that I want to structure this 'blessay' around, and they are the following:


Gendered Videos
The 'Perfect' Life
Reality TV gone mad
Living life to be seen
Image Trumps Brains
Back-lash / Break-ups & Privacy – Trolling
Networks
Fame, Fandom & YouTube Conventions
Lack of Censoring
Blurred Advertising & Money Making
Narcissism / Inflated Ego
Mental Health Issues Used As Ploy
Performing Monkeys
Who is Qualified?
Alternatives / Subverting the YouTuber role
Why so popular? Future of TV / YouTube?



Gendered Videos


Firstly, there is a general trend.


Girls do beauty tutorial videos, Lookbooks (videos of the YouTuber posing in different outfits), Hauls (videos showing all the things that they bought on a shopping trip), fashion tips, advice videos on boys and hair and ‘body confidence’ etc.

Boys do prank videos, joke videos, ‘challenges’ eg – eating a load of food in a certain time etc, gaming videos (a running joke-y commentary while we watch what their avatar / person is doing on screen – eg. If it’s a shooting video, we watch the shooting guy go round while listening to the player’s reactions and stream of thought).

There are obviously – given the size and scale of YouTube – those who buck that trend, and clearly some of the 'boy' videos can appeal to girls and vice versa - but this 'gendering' is overwhelmingly the case.


Examples of typical 'gendered' videos:


GIRLS


The 'Perfect' Life


It seems clear that these 'YouTubers' are presenting a 'perfect' life to the outside world, and there are certain things (especially for the female YouTubers) that they almost 'must' have. This has become almost more marked with the growing popularity for 'vlog' channels (video blog), which are their second channel to their 'main' channel. This takes a more 'follow me around in a day' format.



-The Boyfriend
(The ‘Boyfriend Tag’, ‘My Boyfriend Does My Make-Up’ are very popular)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+boyfriend+tag





- The ‘perfect lunches’






-The gorgeous ‘outfit of the day’ (OOTD) seemingly everyday
And all the freebies that companies seem to send them all the time (in the hope that they will mention them and give them more publicity)


- Only filming the good bits


- As they make more money from YouTube, the more aspirational their lifestyle becomes


- Deletion of their old videos. 

Deleting the parts of their life that they don’t like / are ashamed of / don’t fit into the person they want to be now.






Reality TV gone mad


The line between TV and reality is even less clear, more blurred than before.

We love to watch other peoples' lives in a voyeuristic manner eg. Big Brother.

Then reality TV became more contructed with 'scripted reality tv shows' or reality tv shows with 'some scenes created for your entertainment', for example Made in Chelsea, or The Only Way Is Essex.

We cannot conceivably understand how it cannot be 'real' - they carry their cameras around ALL the time. But there is editing. There is when they choose to vlog, what they choose to show, lighting etc - still constructed.

This blurring between the TV and the real is not problematic until we attempt to mimic or aspire to this kind of life, but that seems to be exactly what is happening.



Living life to be seen / constructing life based on what others think


YouTuber and model Sonya Esman now has a column with Company Magazine, and she discusses the pressures of living in the public eye:

http://www.company.co.uk/magazine-hq/sonya-esman-company-column-may

She states:


"It's important to realize, however, that what you see on somebody's instagram, blog, or YouTube channel is a mere 20% of what really goes on in their life. I know a number of "top" bloggers in real life very well, and sometimes after talking to them for hours, I go home and check their instagram, and come to realize that what they put out there for the world to see is an enhanced and glamorized version of reality. That's not to say that what bloggers post is a lie, but it's definitely not all that there is. The danger in that though, is that people sometimes don't understand this right away, especially the younger readers. Studies are now showing that teenagers can no longer differentiate between the online world and real life. It was different when I was growing up because social media was kind of just emerging; it was like an "I'm bored, let's go on MSN" kind of thing. Now, the younger generations are learning to type on iPads before they're learning to write in cursive."



Phrases you hear all the time on YouTube videos are:

"what do you guys want to see?"

or

"tell us what you think!"


It is viewer led.

The audience has the power.


The first thought of most vlogers is to reach for their camera if anything happens. A rather worrying example was jokingly talked about on several vlogs of a group of YouTubers at a YouTube convention in the US, they thought that they might be being burgled in their hotel (turns out they were just tired and jumpy), and their first thought, in their half-asleep state was - "quick! get a camera, I want to vlog this!". What a strange world to live in. 



Image trumps brains

Some YouTubers seem extremely sparky and intelligent. However, these are not always the ones that are most popular.

A particular example that comes to mind is Thomas Ridgewell, where not only is he interesting and thoughtful, but he makes good content – sophisticated cinematic effects and so on.

He began YouTube far earlier than a lot of the more famous YouTubers (as seen in the documentary The Creators, 2015).

There is a hint of bitterness, as he did start earlier, worked harder and generally seems a more original human being than some of his air head make-up-tutorial or cute Bieber-esque counterparts.






(I would highly recommend watching this)



In an 2013 article in The Guardian, the following touched on the topic:


"Thomas Ridgewell, a 22-year-old who produces films and animations on his tomska channel (1.7m subscribers), is unusual in that most of his fans are teenage boys, drawn to his lewd humour and slick, effects-driven videos. "Being a YouTube celebrity is like being a real celebrity without the perks," says Ridgewell. "No one's going: 'Hey man, come to this cool party! Here's a jet!' You're big enough that you have a massive amount of brands and people looking at you, but you're not big enough that you can distance yourself from your audience. So they are right there in your face, there's no sitting at the top of your tower, saying, 'Hello people.' They are higher than you because there's more of them and they are piled on top of each other. It's terrifying."
Ridgewell is one of the superstar YouTubers who are working out how to leverage their popularity...In the past, there has been an informal rule that YouTube videos should not exceed four minutes, and that you have to grab your viewer in the first 15 seconds before they click on something else.
"I don't see myself jumping to TV or film," says Ridgewell. "If I wanted to make a film right now and I needed £500,000, I could probably just go to my audience: 'Hey guys, you've seen the stuff I make, you know you trust me, do you want to give me a couple of quid to make a film?' And they would and I'd make a film and put it on YouTube.
"As content creators, we have this choice to say, 'OK, get used to longer content or smarter content,'" he continues. "We are in this golden era, the defining era of internet television where we have the power to change and shift the medium. It's like a massive chemical reaction: we're splitting the atom of online entertainment."
At first glance, the wild popularity of the video blogs can seem bewildering – really, 3m views for a four-minute video of a 17-year-old boy making a cup of tea? But the more you watch, you begin to realise that the best vloggers share some common traits: they are smart and genuine, and they are just a little bit funnier and cooler than their audience. Great hair doesn't hurt either. In other words, they are perfect best-friend or cyber-boyfriend material.
What about cyber-girlfriends? There is no shortage of excellent female vloggers but they have nothing close to the following of their male counterparts. That might be partly because of YouTube's savagely personal comments section, which tends to fixate on appearance over content, but a simpler reason is that teenage girls (the most avid consumers of video blogs) are just more interested in boys.
Lex Croucher is a 21-year-old student whose channel tyrannosauruslexxx has 64,000 subscribers. Her vlogs started out strictly autobiographical but she has lately been drawn to more spiky, issue-led musings; that said, her most popular posts have been on Play-Doh and 15 Things Not To Say To Your Boyfriend. "Because the majority of viewers are girls, you have to think that a lot of them just fancy the male YouTubers," she says. "If you're a boy and you've got a nice-enough fringe, you don't always have to put in too much effort."


Back-lash / Break-ups & Privacy – Trolling


Sammi who blogs and YouTubes under Beautycrush (http://www.beautycrush.co.uk/), has been on YouTube for over 5 years now, and at the beginning was with a boyfriend called Ricky. He himself then started making YouTube videos and gained a large amount of his following off the back of Sammi's success.
When they split up, it was in the public eye, and their fans got involved. Sammi soon after got a new boyfriend called Jason, who she is still with now.

The following YouTube 'war' is below:















There has been comments and videos created back and fourth, the audience entirely involved in their ended relationship, speculating and creating grief on both sides of the argument.

Louise Pentland, who blogs and YouTubes under the name 'Sprinkle of Glitter', and is 'best friends' with Zoella, separated with husband and father to her child. Although this is a fairly common and normal thing to happen these days, it was far more difficult for her to do in the public eye.
The following blog post is the one in which she had to explain to her fans that her 'perfect' family just wasn't so:




Networks / ‘friendship groups’ that all do YouTube


The ideal way to get more viewers, as mentioned before, is this ‘piggybacking’ phenomenon. Now that there are various ‘meet-ups’ and 'cons' (will discuss later), YouTubers can meet other YouTubers, or persuade their friends / family into ‘doing’ YouTube.

It then becomes inevitable that YouTubers will feature friends / family or other YouTubers (who become friends – but may, in many cases, be fake friends) in their videos.



They can attract new audiences to their channel by doing collaborations or ‘collabs’ with other YouTubers – ie. Both sitting down on front of the camera and filming 2 different videos together, one for each persons’ channel, and each video linking to and mentioning the other.

They can also introduce a friend / family member or boyfriend etc, who, when they do start a channel – automatically get thousands of subscribers without having to post much content, as they are related to a YouTuber that people already know, and want to know more about the life of.



(Those who start from scratch need to build their audience through more work, and it is easier for those who got on the YouTube train early. The most ‘successful’ YouTubers now are mostly those who have been doing it for 5 / 6 years, and taken time to build up a fan-base. It is far more difficult for new YouTubers to ‘break-though’ in such an over-saturated market – I will come back to this).



The group that comes to mind with regards to ‘YouTube friendship groups’ is the one that seems to be centred around Zoella (real name: Zoe Sugg).
Quite possibly one of the most famous YouTubers ever, Zoe met her current boyfriend Alfie Deyes (from ‘Pointless Blog’) through YouTube.



Zoe’s friends Louise Pentland (Sprinkle of Glitter) and Tanya Burr feature a lot in Zoe’s videos and vice versa.



Tanya is with boyfriend Jim – who also has his own YouTube, and Zoe’s brother Joe (ThatcherJoe) is also on YouTube.





Alfie’s / Joe’s YouTube friends Marcus Butler and Caspar Lee are part of this group, and Marcus’s girlfriend Naomi has now begun YouTube as-well.




They become a kind-of power-group, each person’s success positively impacting on the number of views that all the others get on their videos.







In an article in the Telegraph about Zoella it states:

"As well as Alfie, whose YouTube channels includePointlessBlog, PointlessBlogTv and AlfieGames, there is her best mate, Louise, cyber-chatelaine of Sprinkle of Glitter, Caspar Lee and too many more to mention, unless you’re a 13-year-old. They pop up on each other’s channels, which leads to a mutually beneficial pooling of followers, and they also appear en masse at live digital events, where they are feted like pop stars.
“We Brit Crew, as we’ve been called, have this lovely collaborative thing going,” she explains. “Sharing is the essence of social media.”(Telegraph online, 2014)

However, you are painfully aware that things are going on behind the scenes, which are perhaps not in keeping with the image /relationship that they are trying to portray.



Fame, Fandom & YouTube Conventions

Fame creates a power dynamic.
However, YouTube somehow breaks down the traditional barriers between 'star' and fan. 

There are regular conventions or 'cons' - for example vidcon, where well-known YouTubers can do talks or panels, 'meet-ups' (meeting the fans. chatting, taking pictures), or just general signings. 

Young girls are the main attendees of these types of events: idolising the girl YouTubers and fancying the boy YouTubers. 

This gives these young boys, all mostly in their late teens or early twenties, a great deal of power. They are not, of course, the person that everyone thinks they are. A YouTube persona, or the life that people think that they have, is not necessarily the case. They are put on an unrealistic pedestal.

This then gave rise to several sexual abuse accusations, where the male YouTubers took their power too far.

Some other YouTubers then took it upon themselves to comment on this, or expose the YouTubers doing this, or accused of doing this. 

It is all a very risky area to go into.







And here is the huge 'master' post documenting all the information on the topic that you might want to know:

http://unpleasantmyles.tumblr.com/post/79455706244/tom-milsom-hexachordal-sexual-abuse-manipulation



The fandom for YouTubers is on a huge scale, with well-known YouTubers having subscriber counts in their millions. Literally. 

This means that a lucrative market in books and other merchandise has grown up around the industry, and there is high demand there: 

Books by YouTubers - a list on GoodReads

Article on YouTubers getting their own action figures



Lack of Censoring / No Watershed / No Programming Decisions


Problems with Gendering




The Independent article and the back-lash. Why this is problematic. - A misunderstanding of feminism?


An article was published in The Independent - ....






It stated:
"At the 2014 Teen Choice awards, where she was named the Choice Web Star: Fashion/Beauty, she told a reporter that if she could give her teenage followers one piece of advice, it would be to fret less about their appearance. “When you’re younger you worry about so many things that you don’t need to worry about like image, appearance,” she coos to the camera, without an ounce of irony in her singsong voice, as though unaware that she’s forged an entire career by prattling on to young girls about how to look good.
To illustrate my point, here are the titles of some of Zoe’s beauty videos: My Spring/Summer Hair and Make Up; HUGE Beauty and Cosmetics Haul; Fresh Spring Make Up Tutorial; My Everyday Make Up Routine. I could go on. She certainly does. On and on she rabbits about how to perfect “festival hair”, “messy top knots”, and even “Back to School beauty” – which really says something about the age of her followers.
It’s maddening that a girl who has made it her business to tell teenagers how to put make up on, or get their hair just right, now feels she’s in a position to admonish them for “fretting” about their appearance. Why, if she feels so strongly about the pandemic of insecurity raging through the tweenage generation, doesn’t she vlog about going to school without make-up, or encourage kids to spend their pocket money on books or days out with friends, rather than on the latest liquid eyeliner to hit Boots’ shelves?
She wants young girls to worry less, but she unwittingly exacerbates their body anxiety as they strive for her level of perfection, often falling short. The very fact that she tutors her young prodigies on how to get beauty and fashion right immediately discredits her belief that girls shouldn’t worry about the way they look. The conflict is infuriating; not least because I doubt her millions of admirers will notice the irony, and will instead hang on to every flippant word that comes out of her mouth." (The Independent, 2014)




Perhaps this is typical of the age we live in - a double standard for girls, no more Zoella's fault than anyone else.

Girls were scared of saying they are 'feminist' in case they were seen as unattractive.
Now, it is OK to say you are a feminist (thanks in part to beautiful young women such as Emma Watson and the #HeForShe campaign) but it is more 'feminism lite', where the focus is on 'equality' and just wanting to get the same jobs etc etc. It is less threatening.

However, it completely erases the fact that 'equalitarianism' cannot work as a campaign tool / progressive standpoint because it ignores the fact that women have been marginalised or oppressed throughout history.
The fact that girls want to "still be attractive" and say that they "should have the choice of painting their nails or not" is a very thin argument.
We 'want' all these culturally conditioned aspects of being 'beautiful' because we live in a context where women's appearance matters more than men's.
It is irksome that young girls will say that they are 'feminist', but really hate the word feminism and would rather that it's 'equalitarianism', and that they should be "allowed to shave if they want to".

It upholds the idea that women should be attractive, that women are fearful of being rejected by anyone based on their looks, that there is one standard for men and another for women, that if you 'simply' 'got rid' of the pay gap, then everything would be fine.
The subtle ways in which women are not allowed to be all the things that men are, would still be there.
Women would still be objectified and have a set of expectations put on them which are not put on men in the same way.

The line of argument that the Zoella fans are using is misleading .

Nevertheless, this criticism of Zoella, and of this brand of feminism, got an immediate negative response from Zoella's fans:


"Growing up, I struggled with the concept of feminism. I’m a feminist, but I’m obsessed with makeup, and have always dreamt of a big, white wedding. Does that make me any less able to support the advocacy of women’s rights than someone else? Zoe showed me – and many others - that feminism can come in all forms, even a pixie-like vlogger with a love of cosmetics.
Experimenting with different make-up looks was my way of discovering who I was; make-up was my way of expressing who I wanted to be. My look changed month by month, it was how I explored changing as a woman.  But when I was 14, the only role models I had were inaccessible A-listers from the pages of glossy magazines. I would have loved a relatable girl-next-door like Zoe, talking to me like her best friend on a webcam from her bedroom, to give me tips and ideas.
Young people will always be interested in their appearance, and I think it’s fantastic that women like Zoe are there to guide them through these experimental times. She has opened up a new market of media, allowing an average girl like me to voice an opinion on a blog. Until girls like her came along, we relied on magazines to tell us what to wear and how to look. But now our peers across the world influence our consumer habits. It’s exciting.
...I also started my blog purely talking about my favourite beauty products, but now I  write articles about weight loss, and slut-shaming. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without women like Zoe inspiring me to use my platform in different ways.
So yes, Zoe has changed my life for the better. Not just because of her make-up tutorials, but because she has taught me, a woman eager for success, that you can earn money doing something that you love. She has shown me that you can care about the way you look, and still be a feminist. She empowers young women by demonstrating them that they can be who they want, that they can identify with feminism and still love lipstick, but if they don’t, then that’s fine too. She builds us up, rather than knocks us down. Zoe Sugg oozes girl power, and that message is good enough."
 (Article in the comment section in The Independent - Independent Voices, 2014)
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/zoella-is-a-great-role-model--she-changed-my-life-9811326.html


Many young girls reacted to the negative Zoella article on Independent Voices too. They were terrifyingly quick to criticise the woman who wrote the article. 

The main thing that came through in most of the blogs about the article, was that girls simply love Zoella, and anything that threatened that - whether reasoned or not - would be insulted personally and dismissed. 

It is scary. 

It is a 'Zoella til I die' type attitude. 

Here is one such blog:














More blog responses:

https://allthatjazmin.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/a-response-to-the-independent-re-zoella/

http://tubechum.com/independent-wrong-youtubes-zoella/

http://prettyinpeach04.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/my-response-to-independent-article.html



I never expected that one article which simply said that the 'Zoella-style' videos was not for her, would receive so much anger and hate. 


This is different from before, with pop groups like the Spice Girls and their "girl power", in that there was still a level of unattainability. There are the Spice Girls, and then there are real people. 

There is some sort-of idea with YouTubers that they are 'one of us', so it is more 'reasonable' to aspire to look just like them (Look! They even show you how in their tutorial videos!), and beat yourself up if you don't. It is easy to forget the amount of money they are spending on make-up and lighting and getting the camera in exactly the most flattering angle.


With TV, there is some level of editorial control.
If there were too many segments about beauty on CBBC Newsround or CITV, this would be balanced out.  There would be attempts to present some healthy ideals, and meetings about what those 'healthy ideals' should be. Clearly TV is not perfect either, but at least there is some discussion, and some mediation going on, which is simply not there with YouTube.




Inappropriate content

It is all too easy for a 10 year old to go onto YouTube, and click on a video that has a perfectly innocent title, that then includes swearing, or sexually explicit content or violence. 

It is very easy for videos to be not age- appropriate.

On TV we have a 'watershed' time. After which it is reasonable that there will be swearing or other non-child-friendly things. 

It is also reasonable to have certain expectations of children's TV, and the content will have had to have gone through producers, directors, editors, script-writers, programmers and so on. 
The content will be (generally) age-appropriate, censored where needed and double and triple-checked by broadcasting companies etc. That's not to say that kids TV always gets it right. But there are some checks and balances in place. 

YouTube isn't like that.

If somebody feels like uploading something straightaway, they can.

It is not like Blue Peter, where you could reasonably assume that it will be all adventures in the amazon, recycling appeals, marathon runs and the new pet for the studio. 

If Zoella's prime audience is 8-15 year olds for example, and parents think - "oh, well, she seems nice enough, harmless enough", and allow their kids to subscribe to the channel - if Zoella felt like making a video on a whim about something inappropriate or with a teeny bit of swearing, she could upload it in a heartbeat.

That's not to say I am bemoaning times gone by, and saying that we need to censor everything - but it is just important to be aware that content by YouTubers has not gone through the same processes that TV has, and not been restricted by the same laws.




All white kids

Obviously not the case entirely.

But it seems that middle class white young people are overwhelmingly the majority of YouTubers.

(Just look at the lists of top earning YouTubers at the bottom of this post and you will see what I mean)

In a TV context, there are equal opportunity laws, attempts to portray diversity and so on.

YouTubers don't need to abide by such things.

There are of course YouTubers from other back-grounds, but they do not seem to be as overwhelmingly popular as those who are from white middle-class backgrounds.

Perhaps this says something more about who is watching YouTube, but given how widespead the internet is and the increasing ease of access, I would disagree. 


This could well be damaging in the long-term - if these young people are role models, then surely they should be representative.

Of course, this is nobody's 'fault', but it is an interesting topic to think about. I have no solution.




‘Bad’ messages

If a YouTuber does something, then, given their influence and reach, young people will be encouraged to copy whatever they see.

Again, there is no regulation.




Unbalanced

It is only one side of things, again, at the BBC they are very keen on creating 'balance': showing all sides to a story or argument.

This of course can be carried out ad absurdum (and the BBC has indeed been made fun of about this), but at least the attempt is there. 

If a YouTuber says something is the case, then who is to say that it is not?

That is a scary level of power.




Unhealthy ideals?

Girls saying on vlogs "oh my gosh my hair looks awful" (when it looks fine) –  is not only encouraging over-critical-ness, but also showing that being modest/critical of oneself is attractive/desirable.

Phrases like:
"get rid of all those horrible hairs" or "no more embarrassing smudged eyeliner", or saying that you ‘need’ products or that they are ‘essential’.

It is telling girls that there are standards to which they must conform.

The nose job vlogs by Meghan Rienks are particularly interesting, as her nose looks completely fine in the beginning:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K-P09zP7yM




and lastly:

Hidden advertising

It is often unclear whether a video has been sponsored by an advertiser or not.
(this will be discussed in the next section)



However,  this freedom and immediacy as a form, perhaps this leads to more creativity?




Blurred Advertising & Making Money


It is always unclear whether YouTubers are actually endorsing a product, or have been paid to do so.

In the Telegraph article mentioned earlier, it also states [on Zoella]:

"She does, of course, get sent lots of products to try. If she likes them, they get a mention. If she doesn’t, she stays politely schtum. “I would never fake a reaction or a review,” she says. “I’m never going to compromise my integrity." (Telegraph online, 2014) 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/10742668/Zoella-The-squeaky-clean-big-sister-no-teen-should-be-without.html

That is difficult to believe. Especially when advertisers will pay rather high sums of money to get a YouTuber to simply mention their product.


This is quite a good summary of the topic by a YouTuber who was rejected by a 'talent agency' because she swears in her videos, so therefore she is less marketable.
Her rant video actually shone a bit more of a light on how YouTube advertising and the 'fakeness' of some of the YouTubers:








But there is also the problem where advertisers can exploit YouTubers too -

Young people have difficulties being taken seriously, and what with the internship culture / working for nothing / zero-hours contracts, the media beast generally seems to be able to do what it wants due to the glamour that seems to come with it. 


It became clear at the BFI that there remained some generational misunderstandings,. "A lot of companies still view YouTubers as hacks or amateurs," said the compere, Christopher Bingham, a 22-year-old film-maker known as Bing (his channel is slomozovo). "I had to turn down a meeting with Jamie Oliver because they didn't want to pay me and that's something that happens remarkably often. As cool as it would be to say, 'Yeah, I met that guy on television in the Sainsbury's ads', I'm a professional. If you expect me to jump at the opportunity to do something for free, like you're doing me a solid? No." Perhaps the scariest part of that comment for the old media is that these twenty-somethings know Jamie Oliver best for his supermarket advertising. (Guardian, April 2013)




Narcissism / Inflated Ego

The videos can often be patronising - using words like ‘guys’ as a subtle way of asserting their power.

Why should we care? We encourage them by watching, whilst secretly thinking it is ridiculous, but then it becomes normalised.

Out of curiosity we keep watching. We want to see into other people's lives. Becoming an invisible spectator to the the action.

It is putting value onto the mundane.
Putting value onto the material.

Telling people that it is normal to spend half an hour just discussing yourself, what you do, your outfit, your new things from a shopping trip. Your new smoothie blender.

That people care about your new teeth.







But maybe young people do care? And if so why?

Perhaps the 'selfie' generation is creating and used to narcissism?



Mental Health issues used as a ploy

"As a digital ambassador for the charity Mind, Zoe has helped numerous young people. She is open about discussing her experiences with anxiety and mental health issues, using her platform to talk about serious topics. But the reason she has this platform is because she has gained the trust and friendship of over 6 million subscribers, and she did this by sharing a love of beauty with them. "(Pro-Zoella article in the comment section in The Independent - Independent Voices, 2014) http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/zoella-is-a-great-role-model--she-changed-my-life-9811326.html


















In many ways, it is the YouTubers trying to make their channel more ‘real’ – which is obviously impossible.

Although this may be a cynical point to make, it could mean that people being seeking help and advice from youtubers and not professionals.

It is also filled to the brim with YouTubers and subscribers self-diagnosing - which can also be a damaging phenomenon. 

These videos do not give a 'real' idea of what it is to live with serious mental illness, as these (predominantly) girls are still able to function day-to-day, look pretty and hold down a job or YouTube full time. It is perhap belittling to those with extremely serious and debilitating mental illnesses, that these girls coo about being anxious, and that they are 'real too'!

Where do you draw the line between: "sometimes I get a bit anxious", and "I have anxiety". Which can translate, for some young people, into getting more attention or using it as an excuse, rather than an explanation.

It could also be argued as way for the female YouTubers to become more likeable. It was mentioned earlier in this article how it is more difficult for girls to be successful in YouTube than boys with fringes. 

There are a whole host of other 'admission' videos, whether that be coming out or revealing some other intimate aspect of their lives. These videos gain a large number of clicks. Is this a liberating thing or cynical ploy?

Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly positives about the discussion of mental health or other personal difficulties on YouTube, it is a platform where people may feel more able to discuss things that they may not be able to in real life. It can make people feel less alone, and gain more information on the topic. These are important factors that must not be ignored. 



Performing monkeys – desperately trying to please audiences / Views and likes are what matter – not quality. 

Shouting louder in a more crowded place.

The most ‘successful’ YouTubers now are mostly those who have been doing it for 5 / 6 years, and taken time to build up a fan-base.

It is far more difficult for new YouTubers to ‘break-though’ in such an over-saturated market.

However, you can see well-known YouTubers visibly panic at the thought of getting less than several thousand views, or that they might be 'overtaken' by a newcomer at any minute.

They begin to resort to sensational video titles / images, and increasing use of capital letters to get people to click on the videos.










They being doing more attention-seeking videos if they feel there are losing their fan-base, and become slaves to what the audience wants, or what will get views. 

It can mean that their own self-expression or creativity or original reasons for doing YouTube, are compromised. 
They call themselves the ‘creators’ – but is it really that creative? It seems to just be an extreme case of copycat culture.


Who is qualified? Levelling the playing-field

Fashion blogger Victoria who blogs / Youtubes under ‘In TheFROW’ (FROW being the front row at catwalk shows), has a PhD in Fashion from the London College of Fashion and lectures fashion.
However, she is put on the same level of ‘blogger’ – alongside 17 year old girls putting outfits together with clothes they bought with their pocket money, who may well be taking the exact combination that was on the mannequin in the shop. 

It makes you wonder what worth is a degree, and undermines the years of studying that some have undertaken.
The a large proportion of YouTube-culture undermines higher education.

It says: look! You can make loads of money and be famous and loved and have a fancy house and you just need to sit in front of a camera and talk about lipsticks and your boyfriend and your dog.
Similarly, Lily (LilyPebbles) did a degree in marketing, which no-doubt helped her when she needed to be sharp and savvy in getting her blog popular. But this is completely over-looked. Her YouTube friend Anna (Vivianna DoesMake-Up) did an academic degree and both proclaim on a ‘collab’ video that their degrees don’t have anything to do with what they do now.

Sammi from ‘Beautycrush’ did a degree in fashion styling at the London College of Fashion, but her fashion ‘ability’ (if that is a thing) is put on the same level as those who have not studied it.

Zoella famously did not go to university, and, although she says it should be your own ‘personal choice’ in videos discussing the matter, it is clear that if she has so many young fans watching her videos (the ones aged maybe around 11-15 particularly) they will be influenced by the fact that she didn’t, and the fact that she made big bucks by talking to camera about hair and make-up cannot be ignored.

This, as mentioned previously, is not a realistic possibility for those starting out with YouTube now – as the market is over-saturated and there are millions of beauty / fashion YouTubers out there. Also fame is a fickle friend. Especially on the internet. You can fall out of favour over-night.

Another point on the qualified issue, is that many YouTubers do ‘advice’ videos. It takes the format of a sort-of big-sister-talking-from-experience thing. But what makes them qualified to advise on anything? Especially when so many young impressionable people will wholeheartedly follow this advice.



Alternatives / Subverting the 'YouTuber' role


One of the people on YouTube that I really like, and feel does not conform to this hyper 'YouTuber' mentality is Christine. She has a relaxed manner, YouTube is not her life. She has a real job, full-time, and makes short clips on music she likes or how her plant collection is doing.
It seems more genuine, but does not in any way try to attempt to pretend that this is her whole life. There is no attempt at the illusion of perfect life, and she keeps relatively private.
She studied film at uni, and there is art to her videos and an understanding of film as a form.
She discusses films that she has watched and would recommend in an insightful and ‘real’ way, and I have discovered some interesting stuff through her.
She does not have an ‘upload schedule’, or fancy lighting or attempt to be famous or reveal scandalous things. The clips are simple and stripped-back, and interesting.
It is not aimed at young kids either. The tone is very much of chatting to pal, rather than the popular girl in school gracing you with her presence or an over enthusiastic child-worker talking down to you. 





I realise that some of this is hypocritical, and that a large amount of the YouTube content depends on your taste and what you find interesting, and that obviously what she does is still constructed and aspirational, but I think that there is something to be said for the difference between the way that Christine makes her videos and the way that the ‘YouTubers’ make theirs.



Feminist Fridays - by Marina
She studies gender studies, and makes videos about feminism and other topics every Friday:






This is more academic and critical.



There are a handful of  'intellectual' female UK YouTubers- 

Lex Croucher or 'Lex Can Roar' / Tyrannasauruslexx is more ironic and uses clever quips to take the mic out of the format of the kind of YouTubers I have been discussing in this blessay.

(I would highly recommend you watch a bunch of her videos so you can see what I'm talking about)




(this video is entirely ironic)


Hannah Witton is another one of these girls, she is mostly interested in gender studies and sex education, and even shared her dissertation, on history of sexology (or something?), online.

https://www.youtube.com/user/hannahgirasol

Her dissertation:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1O1zFWyLYZjNlsKngNOPU4buCOkLxXOkJdUi6RlYt428/edit?usp=sharing


Leena who YouTubes under 'Just Kiss My Frog' is another - she often makes videos about politics. 




The 'Bite The Ballot' campaign is one of the more fantastic things to come out of YouTube. It got a bunch of young politically engaged YouTubers to sit as an audience to live-broadcast-on-YouTube interviews with the leaders of all the main political parties in the UK. 

As the interview happened, the YouTubers could ask questions (many that were sent into their twitter accounts), and the general public could comment on the video / tweet about it as it happened.






It also had a collaboration with a new app called 'Verto' which asked you a series of questions, and then showed you what percentage you agreed with each party. 

It was all aimed at getting more young people voting, into politics, and asking questions - as well as helping those who were not sure who to vote for.

Both Hannah and Leena were involved in this, and it was incredibly admirable.


Nevertheless,  is YouTube still predominantly a white middle class kid thing?



Why popular? Alternative to TV? Taking over?


Something private about YouTube, something intimate.
Is this a bad thing?

Watching it is quite an individual experience. You watch it on your own. It can be something that is almost secret.
Does that mean that it is on the same level as porn? - Not something you would watch as a whole family, people not admitting that they watch it, or how much they watch it? An underlying feeling that it is not a 'wholesome' thing to be watching?
Perhaps I wouldn't go that far.

It isn't very cool for people over 16 to really admit that they regularly watch (certain) YouTubers, and it is perhaps more comparable to older teenagers not wanting to admit that they still watch their favourite cartoons.

It is 'on demand'. The way that many TV broadcasters are going, what with iPlayer, ITVPlayer, 4oD etc. Netflix is making a great deal of money on it's on-demand format. It fits into our modern lives more easily.

It is appealing for audiences that YouTube people have come from ‘normal’ back grounds.

The successful ones have had a sort-of Cinderella story, but it is a kind-of capitalistic / individualistic / American Dream-esque myth and aspiration. 
I say myth, as this is not the outcome that all YouTubers experience, and the amount of work put into / quality of videos does not necessarily equal ‘success’ / lots of subscribers.


I worry about the impact that the gendering has on young impressionable people, and certain pressures people may begin to feel: that it is necessary to wear make-up & have boyfriends.








It is easy to have an almost 'apocalyptic' view of technology and media and 'young people these days', but it does not necessarily have to be seen as so negative or treated with such caution.

I wrote this to give those who have no idea what the YouTube sensation is really about, how it works or what goes on - some kind of over-view. As well as to give those who already watch YouTube some food-for-thought. A critical view of what we are all 'consuming' increasingly, because it is important to reflect, as well as get caught up in the tidal wave of excitement.

I am also accutely aware and fearful of 'back-lash' from this article. Will I receive the same sort of treatment as the journalist at The Independent who was critical of Zoella? I hope this was perhaps more balanced and informative, than ouvertly bashing an individual.

I don't see YouTube 'replacing' television as we know it, simply it is a new way to consume and create content. However, I worry that, without it being taken seriously by regulators, it could become damaging and unhealthy for young impressionable people. If we gave YouTube guidelines that ensured some sort of content control, without entirely restricting the creativity of the platform - it could mean that we are entering an exciting new age of digital media. Whether we like it or not, this kind of platform and usage of it is here to stay, and it is important that 'adults' understand the power of it in order to oversee whether it is used to a positive end or not.


Yet, as it stands, it is somehow strangely addictive.


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Other articles on YouTube:

The Richest YouTube Stars 2014
A Daily Mail article on YouTube
YouTube Gamers - an article on whether they are breaking the law
A Radio Times article on the top 10 UK YouTubers
The Independent article - 'Who is Zoe Sugg?'
Telegraph article on Zoella



If you read anything, read these articles:

Article in The Independent critical of YouTubers such as Zoella

(The above article created back-lash)
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/zoella-is-a-great-role-model--she-changed-my-life-9811326.html


Article in The Guardian on YouTubers (from 2013)






This blessay is in no way exhaustive, and I will most likely have more posts on the topic in the future. Hence 'Part I' in the title.


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