Many people see YouTube as simply an outlet to watch music videos, movie trailers, that one scene from that one television show, interviews, tutorials, etc. But ever since its inception in the mid-2000s (feel old yet?) there have been content creators who decided to put snippets of their own lives on the internet for other people to see. Eventually the term “vlog” was coined, and more and more people began sharing their lives online.
I was initially sucked into the rabbit hole called YouTube when I was in middle school and was looking up tutorials on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. I stumbled upon a YouTuber named Dan Brown whose main springboard into his Youtubing successes was his detailed 2-part tutorial on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. I then discovered that he uploaded other videos once a week, and so I put down my Rubik’s Cube (after solving it, of course), and began my first spell of binge-watching. Once I got caught up with all of his videos, eventually I found myself religiously going online every week to catch the latest webisode of Dan Brown Universe.
Fast forward several years, I was reintroduced to the world of YouTube and its creators when a few friends of mine introduced me to Mikey Bolts’ channel. Truthfully, I am partial to him and his videos mostly because he is also from Elk Grove, and went to a high school that was down the street from mine. But hey, it’s not everyday you get to hear of a fellow Elk Grovian doing cool things with their life. Last summer, I got the opportunity to go to VidCon, an annual YouTube convention in Anaheim. I wasn’t too versed in the YouTube community, and only vaguely knew of a few YouTubers – Sam Tsui, Kurt Schneider, Jenna Marbles, just to name a few – from Tumblr and Facebook. But even then, I wasn’t really expecting to meet anyone worth meeting, seeing as how we didn’t have tickets to the actual convention (“Let’s just hang out outside the convention center and see what happens,” to which I responded, “…..I guess.”). Lo and behold, though, I spotted Mikey Bolts’ signature snapback from several yards away, and got to have a ten-or-so-minute conversation about I-forgot-what (I was incredibly starstruck) with him. I also met Laina, who you all probably will recognize from the internet meme, “Overly Attached Girlfriend” (if not, go look it up. You’re welcome). After that day, I began binge watching many YouTubers that summer, and kept stumbling upon other YouTubers and began watching their videos as well. Eventually, I compiled my own list of favorite YouTubers and began religiously watching their videos week after week.
I soon began to notice and appreciate the tightly-knit community that YouTube has built among its content creators and their viewers. The mainstream media outlet doesn’t really seem to get the appeal of YouTube and the people who come from it, but to anyone within the teenage/early twenties demographic, it’s not that hard to grasp. YouTubers are relatable. That’s it. There’s something about watching a 5 minute video online that you can’t get from a 45-minute episode on TV. There’s something so personal about a person talking to you from their bedroom on your computer screen that just draws you in. From their end, they’re simply talking to a camera. From the other end, millions of people are watching and listening, and it’s almost as if the person on the other side of the screen has been their best friend for years.
If you met any of these people on the street, and they told you they make videos online for a living, you would probably say something along the lines of, “Oh okay. But what do you really do?” What a lot of people don’t understand is the amount of work and dedication that goes into these 5-minute videos. The content creators in front of the camera are true creators, in every sense of the word. They’re the ones who come up with the content they post. They write what they’re gonna say. They film the footage themselves. They spend hours upon hours editing hours of footage into a consolidated 5 minutes. They sit and watch the numbers climb, and they do this once a week. The musicians of YouTube produce their own tracks, and film and edit their own music videos. Some post videos more than once a week, and others even post videos everyday. This means they have to continually come up with new and fresh content for their viewers and put in tireless, countless amounts of work into their videos. The incredible thing about this is that it’s not the paycheck that motivates these creators to keep making videos, it’s the fans (whom content creators often refer to as their “internet friends”) that motivate them to keep making and posting videos. What’s more is that, in my opinion, the best YouTubers are the ones who got into it for the fun of it, not expecting anything big to come from posting videos online. It’s these web stars that are now incredibly successful and have millions of subscribers to thank for making their dreams come true. Knowing that every single one of them came from the same spot their viewers are at right now is what makes them so reachable, and also what sparks the belief that you can truly make anything happen with the right amount of motivation and dedication.
It has only been recently that mainstream media is starting to catch on with the trend, and are wanting in on the action. Many YouTubers are starting to break into more mainstream mediums (*side-eyes Justin Bieber*). Bethany Mota, a fashion guru on YouTube, was just on this past season of Dancing With The Stars. She, along with fellow YouTuber Tyler Oakley, won a Teen Choice Award for “Choice Web Star,” a category that was added on this year. Like I said in Monday’s post, Troye Sivan is breaking into the music scene, along with other YouTubers like Ricky Dillon, Sam Tsui, and Tyler Ward. Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart, and Hannah Hart starred in a direct-to-video film, and Shane Dawson starred in his own feature film released into theaters across the country. Miranda Sings, a character played by Colleen Ballinger, just appeared in an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.” One of John Green’s novels, The Fault in Our Stars, was turned into a film this past summer, and another one of his books, Paper Towns, is currently in production for a theatrical release in 2015. All of these things just happened this year, and the list of other accomplishments goes on and on. Big things are coming for YouTubers, and they will be the ones spearheading a revolution in the entertainment industry.
Millions of teenage viewers look up to these YouTubers, and for good reason. Like I said before, they are incredibly relatable. They are also the ones who are finally making it cool to unapologetically be yourself. In an age where looks and appearances are at the forefront of everything, and shallow judgment is present everywhere, the next generation needs these people to remind them that being unique and never losing sight of who you are is more important than anything else.