Monday, 23 March 2015

The Problems with YouTube Culture

As somebody who has followed and is interested in the growth and development of (mostly) the beauty community not only in the blogosphere but also on YouTube, I've debated for a long time whether to write about this issue or not. If you've followed content creators on YouTube for a few years now, I guess you also can't really deny that it has changed a lot in terms of what it represented - these days, everything is extremely profit-oriented. And in most cases, it's not done in a subtle way.

Yesterday I watched a video by Cami, whose videos I watched years ago before she took a break from YouTube, in which she explains why she has quit making them in the first place:

I was honestly so surprised that there was finally somebody who had the guts to openly speak out against everything that is wrong with the current status quo of YouTube culture. Especially when it comes to the beauty community, she just hits the nail on the head when she says the following:

"It all seems to be very samey. Everybody seems to be hanging out in their non Ikea Swedish furniture decorated apartments with their candles burning and their flower vases with tulips in the background, talking about all the same products. Everybody is talking about the same thing. Oh, lightbulb moment! It's because they're being paid to. I found that there is an increasing lack of integrity about content creation on YouTube. What if I just wanna make a video saying 'Hey I like this lipstick!'? Everybody is suspicious these days." 

Similar to Cami, I find it absolutely fascinating (and hey, good for them!) that a lot of people are able to make a living (and a very, very comfortable on at that) by making videos. But there's just so many things that rub me the wrong way when I'm watching videos these days, so based on Cami's video, here a few of my own thoughts that wanted to be written down so badly for a while now ...

# Sponsored content. I really could not care less if people get paid to talk about a product, but I think if a person is not grown up enough to openly disclose that their content is sponsored, their opinion is probably not the most trustworthy one out there. If you lie about getting paid to talk about a product, sneakily hide your disclaimer in a huge info bar below your video, or even try to elongate the title of your video in order to make your version of "#ad" not show up in people's subscription feed but only when they actually click your video ... I can't take you seriously and won't trust anything you say. 

# Change of target audience. Cami also mentions this in her video, and it's just scary how true it really is: so many of the really successful YouTubers (and I'm not going to lie, I'm referring to the British ones because they are the ones I'm most familiar with) have changed from originally catering to a target audience their own age to a target audience of 12-18 year old girls. With that, their personality also changed - suddenly, they talk in high-pitched voices, dumb down their content, and try very hard to be relevant among the younger crowd. This is obviously done because this new target audience is extremely impressionable and to put it bluntly, will buy anything that is shoved down their throat by their idols. Which brings me to the next point ...

# YouTube celebrity culture. All of these "girls" on YouTube are mostly grown women creating content for a much younger, impressionable audience - they've been turned into celebrities in the process and are referred to as "talents" by their management companies. They refer to their viewers as "fans" and will recommend any product as long as the paycheck offers a nice enough sum - how else would you have the funds to furnish that designer apartment, buy your Jo Malone candles and fresh flowers every other day? ;) - All jokes aside, it's just scary to see how young girls hyperventilate at the sight of their supposed idols and drive hours (or make their parents drive hours) to meet their favourite YouTuber at a meetup or a convention. In many ways, it's an oxymoron: YouTubers start out as the "girl/boy next door" and market themselves that way, but as soon as they gain success within the confines of their medium they turn into celebrities who clearly see themselves in an elevated position, claiming to do everything they do for "you guys!" ... 

# Book deals. ... write books, for example. The fact that YouTubers are getting book deals one after the other is just grotesque in so many ways. Sitting in front of a camera talking about lipstick is so very different to sitting down and actually writing a novel or an autobiography. You want me to believe you wrote a book when in your blog, you can't even string together two grammatically correct sentences? Give me a break. I know I'm not part of these women's target demographic but just stop making young girls think that you can just sit down and write a novel like that. There's literally thousands of people publishing fanfiction on the Internet for free every day who are amazing writers (and no, EL James is not one of them) but still will never get a book deal because unfortunately, that's not how the industry works. And no, I won't even touch upon the ghostwriting issue, because I'm sure you all know what I think about that. 

# Education. I hate when some of these girls/women imply that YouTube can be a steady career, that everyone should be making videos because obviously that will forever be a secure way to make cash. Yeah, no. This often goes hand in hand by them claiming that school/university/whatever form of education just wasn't for them, and that it's not important anyways because for YouTube, it's not really needed. Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't think everyone needs an university education in order to be successful, but being a college dropout is so glamourised in YouTube culture that everybody just mentions the "good side" (yay YouTube money!) and never thinks about the consequences. What about the money and time you already invested into your education? Does that suddenly mean nothing to you because you noticed that for the time being, you can make money by posting videos on a social media platform? Remember when you thought MySpace would be around forever? 

I realise this is turning into a monster rant post, and usually I try to keep a very neutral tone when I address certain things. If you read all of this - kudos to you - you will have noticed that I didn't mention any particular YouTubers for two reasons: if you watch YouTube, you will probably know who I am referring to anyway. Secondly, not everyone watches the same people, but most of these things apply to a wide range of content creators (in the beauty realm) anyway. 

The reason why my overall tone is as rant-y as it is is because these thoughts are not a recent development in my head, but something that I wanted to talk about for a long time now; and also because I think it's sad that while I'm still subscribed to a lot of people, I just "hate-watch" them now. 

I'm still very much involved in the beauty community and I'm interested in all kinds of products and the opinions people have about them - I just went back to reading blogs more. Blogs of regular people who buy products with their hard-earned money (or were able to keep their integrity whilst being sponsored, they exist!), who have an engaging writing style and who seem to be interesting people outside of social media. 

Did you read this monster post? What are your thoughts about YouTube culture especially regarding the beauty community? Let me know!

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