YouTube has made it possible for anyone to create content viewable by the masses. It’s a way for everyday folk with interesting things to say or do to leap frog the “getting discovered” phase and put their videos in front of other everyday folk immediately for judgement. As a content creator myself, it’s kind of a dream. Except it’s more like a bizarre nightmare.
Thanks to YouTube, I’ve watched countless teenage girls show their 2 million viewers how to make hot chocolate that an idiot could make. I’ve watched pre-pubescent children do “makeup swaps”. I’ve watched Zoella say “myself and Alfie” without giving a rat’s ass about grammar 9 million times (coincidentally also the number of subscribers she has.) I’ve witnessed unoriginal jokes get rehashed endlessly by internet “stars” with less life experience than a Starbucks mug. And I’ve watched more valley girls take trips to Target than anyone ever, EVER needs to see.
These videos are being made by 15-year-old girls who make more money than the average UK doctor. They’re pawns in the big game of marketing, and they’re bloody good at it. Lots of them are as proficient with Final Cut Pro as they are with reading and writing, something their job doesn’t require them to do much of, as the books they come out with are written by ghost writers.
They joke about their lack of a dating life and how “LITERALLY SO WEIRD, YOU GUYS” they are. They claim relateability while screaming inaccessible white privilege. They have agents and 5-figure sponsorship deals and at-home schooling all because they started talking to a camera in their bedroom 6 years ago and happened to be better looking and more bubbly than the thousands of other girls who did the exact same thing.
These girls entered YouTube at a time when it was young and fresh, and while their content has continually improved in quality, its freshness has stagnated into Yet More Heatless Hairstyles You’ll Never Be Able to Do Before School. Their faces and videos are polished to perfection, with oversaturated shots and bright neon thumbnails apparently making up for their colorless personalities in the eyes of their millions of adoring preteen fans.
I have to wonder what these girls would have become without YouTube. Would any of them have pursued more intellectual careers? Other, purer forms of creativity? I’m not insulting content creators — as I said, I am one. I’m concerned about their characters, not their job descriptions. But I can’t help but think about how being in the semi-public spotlight affects one’s development, particularly ego, at a time when girls are prone to jealousy, comparison, and wanting to have it all. By the measurements of their followers, they DO have it all. And they’ve grown up hearing that. Millions of young people idolize these young women. They could put literally anything on the internet and masses of people would watch it.
As is pretty evident from what I’ve said, I watch these so-called lifestyle gurus regularly. Don’t ask me why — perhaps morbid fascination, or light-hearted relief from things that actually matter, or maybe even out of desire to emulate their success as content creators. I watch their videos for them rather than their Pinterest DIY hacks I couldn’t give a crap about. It’s weird. But I guess I’ve been accidentally endorsing them all along.