I've been particularly interested in the YouTube star phenomenon recently, so I was intrigued to read the article that Lauren posted to the blog. In the past few years, I've been trying to get rid of social media for the sake of 'detoxing' my life - Tumblr, Facebook & Snapchat mostly, since I never did quite get into Instagram or Twitter. However, one that I always kept coming back to was YouTube, since I found the videos entertaining and informative. I began watching "Youtubers" way back when Charlie McDonnell was counting candy, or when John and Hank Green used it as a way to communicate while doing other cool, educational things. YouTube was a platform to chat and discover, and it felt really stripped bare and raw. For quite a while I wondered whether I'd like to make videos myself, going back and forth until I decided that the content on YouTube had recently begun feeling less and less authentic and more commercial, not to mention that the loss of privacy would not be worth it in the first place.
One of the first things I thought of when I began reading the article was Essena O'Neill, an Instagram and Tumblr famous "thinspiration" guru of sorts, which the article later mentioned. I had seen Essena on my Tumblr dashboard many times, with her clean eating lifestyle and inspirational story of weight loss. After I stopped going on Tumblr I stopped seeing Essena, until a few months ago when even CNN covered a video she posted where she denounced Social Media in general as being fake and depression-inducing. Essena then decided instead to start up a new platform for "game changers", accepted donations from others in order to support her new website and content, and recently took down her entire website which now just states that she is writing a book, with none of the promised content created in the first place. It was, quite frankly, a mess of a situation.
I agreed with most of what she originally said, to be honest. I got sick of social media because I felt like everything people posted were for the sake of crafting a persona rather than sharing with their friends. I also hated the idea of people that 'famous for being famous'. Shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians make my skin crawl, and the fact that people who start out like that end up capitalizing on video games, apps and anything else with their name and face attached makes it even worse. Shows and songs and films keep passing up on talent to hire big names that will mean greater revenue. People aren't "brands" - people are people. The easier it is for people to become famous, the more we are growing up with bad role models, and the more we are learning to praise fame above much else. The article talks about how fans believe famous social media influencers should be rich, and are shocked when they have regular jobs, but I think we should step back and ask ourselves *why* we think these people should be rich. How long ago did people begin to automatically associate fame with instant wealth? Maybe it's wrong of society to think fame should equal money/that people deserve money for being in the public eye.
Furthermore, fewer and fewer of these 'social media stars' are creating content that is worthy of praise, attention and monetary compensation. How much is entertainment worth? Is mindless entertainment worth the same as engaging, quality entertainment? Sometimes I find myself spending hours on YouTube, having gained nothing from the experience. I began being so critical because I began being so critical of myself. At one point it felt as though I were wasting my life away, constantly checking my apps for updates or YouTube for pointless ways to pass the time. I knew I had better things to do.
It is also interesting how the author describes the situation of these famous social media stars and how blind we are to it, including about sponsored videos and branding. I'll admit, I'm one of the people who gets quite angry to see too many sponsored videos, and even angrier when I think something has been sponsored but the content creator doesn't say it is. I also used to be an avid blog reader, but in the blogs I read, I never used to get so vehemently disappointed when a blogger would write a purse or scarf was "c/o" or "courtesy of" a brand. It was simple, clean and appropriately placed so we knew, without it being thrown in our face. Now, I watch YouTubers make videos about how brand deals include contractual obligations to how early in a video something must be mentioned, how many times it must be mentioned, or like the author stated, how a photo might even need to be up on social media for an entire year to fulfill contractual obligations. It just seems insane. Maybe it's because vlogs resemble television ads more closely due to being filmed media, or maybe companies have gotten more intense with pushing their products since fewer people are watching actual television in lieu of ad-free streaming, but it seems a bit disheartening sometimes.
I *love* some of the content I find online. How can we improve the current system so quality content can be made while content creators afford to live without degrading themselves for advertised goods?