Welcome back to our regular feature offering advice to students on aspects of family/friend/personal relationships. In the hot-seat is Rosie, a former 6th former at Kesgrave High School and a founder member of the Student Life steering group.
More so than ever before, many of your relationships and communications in life take place over social media. More people than ever are using social media platforms to communicate with their friends, family and loved ones, and this has both its pros and cons. But what about the relationships we are building with people online that we don’t even know? People we have never met before, yet many of us look up to and find inspiration from them. Are the relationships that we perceive ourselves to have with YouTubers and content creators who document their whole lives online, damaging for us?
I’m no stranger to the world of YouTube. By the age of 14, I was already subscribed to over 30 channels. I remember going on holiday several years back for two weeks, and not having any WiFi access. By the time I came home, I had 247 emails from YouTube for new content from my subscriptions to catch up on. That’s crazy. At one point I was so inspired, that I even had a channel of my own, uploading random challenges, sketches, Q&A’s, all sorts! Sorry to disappoint you all, but that cringe-fest no longer exists as I deleted it, and thinking back to it, boy am I glad I did.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love YouTube, and have around 10 content creators I love and watch. However, I do think that for some people, especially younger teenage girls, some YouTubers can be destructive. The growing trend of beauty gurus have a primarily female, teen audience and from the content that I have viewed, their lives are portrayed as nothing short of perfect. Constant shopping sprees, perfect hair, perfect figure, tons of cash and perfect relationships; they live in a world of fake perfection. It is obvious that their lives aren’t perfect, nobody’s is. No doubt YouTube and the fortunes they have gained from it have improved their lives, but we are led to believe that their lives are flawless, which results in many people comparing themselves to their YouTube idols. You only have to view the top few comments of a Zoella video to see countless young, impressionable teenage girls stating how much they love Zoe and want to be her. Yet we know in recent years there has been controversy around some of these YouTube mega-stars taking advantage of their impressionable audiences for personal gain. I’m not for one moment saying these creators are bad people, however the morals behind many of their actions do question whether it is healthy to see ourselves as having a personal connection with them.
One thing that really encourages the whole ‘relationship’ between subscribers and YouTubers is the whole family vibe. Nearly all large YouTube channels will have a pet name if you like, that the content creators call their viewers, and the views call themselves. PewDiePie’s ‘Bro Family’, grav3yardgirl’s ‘Swamp Family’, and SprinkleOfGlitter’s ‘Sprinklerinos’. This creates a real community feel and gives fans a sense of identity that is recognised and acknowledged by their YouTube idols. Therefore, when these said YouTubers are putting on an appearance of perfection and pure happiness, it encourages their viewers to want it too, and when they can’t achieve it because they don’t have the fame and fortune that the likes of the above have, it leaves them feeling frustrated, upset, and can even lead to issues with identity, self-confidence and self-worth.
I think a brilliant example of this is when YouTubers, particularly beauty gurus, do makeup or clothing hauls. They spend, what to many of their early-teen audience is an utter fortune, then conclude their video with “And all this only costs *insert crazy amount of cash*!” Again, I’m not against these people having money and treating themselves, they worked for it and earnt it, however I think we need to be wary of our relationships with YouTubers, and vice versa, they need to be aware of how impressionable we are as young people, who already deal with issues of low self-esteem and a desire to fit in. It’s fine to love these content creators, but remember; don’t compare yourself, you’re already awesome!