Writings on this point of discussion are seemingly few and far between, so I thought I’d share my musings on it, in lieu of being very…vanilla and passive about it all.
Relatability is ambiguous and a complex point of discussion; but here are a few of my thoughts on it in relation to YouTube culture. In my opinion, the frequent purchasing and flaunting of luxury clothing and endless beauty products promotes bubble-headed consumerism, and endorses the idea that the continual purchasing of materialistic possessions is attainable and the norm for the majority. This would all be well and good if the audiences of the huge YouTube stars had the sort of disposable income that would allow for a £4,000 bag here and a £100 facial cream there every couple of months, but the reality is that the audience for which they’re catering their content for are just ordinary, young people and teenagers. I also completely appreciate that income is, of course, all relative, but these creators are knowingly reveling in conspicuous consumption. And although I may not always agree with it, I’m very much and all too aware that such creators are not living the reality of the majority and the majorities’ respective disposable incomes, and that they are merely part of the marketing industry that they’re working within – younger, more vulnerable viewers and consumers of their content may not, and may submissively buy into it.
And while a lot of speculation surrounds the actual monthly and annual incomes of these YouTubers, and a lot of said speculation is often fictitious and drawn out of thin air, I do just so happen to have an insight into the kind of money that these creators are making. Earlier this year, I worked as a PR assistant for a London-based beauty brand, and so spent a lot of time in contact with a plethora of different beauty YouTubers and bloggers; to discuss possible collaborations, sponsorships and ways that we could work together to promote the brand that I was working for. I, of course, won’t be mentioning any names here – I digress. A beauty YouTuber who, at the time, had just under 70,000 subscribers, put forward her rates for sponsorships when requested. For a 2 minute feature of the beauty product and brand within a video, her rate was £720. A justifiable rate? You tell me. But was the rate approved and accepted? Yes it was.
My boyfriend’s little brother, who is soon to become a teenager, talks about a certain male British YouTuber – on the regular. Worryingly, it’s not just the odd remark such as ‘I really like X’s videos, they’re funny’ etc, etc, etc, but he recently spoke to me about said YouTuber and told me that he hopes he’s going to be like him when he grows up, because he makes really cool videos in his room that are ‘really hilarious’ and he’s ‘soooo rich with a supercar’ because of it, and then proceeded to tell me that he wants that job when he’s older and doesn’t want a boring job, like everyone else has. Seemingly, these videos are no longer always just entertainment or a form of escapism for people; their lifestyles are becoming aspirational or #goals.
For the most part, YouTubers are non-offensive and are just the girl or boy next door type figures, but I do think it so important that the younger audience whom watch them, such as my boyfriend’s little brother; who is somewhat submissive and very impressionable, should recognise that yes, it’s great that you enjoy these YouTuber’s videos and yes, it’s great that this YouTuber is able to buy himself things that he never thought he would be able to. But no, earning thousands of pounds per sponsored vid or an #AD which allows you to live in a fancy inner-city penthouse or 5 bedroom house when you’re in your early twenties, a wardrobe full of designer bags/clothing pieces, 10 international promotional trips per year, 4 brunch outings per week, and perpetual hauls that total to the average persons monthly rent payment is absolutely improbable for the majority of us, and is most definitely not something to plan your life towards, or to use as a point of comparison. These YouTubers are no longer just normal folk sitting in their bedrooms – they’re now very much a part of the industry they’re in, and, subsequently, are a part of the marketing machine that their respective industries rely on. Which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just something worthy of note.
Aside from the issue of relatability and the perpetual portrayal of lifestyles that are so far-removed from the majority, I think another issue lies with content. Why is it that so many of the thought-provoking, intelligent, stimulating and talented content creators are being overshadowed by the nondescript, inane videos that generate millions of views? I completely appreciate that of course, the supply and demand relationship comes into play here; there is a demand for these kinds of videos and other questionable videos that take virtually no effort to put together and so, of course, they are supplied. The kind of content such as the aforementioned video generate a perplexing amount of views and revenue – so who can blame creators for making this kind of content? They have to make an income and such videos are an easy way of doing so. I just feel as though instead of celebrating ingenuity and great videography and content, the encouragement of inane videos prevails because there is an obvious demand for it – but why?
This post is in no way discrediting YouTubers; I think it is, in a sense, admirable that a lot of these now hugely successful creators were somehow able to transform their bedroom hobby into an eminently monetisable business, and are able to financially support themselves doing something that they truly love to do. I do, however, think it’s of absolute importance that we, as consumers and viewers, look on from afar, rather than becoming too invested in their lifestyles and aspire to a similar way of life. Although their intentions are good, many of these successful YouTubers have perpetuated an image of a lifestyle that is so abstract for the majority and is, in all honesty, unattainable for the majority. The magical thing about YouTube was that creators were not the product-pushing department store beauty counter girl (I used to be one myself), and did not create content similar to that of the overly-edited, scripted beauty ads on TV. But, honestly, I’m not sure if they’re all that dissimilar now.
On the whole, I really enjoy YouTube as a platform, am subscribed to a lot of YouTubers and enjoy a lot of their content. And no, I’m not jealous/bitter etc about their success (I see a lot of this response/assumption on posts and articles similar to this one) – I think it’s fantastic that they’ve created something from essentially, nothing. But, just like any industry, YouTube is flawed the aforementioned points and issues raised were just a few of my observations.
Please let me know your thoughts on this topic – whether you agree or disagree with me! That’s the beauty of discussion! Jess x