The Problem With Youtubers & Youtube Culture

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

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15 thoughts on “The Problem With Youtubers & Youtube Culture

  1. Great post! I was really into watching YouTubers a few years ago, but I’ve found that in the last year or so, I’ve definitely stepped away from using YouTube to access makeup reviews.

    The big YouTubers are now about creating content that shows a certain lifestyle, showcasing products of a certain price point. They are fun to watch for entertainment purposes, but not for getting particularly valuable information from. Like you said, it has gone from girls sitting in their bedroom talking about their hobby, to a way for companies to market their products. It’s no different than watching a commercial, but the advertisement is just a little more hidden with the “we’re your friends” image that YouTubers give.

    Also, I get quite tired of watching the same product get reviewed by all of the Youtubers around the range time, because companies send the products to them all at the same time. But who can blame them? I’m sure if most people got approached to be sent high end products to review, and get money for doing so, they would also jump at the chance.

    Re: younger children looking up to YouTubers and hoping to be like them one day – I hope that they grow out of that phase and realize that there’s nothing wrong with having a normal, “boring” job.

    1. Firstly, thanks for leaving such a lengthy interesting comment! I completely agree with your point about valuable information and reviews – I just take their reviews with a pinch of salt because they're all talking about the same thing, give nondescript, empty reviews a lot of the time and I don't deem them to be whole heartedly trustworthy anymore. I think you're right about the false 'we're your friends' image – it's all just to hide the fact that they have evolved over time into traditional product pushers but because it's through a different medium so they are able to create that illusion because it's all still very new to have someone sitting in their own house and filming a casual, chatty video. I think we'd all love to be sponsored for talking about beautiful, high end beauty products as bloggers but, if we look at the YouTube industry objectively, I don't think that scripted sponsorships etc are sustainable as this isn't why people fell in love with youtube and youtubers in the first place. X

      1. Yes, I agree with you about reviews being nondescript and empty – however, I’m not sure their younger viewers (who probably make up the large majority of their audience) see that – they probably see the reviews as being very honest, just because the products aren’t being pushed using the typical “commercial” marketing format.

        I tend to wonder about the longevity of the scripted sponsorships too, but I do have a feeling that it might keep going for a while yet. Viewers will get older and probably grow out of it as I did but there will always be a younger generation who will get into it because they envy the lifestyles of these YouTubers.

  2. This is an absolutely wonderful post. I found myself agreeing to all the great points you made here. I’m glad I didn’t grow up in a youtube culture and I can think for myself now and decide what’s realistic and what’s not. I do envy their lifestyles and but I also know I can’t live like that because I definitely don’t have the money to constantly do hauls. I love beauty and 100% enjoy treating myself but I like to do it within my personal limits and there’s nothing wrong in that. I just wish it didn’t promote consumerism to little kids because one- they can’t exactly make their own money yet so they shouldn’t be dreaming of splurging on expensive things on the daily. Two -They need to enjoy things like splurging on chocolates, books and movie tickets. The little things that really made a difference to me when I was a kid. x

    http://www.wildfirecharm.com

    1. Thank you! I completely agree with everything you’ve said here – I think a lot of high earning youtubers are suggestive of spending thousands of pounds on fripperies being normal and the done thing when it’s not. The younger generation are becoming fixated on the importance of throwing money away on beauty and fashion etc, but really, education, books and the importance of saving money for financial security should be prioritised. Spending money and treating yourself to makeup and clothing isn’t the problem – it’s the fixation on buying huge amounts of it x

  3. Wow – thank you. This really makes me feel better. I’ve subscribed to these YTbers that wow – every month is a haul of epic proportions – designer (and I mean HIGH END designer) bags, makeup, shoes….the consumption is unprecedented. I don’t even know what to think anymore. I like what you said about the false ‘friends’ image – they don’t give two effs about anything but their subscriber numbers. Thanks for your insight. I really will hop on over there right now and unsubscribe to many.
    Happy Holidays…

    1. I think that it’s easy for people to get caught up in it all and for all of this excessive expenditure to become normalised, but it’s not. It’s not normal at all, nor is it wise and responsible in my opinion! Glad you enjoyed the post x

  4. You deserve praise for this post! It is admirable they have made so much success from YouTube but sometimes it does seem as though their lives are extraordinary and unobtainable but then again we can’t all be/don’t want to be YouTubers.. A lot of YouTubers seem like genuine people and care about their fans and I’m sure they see they money and freebies as a bonus.

    1. Thanks! Yes I think the problem is that the reason YouTube became this huge platform was because they were so relatable and lead normal lives, but now, they’re not so relatable so I’m not sure how sustainable the future of YouTube is if it continues escalating.

  5. this is such a brilliant post, and something I have so many conflicting feelings about, and it’s a topic I was actually considering on writing on myself! I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here, I think the one thing I have a problem with is youtubers often kicking up a fuss when people suggest that they live ‘unattainable’ or don’t live ‘normal’ lifestyles. I’m bored of the response that everyone’s ‘normal’ is different, because yes, whilst that is true to an extent, it massively dismisses the fact that the youtube lifestyle is unattainable for the majority. Like honestly, there’s a lot of people who won’t be able to afford a designer bag in a year, let alone a couple in a month. Again, I agree, that’s not me saying that I dont respect or admire the fact that they’ve carved out careers in this industry, I do! (although I don’t care at all for this emerging new blogger celebrity culture – we don’t need that at all!) That’s not even me saying I want to see less handbag and luxury hauls (because I personally love watching them), but I think what I want to see is more of an acknowledgment of the fact that the lives they lead are very privileged, are products of the industry in which they work, and aren’t really the ‘norm’. You also raise a good point about the fact that it’s also on the part of the viewer to try to understand this, and I agree, to in some way separate they’re own lifestyles from those they are watching. Thank you so much for writing such a thought provoking post!

    http://whatevawears.blogspot.co.uk

    1. Completely agree with you! For example, I treated myself (graduation present) to a Kate Spade bag last month and although it isn’t a high, high-end designer brand, it cost me £320 and I felt financially crippled haha! I don’t think I’d ever be able to spend thousands on a bag, regardless of how high my income was. They’re NOT worth it. Love my Kate Spade bag and I’m happy that I bought it as a luxurious one off treat, but it isn’t worth its price tag – let’s be honest haha! I don’t really think they appreciate how privileged their lives actually are; they fly all over the world and earn a hell of a lot of money and although they do ‘work’, it’s not the kind of arduous, 50 hour working week the majority of us have to do to earn a third as much. Glad you enjoyed the post, and please let me know if you write a similar post with your thoughts on it – would love to read it! x

  6. Hi Jess,
    I agree 100% with everything you say. Honestly, I have been thinking the same for a long time, but lately these fashion hauls have become even more frequent, along with the promotion trips to paris and the maldives holidays. I’m glad these people have such a fun life and can afford all of those chanel bags…I just don’t like how they try to be “normal” when they are clearly far from the reality of most of their viewers. Also, I don’t like how some of them make all of this seem “hard” because they have to keep creating content etc… I think they are very lucky to be doing what they do, which to me is not hard work at all. I mean, i’m not saying that everyone could do it, of course not, but it’s not something you can compare with years of university, a degree and a 9-5 job with responsabilities and the chance to get fired if you do something wrong. I hope you understand everything I’ve just written because I’m not English and it’s always a bit difficult for me to write things that make sense and reflect my thoughts. Have a good weekend xx

    Silvia
    http://www.theskincabinet.com

    1. Hi Silvia! I feel the same – regardless of how much they try to emphasise how humble and grateful they are, they are just not normal, run-of-the-mill people any more like they once were. I definitely don’t regard what they do as a full time job. Just recently, I worked a near 60 hour week (I work as a mental health support worker) and got a video and a blog post up that same week. They regard their constant ‘meetings’ as work and a part of their working day/week when, in fact, these meetings typically involve a meal or brunch in a nice restaurant and the PR representative for a brand and a youtuber discuss new product releases etc. To me, that isn’t what I regard as work. P.S. I think your English is fab! Would never have guessed it wasn’t your first language! Thanks for your comment, hope you have a great weekend xxx

  7. Whilst I don’t feel all YouTubers MUST be relatable and I understand that a lot of the content is escapism (as opposed to being realistic or meaningful), I can’t help but feel galled when some of them do ‘my designer handbag collection’ or spend thousands of pounds on a haul when me and most of my friends are scrimping like crazy to pay rent and attempt to save enough towards house deposits… I also hate the constant complaining and making out like they’re SO busy and work SO hard. I’m not saying it’s easy by any stretch but they should appreciate their lives are comfortable in comparison to most people’s

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

    1. Completely agree with you! I don’t think we’re discrediting their YouTube ‘career’ but it is most definitely not hard, arduous work that most of us have to do for a living to earn a third of the amount that they do haha! X

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