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Youtube. It has only been around for the past 11 years but has already begun to change the way we choose to view media. It has transformed over the years as the ‘go to place’ to find those essential funny cat videos, to a multimillion dollar industry with thousands of videos uploaded every minute. Many people however are confused by this? Why would you rather spend your time watching a low-budget video of someone talking to a camera for 5 minutes when you can turn on the TV and see a top quality show with dramatic plot twists and drama? And I personally believe the answer to that question is authenticity.
But before we delve into all that I think it would be a good idea to go back to where it all began, with the very first youtube video. It is agreed that the first youtube video to be uploaded to the site is ‘ Me at the Zoo’ an 19 second long video uploaded by a person with the username ‘jawed’ on the 23rd of August 2005. The video consists of a young man talking about his love of elephants due to their ‘long, long trunks’ at, you guessed it, the zoo. And that’s it really! Theres not much to it. However to this date the video has been viewed over 34 million times which raises the question, why does content like this, as well as other strange videos like this, appeal to a wide audience people all across the world? TV shows can only hope to reach that many people, and many never do. So why is a 19 second clip of a young boy talking at a zoo just doing that? Authenticity.
I think there is something to say about what we as a society relate to and find authentic in our day-to-day lives. Sure we love to switch off every now and then and turn on the TV to escape, but when we do we are entering worlds that have been carefully crafted and constructed for us by a group of writers hunched around a desk trying to meet next weeks deadline. None of it is real. Sure we can relate to the characters, but they will never fully here, in the world we live in everyday. This is why many people often turn to the actors of these characters, as a way to ground these people into some part of their own reality. However even celebrities still feel out of touch, with the pressures of keeping up a persona or appearance, how do we know if the person we see in all those interviews is the ‘real them’? do we really know them like we think we do at all?
Now back to that video at the zoo. This was a video made by an ordinary everyday guy who wanted to make a silly video with his friend, something that isn’t too hard to image anyone, even us doing. He’s not in a fabricated, or grand setting, just his local zoo, somewhere we could easily find ourselves on a sunny day. Maybe this is why it connected to so many people? Because we were engaging with someone like us, and more importantly we could relate. Now I’m not saying that this video is the pinnacle of youtube success, but what I find interesting is that it seems to anticipate another kinds of videos that people choose to tune into everyday, vlogs.
Vlogs, or video blogging, are some of the most popular videos on youtube and some people even make their careers out of this. Vloggers can be anything from someone sitting in front of a camera talking about ‘us’ about something their passionate about , to people filming what they get up to in a day, much like ‘me at the zoo’. When vlogs first started to gain popularity and the creators began to get some recognition many adults were confused as to why young people would choose to spend hours watching someone talk to a camera. And once again I believe it comes down to that notion what we find authentic, real and relatable. These are everyday people living out their lives and choosing to share what they get up to with us. It can highlight things we find significant and important in our own lives. For example I love reading so I love to watch videos where people talk about and recommend books and Books and quills is one of my favourite channels.
I was one of those young teenagers who found some kind of solace watching people I had never met talk about their lives and their issues to a camera once a week. I was more lonely in the earlier years of high school, and I found that escaping in these other people’s lives seemed to provide some sort of company. It was almost as if I knew them in a strange kind of way, I mean they were sharing their lives with me through my computer screen.I think what resonated me the most was that they weren’t famous actors with issues and lives I could never relate to, they were just normal people who struggled with lots of the things I did. In fact many of the people I watched them were still in high school like me and made videos as a hobby, or had just left and were dealing with the struggles of adulthood.
This was always one of the great things about Youtube. There is always something out there for everyone. There are so many communities and kinds of videos being made that you feel as though you can always find something to watch.
This is where we come back to the root of this phenomenon, the authenticity these people have. The reason so many people have connected with hundreds of vlogger’s on youtube is because we feel as though we are watching someone like us, with similar interests or opinions. It is not a full-scale production team with lights, makeup, and scripts and fancy storylines. That is all stripped away, and we are left with someone sitting in their room, talking to a camera, you can’t get more simple than that! Its real. Heck it even feels like they are talking directly to us, when in reality they are talking to a camera which then reaches out to thousands of fans at a time. Its this sense of authenticity that draws us in and keeps us there. They share more with their audiences than any celebrity has ever before which creates this sense of closeness between them and the viewer and this in turn changes the way we perceive, and relate to them overall. We see them more as people, not figures. It can even come to feel like we know this person well enough to be a friend.
However in recent years since Youtube has gotten a bigger and broader audience this sense of authenticity is being challenged with many popular content creators. People like Zoella who started off with a small community of fans now has over 11 million subscribers. I remember being a fan of her when I was younger and the idea of her reaching one million was unbelievable at the time, and now she is considered a celebrity. Zoella and many other popular Youtube’s have started to become more commercialised, advertising in many of their blogs and being ‘commissioned’ to talk about certain issues to promote certain organisations. For many bigger youtubers this sense of authenticity is starting to fade, the very thing that them to where they are today. This is making many people question the future of youtube and its creators as many more begin to creating videos that focus on views and money rather than content.
With this where does Youtube’s future lie? Will people stop watching as the initial reason we started watching in the first place is starting to fade away? Or will people embrace this new direction, accepting it as a platform that is less about authenticity and more about creating the next new celebrity? I mean it seems to be working for some people. However these are all questions we have no answer to yet. We’ll just have to wait and see.
I personally still watch youtube, however I find that the people I tend to watch usually only have Youtube as a hobby and still choose to talk about everyday things I feel I can relate to. It has been really interesting seeing how the site and certain channels has developed over the years. Its future is questionable at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be around for the next few years to see how it plays out. I’m in far too deep now to back out now…
Blogspot (2016). Picture of Zoella. Retrieved from https://brittanyjane98.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/77e10-zoella.jpg
Book and quills (2016, January 16) ‘My Top Favourite books of 2015’ (Video File) Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c9N213lOWs
jawed. (2005, April 23) ‘me at the zoo’ ( Video File) Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNQXAC9IVRw
Kameleon. (2016). Youtbers. Retrieved from http://www.kameleon.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Youtubers.jpg