It’s been another tough week for Alfie Deyes and Zoe Sugg.
The pair are off on a well-earned New Year break, but not before spending the past few days dealing with yet more groups of fans hanging around outside their home in Brighton and Hove. Less-than-stealthy followers of the couple have taken to ringing the doorbell, taking selfies with the house number, and peering over the wall of their back garden to get a view of them inside.
A routine problem that has plagued them since moving into the house earlier this year, the couple simultaneously posted their grievances on Twitter. Their pleas for privacy have been met with a wide mix of reactions such as sympathy from fans, gloating from haters, and of course plenty of press coverage – most of which has focused on the size of the house.
With this becoming such a regular issue for two of the most subscribed people in the UK, we have to step back and ask – Who are the guilty parties?
What a lot of people outside of the YouTube world fail to understand, is that its fan culture is unlike almost any other fandom in the world. Young people develop a much deeper bond with the creators they watch, based on a slightly fabricated sense of connection and relatability. YouTubers are seen as just “ordinary” people living normal lives, with some added glitz and glamour that seems to be pulled straight from a teenager’s wildest dreams.
This is why, to many young fans, just watching their videos and consuming their content and merch isn’t enough; they need to meet these people. Not everyone can afford, or even wait, to attend a designated meetup (and Zoe and Alfie have become notoriously absent at some of the main annual YouTube events); so when they figure out their residence, a sense of delusion that it’s okay to just “pay them a visit” seems to overtake any thought or respect towards privacy.
Despite years of YouTubers publicly pleading fans not to to seek them out at their own homes, many justify the action as just “part of the price of fame”. But is it fair that fans feel so entitled to becoming a part of an online personality’s life, that they don’t care how negative that part is?
The fans’ parents?
With kids routinely breaching the privacy of YouTubers’ houses by hanging over the walls, you might be asking “where are their parents?”. Well according to Alfie, they’re helping them up.
Mum, Dad, no.
Whether it’s down to passing down their own sense of entitlement, or simply a lack of understanding, some parents are actively enabling one of their kids’ more invasive obsessions. Parents have a notoriety at YouTube events for kicking up a storm when their child is one of thousands who might not get to meet a creator they wanted to (despite no guarantees of this), so sadly the idea that they would participate in a YouTuber house-call comes to many as no surprise.
It might just be a complete lack of awareness that results in parents thinking of paying a visit to the house of a “celebrity” as akin to a trip to the zoo; but if they realised the negative impact it could have on the fan/creator relationship between their little darling and the YouTuber they idolise, one would hope they’d think twice.
Where to begin with traditional media and their constant rage against YouTubers? Within hours of Zoe and Alfie’s pleas for privacy on Twitter, local rag the Brighton Argus ran the story about their “social media moan” – making a point of including their street address in the article.
Alfie added fuel to the fire by calling the paper out publicly (possibly making the mistake of revealing that they had posted his address). But if you think that anyone at the Argus was apologetic, think again — After wide criticism from fans, fellow creators and internet people alike, the Argus ran another piece, posting the street address once again, along with comments from the paper’s loyal readers who criticised the couple for not accepting the price of their fame. The reporter responsible for the follow-up then proceeded to parade his lack of awareness of the gravity of his actions on Twitter.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time that the media’s need for a story has surpassed the couple’s right to privacy. Within weeks of buying the house earlier this year, the Daily Mail ran images from the estate agent’s site and plastered them under a clickbaity headline about “ZOELLA’s £1 MILLION MANSION FROM YOUTUBE MONEY”. Guilt didn’t get in the way of them reporting on it again this week, though; framing Zoe as “at war” with “die-hard fans”.
Zoe and Alfie?
There’s no denying it: Zoe and Alfie are probably the highest-earning YouTube couple in the UK. And of course, they’re perfectly within their rights to spend their wealth in whatever way they choose.
However, for the sake of playing Devil’s Advocate, we do see the problem that arises with online personalities buying an expensive, 5-bedroom house in a significantly cheaper part of the country than, say, London. Because whether they like it or not, this purchase becomes a local statement of wealth; which means that word is likely to travel, and eventually, as we have seen, becomes a media story.
When compared to their peers such as Dan & Phil – who, with their lavish yet undisclosed London flat, have yet to make headlines or complain about unwanted visitors – the investment Zoe and Alfie have made after earning their wealth through such untraditional means is guaranteed to result in some unwanted attention. Making this public on Twitter is only likely to attract more fans with a blissful lack of self-awareness; the kind who would rather be acknowledged by their faves than liked.
All in all, this is a very messy and unfortunate situation. We are of the opinion that, as YouTube as a culture and industry reaches further into the mainstream, there needs to be a lot more awareness on the part of fans and press that prying into the lives and homes of online creators is as unacceptable as doing it to any other person. Similarly, we hope that as certain YouTubers become more well-known and financially comfortable, they still take whatever means necessary to keep whatever they feel constitutes their “private life” as just that.
What do you think – who should really take responsibility for this becoming a regular problem for Alfie and Zoe? Vote in the poll below!