If These Things Don't Change YouTube Will Die
18 February 2016, 16:30
If you're here it's likely because you're as addicted to YouTube sweet, sweet video content as we are. All good things, though, are capable of falling from grace and as much as I adore the creativity and entertainment available on YouTube, I have seen - over the course of my time writing for this noble website - a number of worrying trends that may well cause problems for YouTube as we know it. If these issues aren't rectified, the fun and free form of YouTube that we know and love may be in trouble:
1. The Idea That You Need To Be In A Certain Place To Make YouTube Videos
This is a curious issue. One of the most delightful things about being a YouTube is its accessibility. As long as you have a camera and an internet connection (- and fair enough, a large swathe of human beings don't-) you can make yourself a YouTube video. There has a been a curious development though, as YouTube has become more business-focussed, where people now seem to think that they need to be in a certain place (mostly LA), in order to succeed online. Funny comedy-humour-man Rob Whisman summed it up well in this tweet:
YouTube isn't TV or film. The entire appeal of YouTube is that you don't have to be at the whim of some huge industry and don't have to go to one specific place where all the magic happens (hey, hey). I understand that YouTubers and Viners like to collaborate, but collaboration should be about fun and creativity - not a cynical attempt to increase your followers (although it almost always is these days). The longer we go on accepting that you can't 'make it' online unless you move to a 'big city' like LA or New York or London, the harder it will be for new YouTubers to have a chance of being able to compete and succeed.
2. YouTubers Ignoring Criticism
One of the most fascinating things about internet fame is how instantaneous it can be. A common side effect of this instant rise to stardom is that people become famous, but don't know how to handle it. A side effect of this lack of media training and experience is that 'Tubers seem to be very poor at accepting criticism, even when it's constructive. As an example, Jack Howard recently made some very thoughtful and insightful comments about the current state of YouTube. Louis Pentland decided to comment on the video, by saying something along the lines of "A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms." She then deleted the comment:
She likely deleted the comment because she got some backlash about it - and rightly so. It's a comment that ignores of all of Jack's points and reduces the entire (non-hateful) discussion into a single cheesy Instagram-style quote. Instead of admitting that hey, maybe things aren't great all the time, she said the poetic equivalent of 'haters gonna hate' and felt that was enough. It blocks discussion and is ultimate the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and going 'lalalala'.
Similarly, when Savannah Brown raised some (somewhat controversial) concerns over YouTuber books - which, for example, sometimes feature blank pages you have to fill in yourself - she was roundly ignored and brushed off by the community. The chance to have an engaging and productive discussion was cast aside, which was disappointing. Zoella, for example, produced a subtweet with a vague sentiment that ultimately boils down to 'don't be mean please'. That's all well and good, but it's not an opinion - it's a shutdown of discussion.
Blowing out someone else's candle doesn't make yours shine any brighter ✌️— Zoella (@Zoella) February 2, 2016
If YouTubers can't learn to accept criticism or at the very least learn to become more introspective, they will never be able to grow or develop. Nothing is perfect - that's life - and if you walk around in a bubble thinking that everything you make is perfect and that there's no room for you to improve, then you won't improve. It's healthy to take a look at yourself every so often and ask, 'are there ways I could improve?' So when someone starts a dialogue about how YouTube might improve, it's sad to see YouTubers immediately rise up against the very idea of it.
I spoke about clickbaiting recently and many of you expressed frustration the comments that article. It's safe to say that the majority of people, even if they understand why YouTubers use clickbait, don't like dealing with it when it arises. An interesting theme that kept popping up when I was researching that article is that there were many comments saying that YouTubers don't need to do it - they have loyal enough fans as it is. Colleen Ballinger in particular had comments about this:
That comment was from a video called 'I Got A Tattoo In Vegas!' - in which Colleen reveals that no, she in fact did not get a tattoo. The argument from the comments is a nice one - creators already have loyal and loving fans and they don't need to use clickbait to get views, they already have the support of their fans for that. If they continue to use clickbait, though, they risk losing those same fans, who will become tired of being mislead.
All Of These Can Be Fixed
Luckily for us, all of these problems can be resolved. They ultimately require creators to be more honest - with their audience and with themselves. Creators need to respect their audience and be open to self-reflection and improvement. We also need to protect and celebrate the universality of YouTube creation and not let it be hijacked by the need to move half way across the world. What do you think are the biggest problems facing YouTube right now? Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page or on twitter.
For my in-depth look at clickbaiting click here.
For my piece about queer-baiting, look here.