Opinion: Internet Conspiracies Are More Dangerous When A YouTuber Is Involved

29 July 2016, 12:46 | Updated: 6 November 2017, 09:36

We the Unicorns

By Liam Dryden

After a week of rumours and conspiracies surrounding Marina Joyce, it's clear that not "buying into drama" is even more important in the YouTuber world.

If there's one fact on the internet that has been proven indisputably true over and over again, it's this: Facts are meaningless. People can say whatever they want, and it will be literally be "true" as long as enough people believe weighing in on drama is a better use of their time than actually verifying the story.

Which is why, over the past couple of days, we've been faced pretty much non-stop with rumours surrounding Marina Joyce. If you believe everything the internet says, then Marina is a young YouTuber, who might be Madeline McCann, being forced by her parents (who are secretly members of ISIS) to make beauty videos - with the ultimate plan of luring unsuspecting teenage fans to the "war-torn hellscape" that is Bethnal Green at 6:30 in the morning.

These are just a few of the myths that have accompanied the hashtag #SaveMarinaJoyce, which has been trending on and off as various news outlets have picked up the story and refreshed the hype surrounding the 19 year-old YouTuber. Due to some erratic behaviour in her recent videos and across social media - including apparently whispering "help me" in a video, visible bruises on her arms and legs, inviting her primarily teenage audience to meet her at a pre-organised morning rave in Bethnal Green, and keeping a rifle in her room - a faction of Marina's fans launched a grassroots campaign of support. It very quickly snowballed beyond their control.

Since the story gained traction, numerous outlandish (and completely debunkable) conspiracies have arisen across the unmoderated garbage fire of Twitter. It got to the point where not even a visit from the literal police to her house could convince the internet that Marina wasn't potentially holed up somewhere in California, under the duress of her "abusive parents", an unnamed boyfriend, or terrorist cell IS.

After a hundred thoughtpieces, uninvolved vloggers jumping on the bandwagon, and endless fuelling of the rumours from Marina herself by liking and engaging with panicked tweets from fans, the hype came to an abrupt halt yesterday. A YouNow livestream from Marina confirmed that the drama had been instigated as a PR stunt from her fans. People were furious, and #SaveMarinaJoyce quickly turned to #BoycottMarinaJoyce; but the impact had already landed. Marina's controversial 'DATE OUTFIT IDEAS' now has over 22 million views, and her subscriber base has grown to 1.6 million - at least a 900,000 increase in two days.

With any luck, this piece will be our final word on the Marina Joyce phenomenon, as it is undeniable at this point that the only resolution is to allow Marina the chance to resolve her actual issues in a healthier environment, outside of the public sphere. The tactless and hamfisted campaign from her fans has done little else but to jeopardised Marina's mental health, her relatives' reputations, and the institution of authenticity that so many online creators depend on to maintain their audiences.

It doesn't take much beyond a dipping a few fake screenshots into the piranha pool of internet fandoms to stir up a frenzy of "drama". We've seen it with the allegations surrounding Jacob Sartorius asking fans for nudes, we see it with every staged "social experiment" video. Conspiracies are rife within the internet - and if you give online communities enough to grab onto, it starts a ridiculous tug-of-war that almost always ends in tatters and a complete breakdown of communication, regardless of the truth.

Several parties are to blame for the events of this week getting as out of hand as they are. Whoever tactlessly began the #savemarinajoyce hashtag seemingly had the idea that the best way to help someone who is obviously struggling with the pressures of online fame, was to give them online infamy. Evidently not.

The media latching on to the story, especially one of the earliest birds starting the ISIS rumours (thanks, Mirror Online), did nothing but to drag the greater internet into the fold - turning Marina into not just a sensation, or a victim, but a meme. Clearly the last thing someone obviously trying to overcome their own personal issues, while maintaining a public facade for their audience, needs.

And this last point puts a small but significant portion of the blame on Marina herself; as much as it pains me to say it, playing along with the hype, liking Tweets such as "like this if you need us to save you" while posting with the cheerful thirst of a typical new YouTuber sent social media into meltdown more than anything else.

Whatever Marina's personal problems may be, acting as though everything is normal and fun while your whole corner of the internet is on fire is evidence that just taking a break from it all is more important than anything else. While it doesn't seem as though Marina is ready to let go of her new-found attention just yet, hopefully the rest of us from here on in will do it for her.