5 Crappy Sides Of YouTube Stardom No One Talks About
Being a YouTube celebrity sounds like a pretty awesome deal, right? Pick a silly username, work whenever you want, act like a total goofball, and you can get chased by legions of adoring fans who all bear elaborate fan art of your likeness.
And, most importantly, you rake in all that sweet, sweet ad revenue. Some of you are probably tempted to embark on this path to stardom. And judging by this survey, your nearest child might be thinking the exact same thing, the duplicitous little shit. However, I wouldn't recommend it, because ...
Child Vloggers Are A Therapy Bill Waiting To Happen
In days of yore, children were a vital part of society -- they swept chimneys, trucked around cartloads of freshly mined coal, and cleaned machinery designed to scalp anyone who came near. It was a glorious age ... built on a psychotic disregard for human decency and the complete absence of any child labor laws. In the 1800s, the closest we had to rules governing child labor was the handshake between a father and an employer promising that if a limb was lost, the kid could take an early lunch.
IF they finished sweeping the chimney, that is.
This segues us nicely to YouTube. Just because no one's getting scalped or blown up doesn't mean that strapping a camera to your child is a good way to translate their cuteness/idiocy into private island vouchers. I mean, it is. The pay is fucking fantastic. But that's not the point.
NOT THE POINT.
I'm not the first person to question how major child vloggers like Ryan ToysReview got into this game. There are a lot of quotes from their parents talking about how the power always lies with the child -- they chose to start the vlog, and if it all gets too much, they can throw in the towel, no questions asked. And while that's certainly more comforting to hear than "No supper until they've finished their reaction videos," it still raises some concerns.
The thing is, there's a reason that society has collectively agreed not to trust children to make long-term decisions: They suck at them. Only the most enterprising elementary school kids decide that they want to get into vlogging because they feel like they're destined for a video empire. Also, they'll all probably end up fighting Superman.
They feel okay with bringing it all crashing down because it isn't a career to them; it's something to do between Steven Universe reruns. It's often a career for their parents, however, who manage their channels, appointments, Twitter beefs, etc. I'm not saying that these parents would force their kids to perform indefinitely, but there are already forms of entertainment that are built on making kids do weird theatrical shit in front of people for money. It isn't hard to imagine another one springing up to join it.
We're so close to Kid Fight Club it's ridiculous.
Oh, and I haven't even gotten into the ways that this could mentally and physically fuck up your child. In the entertainment industry, there are strict laws and regulations mandating the maximum hours that a child can work, what they can do, where their earnings go, etc. These don't apply to YouTubers, which is worrying, considering the litany of things -- from mental fatigue to general anxiety disorder to bullying -- that child actors are known to suffer from.
What, did you think child actors only go off the rails because of Big Hollywood?
It Entails Much More Than Filming
If you think professional vlogging is all about filming, you're in for a very rude and Final-Cut-Pro-filled awakening. Do you like editing? If you don't, you'd better learn to. If you do, you'd better learn to love it. You can shoot miles and miles of raw footage, but it won't mean or even resemble dick if you don't edit the suckiness off. Every awkward silence or accidental mouth sound that might make the viewer hesitate to press that "subscribe" button needs to be smoothly shaved off. This goes double if you're a video game vlogger. It's hard to sell us on your expertise when you spend most of your show tumbling into spike pits.
Or drowning in water levels.
All of that takes time to learn and learn to do well. But it doesn't stop there. Every video you make will also need a catchy title, some classy thumbnails (usually showing a dude's stunned face and/or random cleavage), sparkly captions, and that dumbass accent that everyone seems to have. Until you eke out enough viewers and sponsors to hire some helpers, you can't think of yourself as a vlogger -- you're a professional self-marketer who also happens to have a vlog.
Of course, there's a downside to making yourself the most follow-able person on the internet. Unless you're willing to disable your videos' comment sections (like PewDiePie did), be prepared to spend hours getting rid of the racism and homophobia and Overwatch memes. There is a benefit, however, says PewDiePie:
"Before I turned off my comments, I think things were going downhill, I would say. Making that change I feel like we're going back up. It's been making me really happy, and making me really enjoy what I do, which is something very important to me."
Oh, wait. You can't disable the comments, because you need to build a community of fans, and like it or not, they mingle with the legions calling you a beta cuck or a whore or whatever. If you disable the comments, you're sending those potential fans an unsubtle hint that you don't care about feedback or connecting or any of that hippie shit -- you want their views, and that's it. And you definitely do, but you have to bury it in layers of "I love you all, individual rising numbers on my hit counter."
This is compromise.
You've got to interact with your viewers, or else they won't feel that connection and they'll drop you for someone more ... responsive to their needs. It's like being in a relationship with Glenn Close's character from Fatal Attraction, only you've got to worry about coming home to find a boiling pot of Doug the Pug.
You're Never Financially Comfortable
It's pretty much guaranteed that you'll be making negative money in your first few years as a vlogger. You're building an audience, you're still developing your craft, and unless your name is Starwarskid Von Gangnamstyle, you haven't the faintest chance of scoring a lucrative sponsorship deal. But that's fine. The internet is a swirling morass of pixels from which money cannot escape. You knew that going into this.
You stick with this gig for several years, producing one polished piece of content after another. You've gotten together a middling fandom and make a decent amount of money selling T-shirts featuring your face and whatever noise is regarded as your catchphrase. It's time to kick this up a notch and collect on that big payout you've earned! It's like AC/DC said: "It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock in hell thunder balls girls hell cock."
It's off their album, Penis Metaphor
Except ... not quite. There's practically no difference between being an up-and-coming 'tuber and a disaffected middle-of-the-rung 'tuber. You're producing the types of content that get good numbers, but from a corporate perspective, you're too small to justify sponsorship. You're in the same financial position as before, but with the added complication that your decent-sized following now recognizes you and judges your every twitch.
As it turns out, that becomes quite a problem when you're trying to earn a non-internet living. Here's a great article that discusses how some vloggers -- such as Rosianna Halse Rojas and Connor Manning -- have had their shifts disrupted by well-meaning fans, whilst some have even had to quit altogether. And that's the weird trade-off that you have to live with until you hit the internet stratosphere: You're famous enough to be recognized, but not famous enough to be able to only go part-time at Old Navy.
"We only do that for people with six-digit subscribers or better. Take your four-digit ass to the back and fold those graphic tees."
For larger vloggers who seem to have hit the height of YouTube fame, like PewDiePie, it doesn't get easier. Fans expect something polished and professional, yet intimately personal enough to justify continuing to subscribe to their videos, which creates its own set of problems. And the worst of these fans feel like it's owed to them. "Where is my daily rant? Jesus, you've sold out / become terrible / sold out and become terrible."
Do you want to try some new types of content? At the end of the day, you're still an artist, and it's super easy to feel stagnated producing the same thing. Great! You'll be sure to do that new stuff ALONGSIDE your existing content, right? Because your income depends on keeping those preexisting fans happy. The minute you try to go from "MINECRAFT FAILS" being uploaded every 12 hours to "My short film that I've spent eight months on," a large portion of your audience is going to decide that you're literally YouTube cancer and abandon you forever.
Facebook Will Steal Your Goddamn Videos
When it comes to being creative on the internet, you have to get accustomed to people stealing your work. During my first few months of writing for this site, I found that some shithead had copy-pasted one of my articles to their blog and was happily collecting adulation and praise from the comments section. I got very, very angry. That was my praise, my glory! This guy was just an impostor -- I was the "totes amazeballs" one! I wanted to throw them into an active poop volcano and, as is custom, poop in it myself afterwards. There was a point where I thought I'd never get over this betrayal.
It was only made worse when I discovered there are no such thing as poop volcanoes.
I eventually came to learn that plagiarism like that happens so often that it's almost pointless getting angry over it. It's just part of the internet's natural ecosystem; talented people create thought-provoking, innovative commentary (alongside whatever it is that I do), all of which eventually winds up getting jacked and put on marksfunnyfacts.com or whatever.
But you're going into video! You don't have to worry about this at all! Unless the thief is Mystique, you're the only you that looks like you, and that's the best defense you can ask for.
Yeeaahh, about that. It turns out that there's a huge site out there that deals in stolen videos and makes absolutely sure that you, the creator, don't get diddly-squat in compensation. It's called Facebook or some shit, I don't know.
It's the one you use so you can avoid having to actually meet to your relatives in person.
Also known as "freebooting" by people who talk like the guys from Hackers, it's a direct result of the fact that YouTube and Facebook have their own distinct video services. YouTube is pretty good about removing plagiarized material. This leads assholes to rip your video from YouTube and upload them directly to Facebook in order to rack up not ad revenue, but likes, shares, and comments. And as we know, Facebook likes are dollars for your ego.
The most unbearable thing about this, however, is that because of the way in which we've integrated Facebook into every facet of lives, it's much easier to rack up the views there than it is on YouTube. When Casey Neistat uploaded this video to YouTube, he later calculated that the number of copies floating around on Facebook had deprived him of 20 million views. We're not sure how much money that would've netted him, but it's at least an Olive Garden endless soup and salad's worth.
When Destin Sandlin uploaded a video about slow-motion tattooing, a British magazine stole it and re-uploaded it as a way of coaxing people to subscribe to their shitty beer, birds, n' banter rag. It worked. It got 18 million views on Facebook, none of which went to Sandlin.
Weirdly, one of the biggest culprits is Tyrese Gibson, who's known for yelling things in the Fast & Furious movies and ripping everything from viral videos to America's Funniest Home Videos to his channel and drowning the title in desperate pleas to subscribe to his fan page. I'd try this myself, but I'd rather languish in anonymity than spread any more of those goddamn "[MOVIE], but every time [THING] happens, it [DOES SOMETHING WACKY]" videos. Some things are more important than fame, after all.
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You're At The Mercy Of YouTube
For a website that depends on people uploading videos in order to stay in business, YouTube sure as shit has a problem with people uploading videos. See, several months ago, YouTube published a new set of standards for "advertiser-friendly" content. Just stick with these, they said, and you'll be able to continue making money on the site. If you don't, that's a nice-looking channel you've got there ...
Fine, okay. It's their ballpark, they get to decide how they spend their money. The only problem, however, is that YouTube is to stability what I am to athleticism: graceless and, at times, horrifying. With no warning at all, videos which had been approved under previous advertising guidelines were suddenly demonetized, leaving their creators with no way to earn any money from them.
If you're having a problem understanding the severity of this fuck-up, just imagine the uproar if a boss announced that all of your reports have to be written in perfect Latin, even if you handed them in months ago. Oh, and you can't get paid until everything is fixed. And because this job was going swimmingly before your business enacted a company-wide "Write like the Romans did" initiative, you quit your other job where your overlords didn't constantly demand that you take everything you've ever learned how to do and change it because, well, you'll figure it out, slugger.
So get to it. I'm sure that there's some material out there that advertisers won't find too offensive.
For more, check out The 9 Most Brilliant Pieces of Comedy Hiding on YouTube and The Most Famous Sexual Assaulter On YouTube.
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