In Defense Of Vlogging21 March 2016
The art of vlogging and its ability to connect people through the screen.
Vlogging gets a bit of a bad rap in the mainstream media. Adults and teenagers alike are hesitant to accept vlogging or YouTube as valid creative platforms and still think it’s a bit strange. Which, when you look at some of the things people do while vlogging, it is. There are people trying to swallow cinnamon for likes, attempting different accents, pranking people or literally just filming their daily life.
Vice recently called vloggers out for being “vain and inane” but chose to only name a few of the more popular people on YouTube. But there are hundreds of vloggers out there on the internet and a lot of them are actually creating really great content that is influencing the way people learn about, view and interact with the world.
In case you didn’t go through a phase where you would binge watch daily vlogs to avoid the real-life joys of adolescence, here is a rundown. Daily vlogging is literally the act of filming your own daily life and posting it on YouTube. If I did this, it would probably consist of me constantly debating whether I walk to the milkbar or go for a run (it’s always the milkbar). And to be honest, a lot of the people who daily vlog aren’t much more interesting than this.
Adrian Blissparody series, entitled Vlogvember, manages to provide one of the most succinct, hilarious and strangely heartwarming commentaries on this vlogging phenomenon.
The month of daily vlogging begins with satirical hauls, challenges and trips to the supermarket. But as the audience began to fall in love with Adrian’s friend Greg, who is often featured in the videos, Greg suddenly disappears from the vlogs. Adrian’s life in these vlogs then becomes consumed by managers, Instagram likes and his “girlfriend” Beth, and ultimately concludes with a weirdly emotional finale.
I watched these vlogs as they were posted each day in November and I found myself genuinely upset when I knew the next day would be the last day of Vlogvember. This series is not only a hilarious parody on and commentary of the way that vloggers become consumed by fame, but it also demonstrates the reasons why vlogging has become so successful. The viewers become invested in the lives of these people, as is evident in the audience’s fanatic obsession with Adrian’s friend Greg.
I think human connection is a huge reason why YouTube has become such a giant force in the world of entertainment, something which is carefully emphasised throughout Vlogvember. This kind of human connection allows creators to interact with a broad audience in ways that very few people can.
Casey Neistat is someone who utilises YouTube, daily vlogging and the human connection that the platform allows in a creative way. In his first daily vlog, he says he’s challenging himself to “make a movie everyday” as a way of generating inspiration and creativity. The fact that he sees vlogs as movies and is generally inspired by the world definitely shows through his work. These kinds of vlogs promote a message to any creative person that inspiration can be found from anywhere and it’s up to you to turn it into something great.
After watching his videos, I’m always inspired to go out and do something! Here are a few of my favourite Casey Neistat vlogs.
Through his videos, viewers also get to learn more about Casey. His videos with his son, Owen, are some of my favourites. After having Owen at only 17 years of age, Casey explains through his vlogs how his life wasn’t particularly inspiring or easy leading up to his success as a YouTuber and film-maker. Viewers learn a lot about Casey’s life and begin to feel like they know him.
As they did with Adrian’s vlogs, viewers feel a genuine human connection with Casey that is established through these daily vlogs. They give people something inspiring and upbeat to watch and enjoy everyday. Casey is the kind of person who seems to do everything he wants to and doesn’t get scared. As someone who often holds myself back from doing things because I’m scared or apprehensive, Casey’s vlogs often motivate me to actually get up and do these things! And if a vlog maybe isn’t so positive, because these people are humans and have bad days as well, people like Casey tend to make sure they are at least thought-provoking and interesting, whilst also allowing viewers to relate to him on a different level.
The act of daily vlogging is valuable and important because it allows people to experience different places and ideas that can really influence their own lives. It allows us to establish connections with people we’ve never even met and learn about the world through other people’s daily activities.
Raising Awareness through YouTube
Many prominent vloggers and youtubers are using their platform to raise awareness about important topics and issues by educating their viewers. YouTube is a place where people go to learn about things they’re not given answers to in the mainstream media or school, and sex and sexuality often fall into this category.
Through his YouTube channel, Tyler Oakley has done a lot to support the Trevor Project, a hotline for struggling gay youths in the USA. Through this work, Tyler is informing his young audience of ways to cope if they are maybe questioning their sexuality.
Ingrid Nilson’s coming out video has been viewed over 14 million times on YouTube. The emotional video has inspired and comforted hundreds of people in the same situation as Ingrid. It’s obvious from some of the comments on the video that this has helped a lot of people, with one user saying “this is in many ways my story so far as well… Thank you for this video.”
Not only that but with the support of all her friends and the majority of her three million subscribers, Ingrid is proving that being your “authentic self” is the happiest way to live your life. Ingrid built a relationship with her audience prior coming out, so viewers felt like they knew her well. To see her open up about something that she has struggled with for such a long time, and the change in demeanor and happiness that this has lead to, is important because it helps viewers appreciate and accept Ingrid, and others, for who they are.
Vloggers like Laci Green and Troye Sivan are also using their YouTube channels as a way of giving their viewers access to sex education, which many people are deprived of at school. It has been suggested that teenagers get most of their sex education online, which is not always the most reliable source. But by talking about these topics Laci and Troye are ensuring that more and more people are being given the right information by people they trust. Because viewers do feel like they have a connection with YouTubers and they trust them.
Laci addresses some of the more taboo topics that most schools refuse to talk about, while Troye has a series where he talks about sex and sexuality. Both talk in a very upfront manner to their audiences and aren’t awkward and vague like teachers and parents often are. This is something which viewers evidently appreciate as Laci has over 1 million subscribers and Troye almost 4 million.
Sexual harassment and abuse have also been a prominent subjects amongst the vlogging community over the past couple of years, after vloggers like Sam Pepper, Alex Day, Mike Lombardo and many others were accused of sexually harassing people, some of whom were fans and minors.
Vloggers have taken this opportunity to express their opinions about sexual harassment within the community and reinforce that it is not okay. This is another topic that is not usually spoken about in the open, so it’s really significant that vloggers are addressing it and trying to change the way that people talk about and view the subject.
In his video, vlogger Jack Howard discusses how society’s treatment of sexual harassment and harassers needs to change. He discusses how he made a mistake by forgiving a YouTuber accused of sexual harassment after saying “sorry”, then uses this anecdote to demonstrate that sexual harassers can’t just be forgiven after apologising but need to be held accountable for their actions.
Dodie Clark is another YouTuber who made a video in response to the allegations of sexual harassment against a vlogger called VeeOneEye. She shares her experience with him, adding a personal voice and face to the victims of sexual harassment, whilst also ensuring that it is something that should be talked about openly.
While many vloggers use their platform to directly address problems that affect themselves and their viewers, many simply use it as a way of entertaining people.
There is often backlash in the mainstream media that vloggers don’t really do anything and are really just mediocre personalities posting empty content. Vice is pretty vocal about it’s sentiments on this matter, saying that “they’re walking definitions of mediocrity” in an article.
I do think there is value in many of the vloggers that this article mentions though. People like Zoella and countless other “beauty gurus” help young girls who are just beginning to discover makeup. I first learned about YouTube and vloggers when I was fourteen and trying to figure out how to apply eye shadow without looking like a lunatic. Countless other young girls evidently feel the same way as Zoella has over 10 million subscribers.
YouTube is a place where people go for answers to questions that nobody else provides. There are countless “back to school” videos, videos talking about bullying, health, education and videos about what to wear on your next long-haul flight. Everyone is looking for answers to different things, and they can almost certainly find them somewhere on YouTube. It’s a platform that reflects reality in the range of content, people and ideas that are circulated, because everyone can find someone that they relate to or an answer to their obscure, unresolved question.
Lilly Singh, a Canadian-Indian YouTuber with over eight million subscribers, produces comedic content, usually in the form of sketches. She often includes aspects of her life growing up in an Indian family, which is the kind of identity entertainment that would be difficult to find on mainstream TV.
Similarly, Michelle Phan, one of YouTube’s earliest vloggers, has had immense success making her beauty related videos online. Rather than the same white faces demonstrating makeup tips and techniques for one certain demographic of people, Michelle provides young Asian viewers with makeup tips that are specific to Asian eyes and faces, and promotes brands from places like China, Japan and Korea which aren’t as accessible through mainstream media and stores. Whilst makeup and comedy may seem like unimportant content, when mainstream media and corporations aren’t representative of a diverse range of people, then the videos that Michelle Phan, Lilly Singh and others create are incredibly important.
So while the content may seem trivial and pointless, it’s the fact that there is such a diverse range of people making it that is important. There are some ridiculous things on TV as well but unlike on TV, YouTube shows people of all different races and religions which means that everyone can at the very least watch people who they can identify with.
So no matter how useless you may think this content is, it’s obviously meaningful to someone. Many of the creators on YouTube are embracing their access and connection to such a large and diverse audience. They’re educating, inspiring and teaching their audiences about things that actually matter to them.
So before we start condemning all vloggers as time-wasting nonsense, it’s important that we recognise the extremely positive impact that some of them are having on their young viewers. . They offer humour, entertainment, education and ultimately a different voice than is usually shown in mainstream media. Once you dig a bit deeper, below the surface of YouTube’s viral cat videos and challenges, it’s clear that this vlogging business isn’t so strange and pointless after all.