British YouTuber Carrie Hope Fletcher has opened up about her thoughts on the current state of the YouTube community.
Her video is one of the first of what will surely be many videos like this from every kind of YouTuber, going meta and tackling the taboo of talking about your audience to your audience.
The vlogger, actress, and musician sat down with YouTuber Slayer Ben Cook for an unscripted (if a little soft-ball) interview about what it’s like to be the person behind an audience’s perception, and it was absolutely enlightening.
The Viewer/Creator Divide:
Speaking about her inspiration for the interview, Carrie said the increasing divide between YouTubers and their viewers is not only making her uncomfortable, but it’s also the source of a lot of problems on YouTube:
“The divide has become a new thing between people who watch YouTube videos and the people who make YouTube videos, and it just makes me feel uncomfortable. I was just a fan that decided to make YouTube videos and it went well. Now even at gatherings people are queuing for two hours to meet me, and it just makes me uncomfortable because I don’t think I’ve done anything that warrants that.”
Ben added “At Playlist Live, they had barriers up and it was the most stark the divide had been for me, between the fans screaming at you and camping outside your hotel, and the rest of us. It felt very us vs. them, and it made me feel slightly uncomfortable.”
This was a really interesting point that is shared by many people who have been on YouTube for long enough to remember when YouTube Festivals and Conventions used to be informal gatherings where everyone interacted with everyone regardless of their view count, subscriber numbers, or even if they made videos at all. The relaxed atmosphere of the old gatherings is a world away from the screaming and stampeding hoards of teenage girls that pervade the YouTube ‘festivals’ of today:
As a twenty-something male, writing about the psychological processes behind the behavior in that video would be uncomfortable, so I won’t… But it is in fact normal behavior in a large crowd of girls of a certain age, and physical barriers and security are really the only way to protect both the YouTubers and the so-called ‘fangirls’ from causing harm without even knowing it.
Much like most of YouTube’s problems, it’s born out of the sheer scale of the platform. 100 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and at this point there are just too many popular creators in the community to hold an informal “gathering” of multiple big ‘tubers safely. Take the example of Philip DeFranco, who organized a meet-up in Hyde Park, London in 2012. Everything was fine, until the crowd got too big and things quickly stopped being fine. Phil was ultimately evacuated from the area for his own safety, followed closely by a stampede of The Nation until the police stepped in to help.
The ‘big festival’ problem is compounded by the increasingly commercial intent of both the organizers of the events and the YouTubers attending. Popular YouTubers will always favor bigger events not only because it allows them to meet more fans, but also because of the incredible potential for financial success. One popular YouTuber sold over $25,000 of merch on the first day of a certain multi-day YouTube event. After getting results like that from a large convention, I doubt fans will ever see this particular YouTuber at a small event ever again.
Equally, organizers are increasingly using the guise of ‘safety’ to control the movement of fans around an event. By treating them like cattle, they can sell more tickets by herding them through a meet and greet queue for a 30-second ‘Hello, how are you,’ a picture, and more opportunities to buy a YouTuber’s merch than you could ever imagine.
Ultimately, there are two choices. You can either have small events where large numbers of dedicated subscribers get turned away, or you can have a large festival with security for the more popular tubers and a persistent divide between fans and creators. This is clearly a problem, but there’s no easy way to reconcile these two extremes.
The Perception problem:
Carrie also commented on the problem of perception – The increasing divide between who a YouTuber is, and who their fans think they are.
“You can be 100% honest in your videos, but your audience will still only know the tip of the iceberg. They’ll only know what you want to tell them, even if everything you tell them is completely true,” Carrie said.
Often, when YouTubers show anything other than the ‘happy vlogger’ persona to their audience, they can get slated for it.
“It’s the nature of the internet that once you’ve tweeted something, that tweet gets screen-capped and shared and re-tweeted, and even when you delete it, it’s still there. People are still going to see that, it’s just the horrible thing with the internet that it;s very hard to take something back once you’ve said it. Which is hard when you’re human.”
Bryarly Bishop made an excellent video on this very subject, and it’s incredibly important for fans to see that the person you see on the screen is not the whole person.
Carrie’s comments are indicative of something very strange happening in the YouTube community. There’s a massive psychological power struggle going on, and “nobody knows where the power lies anymore,” as Carrie said.
Most YouTube creators just want to be seen as normal people, but the audience many of these creators picked up during the large, unfettered, and ongoing growth of YouTube as a platform makes that literally impossible, even if all the individuals that make up the collective ‘audience’ share that creator’s desire.
It strange and awkward. No one can explain it. No one wants to talk about it. It has long been a taboo subject. An elephant in the room. Or perhaps an elephant on the screen? – Until now, anyway.
In the wake of the many YouTube scandals that have come to light over the past few months, including one involving Carrie’s ex-boyfriend, it is now necessary if not morally incumbent upon YouTubers to look at their actions on balance and consider – Do you really deserve all this attention? – Is the current state of affairs healthy for myself or my audience?
Louise, better known as SprinkleOfGlitter, was the first to tackle those very questions and although no one can deny her videos are incredibly entertaining and valuable, she answered those questions with a resounding No. And now Carrie has done the same.
I’d like to know what you think – Do you think YouTubers are deserving of this amount of attention? – Of hours, if not days, spent in queues for a 30 second meet and greet? – Is all of this healthy?