The internet. A place where secrets do not have to be secrets; where the youth of today can converse openly and make connections with people like them across the world and where all opinions can be voiced.
We are spending more time there too, with British citizens now using the internet for an average of 43 hours per month, almost two days out of every thirty, a value still increasing from previous years. The youth have flocked to the internet, with under 18s watching four times as much online video content than the ‘baby boomer’ generation. This statistic is partly due to the popularity of the video hosting website, YouTube, which allows first time video makers and more seasoned YouTubers alike to contribute. Does this equality therefore mean YouTube is one of the most liberal and fair forms of modern media? Possibly. However, there is an underlying issue which conflicts the principles which YouTube is founded upon. I argue that the problem with YouTube requires deeper examination.
With YouTube’s intrinsic relationship with reality, there comes a certain expectation of authenticity. Much of its video content is founded in the real world and hence is more relatable than television, a thoroughly edited form of media that often fails to give a voice to everyone, making it therefore less believable. According to a Google survey, 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers said they relate more to YouTubers than traditional celebrities, showing the appeal of realistic role models.
Content producers known as ‘vloggers’ are a case in point. ‘Daily vloggers’ are people who post videos of themselves going about their everyday lives offering their viewers an intimate perspective into how they live. This creates a level of trust between the vlogger and viewer and gives a certain credibility to the videos produced, though this belief of authenticity may be misplaced.
‘Beauty vloggers’ are in essence an industry, one which is worth millions of pounds through advertising and sponsorship. The videos seem genuine and honest; the creator is relatable, such as a young person who bears self-confidence issues and uses cosmetics to boost their self-esteem. This represents society more accurately than the unattainable beauty standards set out by photoshopped models in magazines and in advertisements. However, this may be a facade the vlogger uses for financial gain. Companies often pay vloggers to endorse their products in videos. This can include recommending the product to their viewers and giving a positive review of the product which results in bias, as the vlogger’s opinion has been influenced by financial incentives and therefore the image of trustworthiness is undeserved.
Despite this, the pretence of authenticity still manages to grant YouTubers power. Six out of ten YouTube subscribers surveyed said they would follow the purchasing advice of their favourite YouTuber over the advice of their favourite television personality. A further seven out of ten subscribers said they feel YouTubers change and shape culture. Perhaps YouTubers deserve their authority, as it is a result of their hard-earned popularity. But when companies can harness the popularity of YouTubers to increase sales, I feel the principle of YouTube, being an equal and fair place of video sharing, has been undermined.
Original image by James Doyle