YouTube is a place where anyone can upload anything. This has evolved into a career-making opportunity for many people. YouTubers get money from views, advertisements, endorsements and by creating other businesses and products off the back of their channel. However, whilst some influencers are using the platform to teach and inform, others have started to manipulate their audiences to get more views.
Channels such as Melanie Murphy and Hannah Witton are using their platform to teach their audiences about a wide range of topics. Melanie speaks out about her recovery from body dysmorphia, bisexuality and sexual health. Hannah is very sex-positive; she speaks about her surgery and now her disability. These channels are doing well but they frequently get overlooked because of more controversial YouTubers with more subscribers. The high number of views is generated by fake drama and diss tracks to boost their audiences. This for me has now gone too far and has started to taint the reputations of those influencers trying to make a positive impact.
Melanie Murphy, the Irish creator, recently made a video titled ‘Influencers are detestable freeloaders: A defence’ in retaliation of a Times opinion piece by Deborah Ross about influencers in general. Influencers are not just present on YouTube. They are also on Instagram. Ross’ article centred on how influencers earn a lot of money, primarily from their audiences, without giving that much in return. Mel’s video defends this accusation by listing all the channels that are doing well and giving back to their audiences. For my part, I agree with both Mel and Deborah Ross.
Melanie makes a good point about not all influencers being the same. We cannot paint them all with the same brush. The channels that are there for genuine entertainment and education I believe do give back to their audiences. Alfie Deyes for example, may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he vlogged daily for two straight years. He opened up and let followers see into his life — not exactly an easy decision. That’s giving back. Even when he is heavily criticised Alfie responds immediately and tries to make amends. He is PG entertainment that gives his all because he cares about his community of viewers.
Then there are other channels and YouTubers: Jake Paul, Logan Paul, KSI and Deji. Although they offer entertainment, there is little of the genuine about them. Up until Shane Dawson’s documentary, Jake Paul claimed his videos represented his life day-to-day. In the documentary however, he admitted that the pranks he did were all fake and that the majority of his crazy videos were all fake too. This is not giving back to your audience, it’s misleading and lying to them. Such influencers can rightly be called ‘freeloaders’. Instead of being honest and creating genuine content that reflects the channel’s theme, they do whatever they have to to get your views and likes.
YouTubers can have fun and play jokes. A prime example is Smosh. They are not freeloaders. We all know that their channel is full of skits, little comedy videos that are fictional. The audience are aware of this fact and watch for their love of silliness. When it comes to Jake Paul however, his fans were watching and thinking that the relationships and friendships shown were genuine, when they were not — and that’s playing dirty and taking advantage of people’s trust.
YouTube needs to stress the importance of maintaining openness with the audiences. The emergence of dishonesty has led to the creation of content that screams of desperation for fame and money — though arguably, the converse of this is more apt: desire for money and fame is driving cheap and misleading content. If you want to get respect the way other media channels do, then don’t play people for fools.