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When I was 13 years old, I became obsessed with YouTube, and I mean obsessed! I was so engrossed in all the lives of these weird and wonderful personalities that I found myself wishing I was part of it all. I always wanted to be a YouTuber, and, in a way, I still kind of do. However, over the years I've started to notice how this famous video platform has become less about creativity and increasingly more about money.
To me, 2014 was the peak of the YouTube "boom" that happened. Fandoms were formed, YouTubers were all hanging out together, and friendships were made. It seemed like everyone was united by our shared fixation and passion for YouTube. My high school best friend and I would watch hours upon hours of videos and continuously quote them throughout the day; and it wasn't just us. It seemed that everyone had at least one YouTuber who they would watch religiously.
There was a time when YouTube was full of funny sketches, story-times, challenges, and collaborations. Now when I scroll through my feed, all I see is reaction, promotion, and tutorial videos. While I do appreciate that these types of videos were always apparent in the YouTube community, I personally feel like a certain percentage of creators lack the effort they once had and are too reliant on external sources and/or the content of others to fuel their channels. Just think about how many YouTubers now do reaction videos concerning social media trends and popular topics, therefore giving them the excuse to use a certain picture or word(s) in their thumbnails and titles (thus gaining more views).
Of course, this does not apply to all YouTubers. Shane Dawson, I believe, is the best example of this. I was never really a fan of Shane Dawson when I was younger; maybe I just didn't understand his humor back then, or maybe I just prefer the person he has developed into now, but I truly believe that Shane has the perfect balance required for running a successful YouTube channel. For example, Shane has developed his channel over the years, and it has grown alongside him and his viewers. From hilarious life-hacks and entertaining vlogs to his famous conspiracy videos and deep interviews with other creators, Shane continues to make original and appealing content. What I enjoy further is that neither he, nor his boyfriend Ryland, deny the fact that YouTube has made them wealthy, and they certainly don't hide it. For example, in his "$1000" videos, alongside their lavish house and cars, there are the crazy amount of Kylie Cosmetics that Shane has purchased. Yet Shane has remained an incredibly humble human being and, if given the chance, will put his money to a good cause. Furthermore, although YouTube has allowed Shane all of this, he is still very much in touch with the world around him as made apparent in videos such as his struggles with childhood and concerns with others (seen in videos like "The Truth About Tanacon"). The same cannot be said for other YouTubers who have clearly become so absorbed by their luxurious lives that they are no longer the relatable and modest people we once loved.
The most recent example of this concept was the controversial "£1 Challenge video" made by Pointless Blog a.k.a. Alfie Deyes, along with James Charles' recent statement that he thinks YouTubers deserve the same pay as "big celebrities," which many people have responded to by saying YouTube was once about creators expressing themselves rather than ever officially being a career path. I personally see nothing wrong with YouTubers being paid, but I do believe that, like with any job, a person should remain humble regarding income and always put one hundred percent into their work, which, as made apparent by the decline in original content, doesn't seem to be the case for many creators anymore.
On the other hand, is it just the creators that are affecting the slow deterioration of the YouTube community, or are there other contributing factors? It has been argued that there are two: YouTube itself and us viewers. In 2017, Google introduced a new form of monetisation on YouTube which received a vast amount of criticism from both creators and viewers alike. This new clause included rules such as: Creators will only be monetised (and therefore paid) when they reach over 10,000 views per video (according to The Verge), along with stricter observation on videos that contain swearing and "inappropriate" subject matters. At first, these new conditions seemed reasonable, until it was noticed (and voiced) that many new, up-and-coming creators were not being featured and were not gaining any amount of income from their work. In addition, YouTube has been detected on a number of occasions to be deleting and de-monetising videos that contain so-called "inappropriate" content such as educational videos regarding menstrual cycles, along with videos showing massage tutorials. Yet there have been reports of hundreds of truly unsuitable videos that contain advertisements. Equally, "big" Youtubers such as Dan Howell, Emma Blackery, and Jenna Marbles, who are all known for their excessive swearing, are also being affected by this newly imposed rule. It could, therefore, be argued that Google/YouTube is preventing creators from being their true selves, along with removing the freedom of speech and expression on the platform.
Another argument that has recently been put forward is that neither YouTube nor its creators have caused this dramatic change but rather the audience has. Whilst watching a video concerning how YouTubers have changed, I came across a comment by a person who admitted that they have outgrown certain creators and as a consequence don't experience the same enjoyment that they once had when watching particular channels and videos. Could it, therefore, be argued that YouTubers have noticed this shift in their viewers' ages and preferences and subsequently changed their content to fulfill their audiences' needs? This idea is certainly supported by the number of videos concerning current affairs and social media trends. However, I personally don't believe the audience has much effect on the change in YouTube as, even though there may be a large percentage of people who have outgrown the YouTube community, large creators, particularly, have thousands of loyal subscribers who will watch everything and anything they create.
It has also been revealed that some YouTubers have lost subscribers due to a sudden change in their content, whereas others (myself included) tend to avoid a certain side of YouTube as a result of the amount of drama that shrouds the community. If you search any creator's name you are bound to find a video criticising them or "spilling the tea," which is a very popular trend at the moment. YouTuber Carrie Hope Fletcher (whose main career is as an actress, singer, and author) recently stated in a new video titled "Stepping Back From YouTube" that she has made an effort to remove herself from the YouTube community as she has admitted there is a lot of drama that has "tainted" YouTube, which she does not want to get "pulled in to."
Another controversial issue that further supports how YouTube has now become solely about the money is the amount of PayPal and Patreon accounts being linked in video descriptions. I have noticed this especially within the last few months. So many content creators now are encouraging viewers to "tip" or "help them out," which has certainly gained mixed reviews. Many YouTubers such as Mike Fox have openly discussed how the recent changes to YouTube have affected their income and as a result have reached out to their subscribers for help. When I started seeing the number of YouTubers asking their audience for money, I was disgusted. Of course, this does not apply to channels such as The Hillywood Show, which creates amazing, large-production parodies and therefore encourage funding. It's clear that Hilly and Hannah promote their support Patreon as they aim to create the best content they can for their audience, which does require additional funding. Many other channels, however, use the money purely to fund their personal lives, which has caused heated debates in the comment sections, as many of their subscribers are younger and not earning their own money. This, therefore, means that a large percentage of these viewers are using their parents' money to "support" these YouTubers. I personally believe that this questions the legitimacy of YouTube being a "real" job, which is an argument many content creators have struggled with. It could, therefore, be argued that, if YouTubers are using this platform as a solid career, they need to understand that, like a "normal" job, they need to earn their own money and not rely on thousands of teenagers to pay their rent. Many subscribers have started to notice this and, as a consequence, have lost a certain amount of respect for these YouTubers, claiming that they should "get a real job" rather than take advantage of these young, YouTube-obsessed audience members. This continues to support that the changes made to YouTube are causing the platform to lose popularity and its community.
In conclusion, there is no denying that the YouTube community has changed. Will this platform continue to thrive or do you think it will slowly but surely die a death? Either way, I'm pretty sure many of us would give anything to go back to the days where Zoella, Tyler Oakley, Marcus Butler, and everyone seemed to always hang out, when Jenna Marbles would do funny sketches and "tutorials," when Caspar Lee and Thatcher Joe would pull ruthless pranks on each other. But like everything in life, things move on and people change. So many creators now have reached their goals and dreams with the aid of YouTube, such as Dodie Clark and Troye Sivan, and, of course, all of their subscribers have and will always support them along the way. Undeniably, the strict and somewhat unnecessary monetisation of YouTube has, and may further, take its toll, and many creators are turning to sites such as Patreon and Vimeo. But no one knows what the future of YouTube holds. I guess only time, views, and subscriber counts will tell...