Friday, May 11, 2018

YouTubers Taking over Shelf Space

Daily vlogs, challenge videos, boyfriend tags . . . and now, a shelf at your local bookstore.  ♦ 
YouTube is no doubt one of the biggest phenomenons the internet has brought to life. It started as a place to publically store videos, often so people could share their content amongst a group of close friends, and has ended up growing into a massive platform that has branched off into a multitude of varied communities and interests. Makeup, fashion, lifestyle, comedy, travel, education—anything you want to find, YouTube is likely to have it.

Over time, some of the people within these communities began to grow and maintain their own following, giving them a new type of fame. Some called them “internet famous,” while others simply referred to them as “YouTube famous,” almost as if being famous from the platform created by YouTube made you different from, not typically on par with, the average Hollywood celebrity.Yet, just as our “traditional celebs” have recently done, many YouTube celebrities have taken the reading world by storm, writing and publishing their own books in a whirlwind that seemed to take place overnight. More importantly, people bought the books, and really, why wouldn’t they? Plenty of famous people write successful books, so why would a celebrity born from YouTube be any different?

When YouTubers books started filling the shelves in my local Barnes & Noble, I admit that I was a bit confused and unexpectedly annoyed at first—an emotion that seemed to be shared by other readers, as well. For some reason it felt as if YouTube stars were manipulating their audience into buying their books in order to make more money. I would watch my favorite YouTubers’ daily vlogs and then be hit with the suddenly-ubiquitous concluding line to their videos: “Also guys, don’t forget to pre-order my new book!”

I recently purchased actress Lily Collins’s new book Unfiltered; No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me, where she talks in-depth about her life and the struggles she faced growing up such as eating disorders, bad relationships, and more. I bought the book because I was a big fan of her work, and I was genuinely interested in what she had to say and learning about her life. Is this really different from an eighteen-year-old who wants to dive into YouTuber Shane Dawson’s I Hate Myselfie: A Collection of Essays, in which Dawson recounts numerous events that occurred throughout his life?

The only difference between reading a book by a Hollywood star and a YouTube celebrity is the perception that internet celebrities aren’t “real” celebrities. Yet YouTubers such as Joey Graceffa, Shane Dawson, and Tyler Oakley have been building up their audience for years, bringing viewers closely along with them through the many life changes and challenges they’ve faced. Many watched these three, and countless others, grow as people, establishing a real connection between the fans and the personal life of the YouTuber. So, maybe it was correct to label them their own type of celebrity after all—fans feel closer to YouTube stars than Hollywood stars, because it feels like we have a more direct line to them.

So why are many frustrated with YouTubers for doing the same thing Lily Collins and numerous others were doing? Building a name for themselves and then branching out into other forms of entertainment? Using their name and audience that they worked to establish to promote their content doesn’t make them the bad guy; it makes them smart, and in many ways they’re just using a different medium to connect with their fans. While some may not have the best intentions, and could very well be trying to make money off of their already well­-established audience, at the end of the day why would anyone be mad when they’re simply demonstrating good marketing strategies (and giving fans what they want)?

YouTubers are special. The way in which they connect with their fans, the world, and life is a fresh and new experience—the complete opposite of your traditional run-of-the-mill movie star. YouTube has permitted a certain level of closeness within the community, which does have an effect on how certain situations may be perceived and even how YouTubers themselves are perceived. We view Hollywood movie stars through a blurry lens, never really getting the clear image of who they might be, but YouTube has established a real bond between people.

  • About the Author
    Sarah Von Hendrix is a freshman Creative Writing major at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Her interests include reading, writing poetry and fiction, running, procrastination, and more reading. She hopes to one day publish her own novels and live somewhere with way less snow than her hometown, Cleveland, Ohio.

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