If I could issue a PSA for all the grown-ups (like me) out there, who aren’t under quite as much peer influence as we once were when we attended school every day and the like, it would be that you’re probably doing YouTube wrong. And believe it or not, it matters.
Most folks I talk to at my office say things like, “I use YouTube to see clips from Fallon,” or “it’s for cat videos, obviously.” And sometimes I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle as a YouTuber, since so much of its promoted content is geared toward tweens and teenagers. But YouTube is deep and wide, the home of more new content in a day than any human can watch in a lifetime, so here are some unexpected things you’ll find on YouTube, and above all, why they matter.
- Makeup tutorials are ubiquitous on YouTube. It’s where the term “beauty guru” became a common term for influencers in the beauty space, and who brands could rely on to subtly sell their products to their viewers (or pan them, as is sometimes the case). However, this matters on a lot of levels, much deeper than the absent-minded calming value of watching someone put on highlighter.
First of all, it’s brought the LGBTQ community to the mainstream of beauty influencers on the Internet. From Jeffree Star to Patrick Starr (no relation), Manny MUA and Miss Fame, it’s not unusual to fall into a k-hole of YouTube videos where it no longer matters that it’s a male, female, or somewhere in between showing you new makeup trends and techniques. Young people are, by and large, completely unfazed by gender and sexual preference of who they watch on YouTube – they’re here for the personalities and the advice, and it’s about time we adults got with the program.
Secondly, think of who the audience is: Sure, there are the minority of folks like me, a creator myself looking to stay on top of what’s going on the beauty industry, congratulate the folks succeeding in their field, and who are mainly just soaking up a tip here and there within the general entertainment value of a video. But, this is also a resource for kids, teens and adults alike who don’t have access to a peer group or a role model to teach them these things. Think transgender adults. Think teens living in countries that have laws against self-expression. Think kids whose families aren’t supportive of their lifestyle choices, anyone trying to reinvent themselves without suffering societal judgment. YouTube is a safe haven for learning, and that’s just the beginning.
- Crowd-sourced authenticity is a quality unique to YouTube, and it happens completely organically. What I mean by that is, if a creator’s video is obviously just a thinly veiled commercial, or if they suddenly switch to a very glossy, over-edited format, or if it’s simply incredibly evident that the person on camera is being insincere, they’ll get raw, unadulterated feedback about it.
Think about the last time you opened a copy of a fashion magazine. It’s full of things you can’t afford, makeup you can’t try and people you can’t ask for real advice. YouTube is the opposite. Creators are there to give you a real sense of what a product has to offer, whether something really works, and what’s worth the splurge before you go out and spend your own hard-earned dollars on it.
This, of course, is a double-edged sword in the sense that bullying is also ubiquitous in the comments section on any popular YouTube channel, but the fact is it makes the best content rise to the surface as its creator strikes the ideal balance of authenticity, relevant advice, and great entertainment value. Anyone who’s trying to make a living or even a hobby out of being a presence on social media has to grow a thick skin toward comments – because they’re often brutal – but those who can take the good with the bad are the ones who make the most real, sustainable content, and their numbers eventually reflect it.
- Low-budget opportunities for emerging creators is probably the cornerstone of YouTube’s success overall. From bedroom-vloggers like Tati Westbrook and Leighannsays (hay girl), to VICE‘s groundbreaking documentaries and series that explore untold stories mainstream news wouldn’t dare go near, YouTube offers avenues for individuals and companies to create truly valuable content without having to jump through the financial hoops of mainstream media, and without compromising their message to fit a middle-of-the-road audience. Niche is what YouTube is all about, and outside your own production cost, the platform is literally free.
- YouTube shrinks the world. In essence, the Internet itself shrinks the world because it makes information so accessible, but YouTube makes it more approachable. In a few searches on the site you can learn about Korean beauty tricks for bigger eyes and flawless skin, how to change your own oil, how to juggle a soccer ball like a Premier League footballer, and that there are literally people who compete in cup-stacking. Oh, and cat videos galore.
Everyone can benefit from something on YouTube because there’s a niche of people like you out there somewhere. And chances are you’ll find people who are nothing like you who you like even more! My favorite channels run the gamut of age, gender, race and nationality. And trust me, if you fancy yourself an enlightened individual, this matters. YouTube matters.
YouTube is a thing that’s happening. Society is growing increasingly exhausted of the 24-hour news cycle telling them how to perceive their world, the Kardashians representing lifestyle #goals, and fashion magazines telling them what’s cool. YouTube is more nimble, more succinct, and not subject to the rigors of mainstream media, and is therefore much closer to any truth you can hope to find from an outside source. More than anything, YouTubers are people like you and me, and they’re trying really hard to make great content.
Be sure to stay tuned for the relaunch of my channel, and tell me what you think in the comments below. Do you have any favorite channels? Are you into YouTube or opposed? Why?
Featured image via Ingrid Nilsen‘s brave video that broke YouTube last year.