The Print takes a look at the platform that’s created communities across the globe and speaks to QM students with first hand experience of generation YouTube
The YouTube generation is something that has been getting increasing levels of media attention over the last few years. From their own dedicated magazine, to features in national papers, to TV appearances, to their own makeup lines, YouTube is huge. Of course, it’s had its positives and negatives. Big-name YouTube stars have had their own book deals and music deals but this has not been without scandal. Stories of harassment and abuse of power have emerged, and people still question the perks some of these stars receive. It’s safe to say it’s an ever-changing platform and everyone has different experiences, which can often bring a conflict of opinion. We spoke to a number of YouTubers about their experiences to see what those behind the camera had to say about the video-sharing platform.
The Print spoke to YouTuber and John Green’s (author and one half of the VlogBrothers) producing partner, Rosianna Halse Rojas about her experiences. As an East London vlogger who has recently moved to Indianapolis in the US, we also wanted to know if she had found it different vlogging there.
Why did you start making YouTube videos?
I started making YouTube videos because I watched a lot of YouTube videos! I loved youtubers like mememolly, thehill88, paperlilies, brookers, and ifancythetrio, all people who were making fun and interesting things I loved to watch and all of it so different. I wanted to talk about Harry Potter (The final book, Deathly Hallows, hadn’t yet been released at that point) and here was a place where I could do it for free and in a different kind of way!
What do you enjoy most?
I love the community. In many ways I make a video for the comments because the community there is so insightful, thoughtful, and generous with their time, sharing their opinions, recommendations, perspectives, criticisms, etc. There is such a rich conversation in the comments of my videos at the moment and I love getting caught up within those discussions
What do you dislike the most/any difficulties/worst parts?
I’ve had several pretty scary experiences with harassment, from nasty, sexually graphic, and violent comments to other crossed boundaries such as hand delivered letters to private addresses, impersonation, and the release of my phone number (as well as the ensuing joy that comes with changing your phone number, particularly when it’s also your business contact number). I will say that the situation does seem to be improving, but my hope is that open conversations about online harassment and strategies to tackle it will continue and things will improve at a much better rate.
What’s it like being a prominent female and feminist on YouTube?
I’m proud to be a woman on YouTube and to have a platform to talk and learn about issues that are really important to me, such as the status of women online and intersectional approaches to social issues. On the one hand, it can get the attention of some really unsavoury people, and/or people who are just really confused about what feminism is and respond to that confusion with sexist, hateful, or violent comments, but on the other hand those comments function to prove my point, really. I make videos about women in the full knowledge that they might attract the attention of such people and in many ways, I make them BECAUSE of that. They can’t take my voice away. I’ll just speak louder.
What was it like vlogging in the East End, and what’s the move to Indianapolis been like?
I loved living in East London and miss it very much! I was in a flat full of YouTubers so we all were very understanding of each other’s vlogging habits and time needed alone in our rooms to edit. Plus, it’s wonderful to always have a place to wander around when you need a break from hunching over your computer, whether that’s to the Whitechapel Gallery or Tayyabs or Victoria Park or down by the canal. The move to Indianapolis has been wonderful and a huge opportunity for me, but I’ll always look forward to coming back to London because it’s my one and only hometown.
Any advice to anyone thinking of starting YouTube?
My only advice to anyone thinking of starting is: do it and then persevere! You’ll probably make quite a few crap videos when you begin, but that’s okay! You can’t expect to be perfect when you begin and you won’t make millions. Make videos because it’s fun to make videos, fun to have conversations or make sketch comedy or tell stories through the medium of short film or review books or etc. and it’s even more fun to share them.
We spoke to some of Queen Mary’s own YouTubers to find out their personal experiences too.
Why did you start making YouTube videos?
Dani: I started making YouTube videos two and half years ago because of a video I’d made for my partner. We weren’t together one day and I filmed myself walking around as if I’d taken them on a date. They were really into YouTubers, and I couldn’t understand why they liked watching people talking to a camera but I made this video for them and discovered I loved talking to a camera. I said to my partner how much I’d enjoyed it and they suggested I make videos for YouTube. I tried it, and now with almost 200 uploads I am so grateful to them.
Briony: Initially I started YouTube to be paired with a blog that I started up in March. I just felt like I wasn’t creating the right kind of content by just writing short pieces of writing. I thought it would be a better idea to have a YouTube channel working alongside my blog.
Joshua: In all honesty, to have a bit of fun. With “adult” life beckoning me, without me having worked out what it actually means to be an adult yet, I wanted to find a hobby where it’s acceptable to have fun, and to do so unapologetically – and YouTube has that. I loved watching videos of people laughing, drinking, playing games, challenges, living happy lives and I looked at my own life and though – hey, this is something I can get behind. At the same time as being a lot of fun, I feel there is a great new power forming in YouTube and it was something I wanted to be a part of.
Who are your idols?
Dani: The Art of Photography, the Vlogbrothers, The Third Pew, Anna Akana, Danisnotonfire, Hartbeat and Darious Britt. But to get all cheesy for a moment: my real idols are the other small YouTubers that I get to meet at the YouTube Space, because they have such creativity and love for what we do.
Briony: Video wise, I love the quality of Helen Anderson’s content. She’s very watchable and is super engaging. I’m always inspired to try something new when I watch her videos. A less known YouTuber I’m always inspired by is Milo Stewart. He’s a transgender YouTuber who’s also super into reading and NaNoWriMo.
Joshua: Tough question. Miranda Sings got me onto YouTube, but then I found Tyler Oakley and saw a lot of myself. Then I found the ‘Holy Trinity’: Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart, I’d say these are my main YouTube idols.
What do you enjoy most?
Dani: Being in 100% in control of my content – not having to pass any tests or pay anything or have a team to put videos up is the most freeing feeling. For me YouTube is a way of engaging with other people around what I’ve been doing since I was eight, which is video making. I used to make holiday videos and short films when I was little and to have an outlet that allows me to engage with that and with the entertainment of my generation feels amazing.
Briony: I love coming up with new ideas for videos, and eventually putting them to action. It’s great being able to actually crest the content I’m going to share with everyone.
Joshua: YouTube almost acts as a form of escape for me. It is completely different form everything else I do in my life, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s entirely selfish if I’m perfectly honest. I enjoy the whole process of video making, often making myself laugh out loud whilst editing. People’s reception at the other end just acts as a bonus.
Any difficulties? What are the worst parts?
Dani: Self-doubt. When I don’t feel so good about myself that can often permeate how I feel about my channel, making me question the quality of my content. But it’s the sweet comments about loving my videos or saying thanks that remind me that there are a group of people out there who actively like what I do. Also balancing uni work with writing, filming and editing can be a pain, especially around essay times.
Briony: Editing. If I’m not in the mood to do it, it never gets done. It’s what I always fall behind on. I’m terrible for it.
Joshua: The main difficulty and probably the biggest challenge is coming up with original material that other people will want to watch. There are so many YouTubers out there making videos about anything you can imagine, so finding a gap in that market can be difficult. I suppose another difficulty for me is running the channel alone – it can feel a little weird filming on my own. Like when I filmed my ‘Day in the Life of a Ghost’ video, I was literally alone filming myself walking around the house in a sheet. I try not to overthink it.
Have you found any perks in making videos?
Dani: It’s opened up a lot of opportunities such as making videos for other people and gaining the skills to make a web-series with one my friends.
Briony: My channel is still fairly small but I’ve already received a book to review for free from a woman I regularly connect with on YouTube. I’m a big advocate for making friends online, so if nothing else it’s great chatting with people I wouldn’t be able to normally.
Joshua: Other than getting to share my videos with my friends and watching their reactions, I’ve not really received many material perks. But hey, who wants to be rich and famous anyway?!
Dani: Just start. I know so many people who’ve said they want to start making videos but they’re waiting to get a new camera, or they don’t have a niche in mind. It really irritates me when people use excuses not to, because YouTube has no requirements, it’s such a free platform (financially and creatively). If you want to do YouTube, just start.
Briony: My advice would be to not get caught up in the figures and to make sure you’re making videos that you’d enjoy watching yourself. The subscribers and views take time like anything else, so use it to perfect and develop your content to a standard you’d be proud to share.
Joshua: I’ve only been going a few months so I think I’ll be the one asking for advice rather than giving any just yet!
What’s it like vlogging in the East End and at QMUL?
Dani: When I make my weekly vlogs (a record of what I get up to, rather than my usual content which as single setting topic videos) I don’t tend to be out in public, although living in London has given me more opportunities, like access to the YouTube Space. I’m also paid to make videos for the School of English and drama blog, which go up on my channel and I then embed in a blog post. This gives me the opportunity to make content specific to my studies, which I would consider a little removed from my usual content.
Briony: In the East End Specifically, I’ve only vlogged in and about the area a few times but I’m always self-conscious of the camera in my hands. The university itself is super supportive of its students outside activities so in a general sense they’re always supportive of sharing any content you create.
Joshua: I don’t really make vlogs as such, more sit down videos and sketches. But I like to use my location and environment to inspire my videos – any funny stories or incidents.
Overall, it seems that everyone has had different experience with YouTube, and sometimes making videos are the perfect opportunity for doing something you’ve always wanted to do. But the resounding advice for anyone thinking of starting seems to be to just start. Not all your videos will be popular, and you might not be able to make high definition videos from the start, but who knows, you could be the next YouTube star.
Featured Image: Flickr//Rego Korosi