The 2010s seem to be defined by the adventurous people which have seemingly taken over the internet. Specifically, Youtube. From the madly inane to the insanely complicated to the outright hilarious, the amount of content created on Youtube is phenomenal. With this mad surge in people hopping on to the platform, battling each other for the coveted throne on that Trending page, you have to ask, why do it?
According to Gazette Review who did a list of highest earning Youtubers, #1, Michelle Phan has a net worth of $50 million while #10 on that same list, Hank Green has a net worth of $2 million. In fact, just two weeks ago, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg better known as Pewdiepie (#2 on the list and most subscribed on Youtube) visited Malaysia on holiday and it created quite a stir. Some Malaysians actually went out in search of him. The Star even published an article about it – albeit a small one. Youtubers have become bonafide superstars in their own right, Pewdiepie even gaining a spot on Time’s “The World’s 100 Most Influential People.” Fame, fortune and power seem to be a somewhat appealing combination to the layman and it almost seems to be the name of the game. The Youtube game at least.
Gaby Dunn however did not gain the fortune, oh-so-many people are seeking. Having lived on that ‘Youtube money’ ever since she started a Livejournal in high school, now 27 years old, having gained ‘fame’ as a creator and actor on Buzzfeed, she has her own channel run by her and her friend, Allison Raskin called JustBetweenUs, which has almost 700,000 subscribers. In Dunn’s article in Fusion Magazine, she dispels the illusion of her glamorous lifestyle. “I’ve walked a red carpet with $80 in my bank account.” and, “The most Allison and I have made combined on one deal is $6,000, and 30 percent of that went to our multi-channel network, Collective Digital Studios.”
With over 1 million content creators on Youtube, what makes people think they can succeed? Gaby Dunn figures it is due to the people’s own ignorance of their abilities. Her article cites an economist, Jodi N. Beggs in which she says, “She likened trying to get famous through social media to shelling out money for college—in each case, one suffers through hard work and zero-to-negative income in the hopes of a later payout.” As such, due to the easy accessibility of Youtube, people think that, once they are on it, the rags to riches to story is bound to happen. Jodi calls this the Dunning-Kruger effect. Essentially, people suffer from this perception that they are better than they truly are.
To investigate further into this puzzling event, finding some Youtubers to question is key. In the vicinity of ISKL, there have been two of these sort of people. One of them just stumbled upon his viral video in 7th grade and another on his ongoing quest to make good movies. They are Cameron ‘17 and Danial ‘17 respectively.
Cameron was just a regular boy in middle school when he decided to explore his passion for filmmaking in his epic ‘masterpiece’, “LEGO WW2: NORTH AFRICA BATTLE (STOPMOTION),” which as of today has over 1 million views. It took over a month to make. A lot of work for a kid. “I mean obviously I dreamt that it would go viral but I really didn’t think it could, cause’ like that doesn’t happen a whole lot. so I just created it as a fun little project for myself.” However, he did not continue doing it despite making some ‘ad cash’ (as he calls it) because, “it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of school and produce youtube videos on a weekly basis.”
Danial juxtaposes Mr. McCutcheon in that he does make elaborate films. In fact, he has been making videos since he was eight years old. Now, a senior, he is currently working towards studying film in college and becoming a director by producing his own films. The one he is filming now is called Shadow.“I watched a lot of Christopher Nolan movies. He inspired me to do these kind of films.” “I just love storytelling in general.” Although not trying to break into the Youtube scene; as a content creator, he has his own interesting thoughts on it.
His determination shines through his diligence and although he plans on putting himself out there as a content creator through Youtube – namely by putting his new movie on Youtube – he cannot really call it a legitimate platform for a sustainable job. In his words, “You can use it for fame but you can’t use it for a career. You’re just making videos to be honest.” He adds to this by saying, “Most videos on the web are lacking creativity and content.” He likens it to the reaction videos going around with no intrinsic value calling it “useless content.”
In hindsight, the roller coaster that is doing Youtube seems to be prevalent and if you are smart like Cameron and Danial, you will not be caught up in this spiral of doom that Gaby Dunn oh-so wonderfully spells out. So going back to the question, why do it? Although not as easy as the other 1 million people think, it still provides a platform for creative content creators to share their stuff with the public. Although not the ideal situation, in the irrationality and fear of change in traditional media, at least people can do what they want on this easily accessible medium in the hopes of being picked up by people with enough money and power to propel into the stardom. One thing is for sure, it takes a little more than our mundane needs for fame and fortune to keep doing Youtube.