I started watching and investing time on YouTube videos around 2014, when the platform was starting to transition from its “golden age” to what it is now. My subscription list started with the likes of Grace Helbig, Tyler Oakley, Troye Sivan, and the Vlog Brothers.
The golden age of YouTube was said to be 2007, back when funny videos littered the site before memes were even a thing. A couple of years later, the independent creators we know now started posting their own stuff and slowly gained a following. The platform became a haven for them to share their thoughts, vlogs, and humor that didn’t fit mainstream media’s mold. At the same time, these YouTubers would earn money from Google AdSense based on the views they were getting.
The Verge noted that things started to change sometime between 2011 and 2015 as YouTubers became celebrities in their own right. Comedians and moviemakers like Issa Rae also got their big break when major TV producers adapted their online series. While vloggers like Tyler Oakley started going on tours, and singers like Troye Sivan and Christina Grimmie became international stars.
Today, YouTube is now—for lack of a better term—a sh*t show of sensationalized content that is fabricated and sometimes endangers the well-being of their viewers. There’s been a lot in recent years, but the most popular propagator of these videos are the Paul brothers, Jake and Logan, and the rest of their “influencer house,” Team 10.
Recently, Jake Paul made headlines once again when he started dating, got engaged, and then married fellow YouTuber Tana Mongeau in the span of a less than two months. Several viewers instantly believed this was fake considering that Jake had a history of allegedly fabricating his relationships for views, and Tana was also accused of making up her story times. This theory was further fueled by the fact they made their wedding ceremony a pay-per-view livestream where fans would pay $50 to watch.
According to Buzzfeed News reporter Stephanie McNeal, it felt underwhelming and she had a hunch that what was happening, including the fight among guests, was orchestrated.
Damn! I fell bad for #janawedding this fight was not call for, I am so sad?
— HeyItsMe (@holly2ndaccount) July 29, 2019
“They’re definitely doing this for the views!” Your thoughts might be correct because Tana admitted in a recent episode of MTV No Filter: Tana Turns 21 that the wedding was “for fun and for content.” However, Tana denied this on Twitter, promising she really loves Jake and they’re actually married. She also noted those confessionals were taped “A LONG TIME AGO!”
confessionals for the show A LONG TIME AGO! the “for fun and content” sound bite was from a very long sentence lmao and was a little salty to see it pulled out of context.. i understand though that MTV has their own creative & that these episodes are airing very late, especially
— Tana Paul (@tanamongeau) August 1, 2019
with owing people some explanation especially with so many things coming out like the show (which is quite behind)… but i know that’s kinda the life we signed up for. idk. i’ll fuck off.
— Tana Paul (@tanamongeau) August 1, 2019
Ugh, I don’t know what to believe in anymore
Full disclosure: I don’t watch any of Jake or Tana’s videos. Perhaps the only related content I saw of them were Shane Dawson’s YouTube documentaries. However, the rise of these reality TV-type content on the platform might become a problem in the long run, especially if vloggers opt for fabrication to get the views and reactions they want.
YouTube commentator Christopher Boutté observed that independent creators are now competing with mainstream networks who are starting to dominate the platform. This might explain vloggers who are doing the reality TV format or just going for bigger productions.
Another YouTuber who became infamous for faking a wedding and pregnancy are teens Danielle Cohn and her ex-boyfriend Mikey Tua. The couple claimed they did it to raise awareness for teenage pregnancy after they were criticized. Today, Danielle is in the middle of another controversy surrounding her real age as several sources claimed she’s only 13 and she was dating an almost-adult. (Yikes.)
“What’s happening right now, and what will continue to happen, is a deviation from the authenticity that defined YouTube creators for much of the last decade into more polished, but staged productions,” The Verge noted. The outlet added it’s expected that more creators might move on to work with major TV networks just like Tana. One of the most recent was Lily Singh who will host her own late-night show on NBC.
While Christopher said this is just another example of creators setting off different trends, which are more fictionalized and exaggerated videos, it’s still a troubling shift. Especially to younger audiences who “are left wondering what’s and what’s fake, harming the level of trust that unpins many of these parasocial relationships.”
Predictions for the future
This virtual relationship between young fans and YouTubers should also be discussed. A University of Twente study found that most teenagers are heavily influenced by what they watch. Many admitted they pick up foul language and misbehaviors from their favorite creators.
So, if the younger generation is exposed to “real” exaggerated videos and are unmonitored, they might believe this to be the norm to make a name on the platform. It’s scary to think about, but we might get more Jake Pauls and Tana Mongeaus in the future if this trend continues.
But they’re not going anywhere and YouTube still seems to be paying these creators based on their views, and if their videos are at least 10 minutes long so ads could be added. Most of the time, it would even put these problematic videos (eg. A copy of Logan Paul’s “suicide forest” vlog, and political conspiracy videos) on the Trending page.
Nerd City released a study in 2018 which stated the platform was lenient with dangerous pranks and oversexualized content, which you could find in Jake’s videos, as long as they followed the guidelines. It also seemed like his videos skirted by because he would bleep out curse words to avoid demonetization and still adhere to the “family-friendly” algorithm.
That said, are we going to endure more YouTube videos in reality TV format? Sadly, yes, and we don’t know when this trend will die down. It’s now really a matter of finding content that isn’t compromising facts for views and clout. Our hope, though, is that these vloggers become more responsible and accountable for their actions, and not promote their stuff as #real if they aren’t.
Photo courtesy of Tana Mongeau’s Instagram account
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