For some context, I’m 48 years old, I’m a game developer who makes and sells PC strategy games, and promotes them through various means, including youtube trailers and a weekly developer video vlog which can be found here.
I worry about youtube. Not just youtube, but the growth of video content in general, and the growth of super-HD globally available video content more than anything. Not in the default ‘new things scare me!’ way, but because I think they are probably skewing society in a way that is harmful, and I see this through the lens of someone who produces a weekly vlog, and occasionally looks at others.
When I was a young gamer, in my teens, there was zero content when it came to covering my hobby. Gaming was for kids (definitely) and the geeky ones at that. I’d guess more boys played games than girls then. The idea of a gaming ‘celebrity’ did not exist of course, because it was pre-internet, let alone the idea of making a living from playing games, and the idea of people knowing who you are, who did NOT go to the same school as you was not even out there. Unless you were Michael Jackson, you were not known to anyone outside you local school as a kid. Not only was fame when really young not achievable, it wasn’t really on anybodies radar. If someone at your school found you attractive, that was great. You could be the best looking person in school I guess, but that sample size is pretty small. I’m reminded of the most beautiful girl in the room:
Gaming now is very different, and video content is very very different. One of the most well known youtube celebrities is ‘Zoella’ apparently. She has 12 million youtube followers, and her net worth is estimated at £2.5 million. She started her youtube channel is 2009, aged 19. PewDiePie is one of the best known gaming youtubers, with 63 million youtube followers. His net worth is estimated at £20 million. I have never sat and watched a whole pewdiepie or zoella video (I’m BUSY), but something stands out about these two, and all the other super-well known youtube celebrities.
They are unusually good looking, and started pretty young.
There is a MASSIVE culture of youtube videos about how to put on makeup. HUGE, like TERRIFYINGLY HUGE. If you wonder why on earth your teenage daughter has the capacity to sit and watch youtube videos for ten hours straight, its because there is a vast, vast rabbithole of this stuff. And if you think its a female-only culture, think again. This ‘one minute beard grooming’ video has over a million views.
When I was in a heavy metal band, I sometimes had a beard. Sadly very few pictures exist, but you know how much ‘beard grooming’ I did? Fuck-all. I occasionally picked out clumps of paint or sawdust from work (I built boats), and that was it. And believe it or not, despite this horrifically minimalist beard-grooming regimen (by modern standards) I did actually meet girls and even slept with some. AMAZING! How could anyone as rough and un-groomed, un-sculptured, with imperfections and a complete lack of a daily skin-care moisteurizing regimen, ever be happy or meet anyone?
It was easy, because frankly our standards were more localized. If I thought I was as attractive as the average dude in the pub, or the average boy at school, then…yeah thats pretty good. I didn’t obsess about my looks or seek out a completely impossible level of perfection that young people do now. I am SO GLAD that we did not have youtube, and social media when I was a teenager. the amount of angst, anxiety, body-image issues, self-confidence issues that I have avoided by simply not being exposed to so many attractive, confident, well-lit, perfectly edited and filmed people who modern day teenagers consider to be ‘just like them’… I feel so lucky.
Anyway, my broader point is that we talk a lot about fake news video, we talk a lot about racist or mysogynist or other hate-fuelled video content, and I think society needs to also take a look at the more subtle confidence and body-image effects that exposing young people not just to the most charismatic and beautiful people in their class (which is depressing enough), but in a class of a BILLION people, is doing. And do not think that because your kid is smart that this isn’t applying to them. I have a confession to make: I worry about how I look in my youtube videos. Should I get my teeth whitened, should I have that tiny lump on my nose lasered off, should I get a hair transplant even… and I am a married fourty eight year old man. What.The.Fuck.
I can only imagine the impact this youtube culture has on teenagers.