Thursday, September 03, 2015

YouTube Pet Peeves

I spend an inordinately large amount of time watching YouTube content, and have been doing this for a few years now.  As a result of anyone who probably watches too much of anything, I've gotten to the point now where my expectations and palette have changed a bit, and I've become a bit more discerning in what content I'm willing to enjoy in the sea of vloggers, comedians, and sketch artists on the site.  After all, there are a lot of people that you can watch if you want (YouTubers become increasingly popular as the number of active million-plus subscribed channels keep growing).  Therefore, I wanted to write an article about content creators and seven of my biggest YouTube pet peeves that seem to have permeated the site quite a bit in 2015.  Let's start, shall we?

(Note before we begin-some of the YouTubers I call out below I still quite enjoy, for the record, but that doesn't mean that I can't call them on their behavior in these specific regards.  Fandom isn't without caveats people)

1. Misleading Titles

The Problem: YouTubers know that in the land of 10,000 titles you have to catch someone's attention, and the best way to do that is to have them click on your video because you title it something provocative.  Popular examples of this are "Quitting YouTube," "Do I Have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend?" and "Something Serious."  Once you click on that link, however, it's literally just them saying, "I'm not quitting YouTube," completely ignoring (cough, Troye Sivan, cough) or saying no to the relationship question, or the something serious is that they're going on tour.  These sorts of titles, I feel, eventually are going to come back to haunt them a bit (even their inordinately teenage audiences are going to realize this is just for money), and it's definitely made me more weary about clicking on certain links.
Biggest Culprit: Shane Dawson.  Dawson is absolutely the worst about this.  Recently he posted a video called "Bisexual Problems," which most thought was related to his coming out as bisexual, but in fact was just a random vlog and literally he pointed out toward the end of the video that he should just label this as "bisexual problems" to get more views.  It was damn offensive, and almost got me to click unsubcribe then-and-there as Dawson made a point a few weeks ago that coming out as bisexual was a big deal for him and then has been insulting to the bisexual community ever since.  Dawson does this constantly, though, and has sort of become the poster child for misleading titles/thumbnails.
Exception to the Rule: The Vlogbrothers-what you see is what you get from these guys, and I love them for it.

2. Advertising for Products You Don't Use

The Problem: I get that YouTubers make a lot of money, and I also get that they probably don't get as much money as they bring in as revenue and may be a bit undervalued based on the fact that YouTube is a little bit of a monopoly right now for their type of online content (particularly considering that Vine is the only other true game in town, and they aren't exactly in the same league).  As a result, I'm fine with sponsored videos on occasion, and don't even need the YouTubers to call this out in the downbar, even though some of them (like Grace Helbig) are kind enough to do so.  The problem here, though, is when they clearly aren't using the products at all.  The biggest culprit of this is, an audio book site which is actually a pretty cool idea (you can get thousands of audiobooks online) that literally every YouTuber has shilled for at some point.  This is despite the fact that a number of YouTubers not only don't use the site, but actually don't read books from the site.
Biggest Culprit: I'm calling you out on it Tyler Oakley.  While I am confident that Tyler has actually read some of the books that he has recommended, frequently it appears that he hasn't, particularly when he is quizzed on books like Girl Online by Zoe Sugg in a later video or where he wants to recommend a Hannah Montana-related book that he listens to for the first time during the video, and only a snippet.  What kinds of recommendations are these both on your channel and Twitter if you haven't actually read the book?  This is particularly upsetting considering that, if the content creators are accurate, the audience for these videos has a finite amount of resources (as they are demographically more-than-likely teenagers or college-age), and as a result YouTubers are going for literally all of their cash with these sorts of disingenuous grabs.
Exception to the Rule: Connor Franta, who actually seems to make a point of reading every single book that he plugs on his channel and occasionally even plugs books that not every other YouTuber is also plugging, which is a nice change of pace (we get it-you all like Ellen and John Green, and even Connor has plugged both of these, but you're all individuals-pick something slightly different).

3. Complaining About the Hater Comments

The Problem: I get that being a YouTuber (particularly a YouTuber who is gay, female, a person of color, or over thirty) can be a nightmare for the comments section.  These sorts of comments attacking your personage are cruel and vicious, and should be stopped.  I also think that the over-sexualization on Twitter, with constant shouts of "dad af" and "take me" (and a whole lot more colorful uses of the English language, or a facsimile of it) have gotten to a ridiculous level.  However, I have actually been to the YouTube comments section, and by-and-large these comments are generally pretty damn worshipful or at least are calling out something that is more opinion than fact.
Biggest Culprit: This is pretty much everyone (seriously-every YouTuber has jumped on this movement, with varying degrees of sincerity), but I'm actually going to go with one of the smaller YouTube channels for this, Trent and Luke.  Trent and Luke are actually an interesting conundrum for me because they are occasionally trying for really original content on their channel (couples reenacting Grindr conversations being my personal favorite), but their Q&A's are insufferable particularly because they talk about "the hate" in literally every single one of these videos.  I'm sorry, but when you are a pair of gorgeous men that happen to be married, and almost every comment on Twitter and YouTube (I did some surveying) is fawning over your appearance, your dog, and how cute the three of you are, it's a bit eye-rolling to talk about "the hate."  I get that you have institutional homophobia to deal with and it's easy to look on the outside and judge, but come on fellas-let's move on until there's something new to talk about.
Exception to the Rule: Miranda Sings, mostly because she's actually found a way to make the hate comment videos hilarious by reacting in a psychotically over-the-top fashion to them, and by occasionally confusing an adulatory post as being mean.

4. Videos that Go Nowhere

The Problem: Thanks to the demanding schedule of writing books, attending Vidcon, having a lifestyle that is worthy of dozens of Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat posts a day, and trying to find new revenue streams, YouTubers occasionally don't have a great idea for a video.  As a result of this, they either A) skip that week, denying their fans a video, giving themselves less money that week, and potentially alienating a fanbase that expects a new video every single week, or they do a video that is clearly not planned or given much care.  While no one is on their A-game every single week, it's pretty obvious that some YouTubers are phoning it in more than often, and then get hyper-defensive whenever someone calls them on it.
Biggest Culprit: SuperFruit, by a pretty big country mile.  While the British YouTubers tend to have this more-and-more, at least their videos tend to stay within brand and they get points for consistently collaborating.  SuperFruit, though, has gone away from actually trying in most recent videos (remember when they created those awesome Taylor Swift and Wicked videos?) and just does a stream-of-consciousness style video where they chat about nothing for four minutes and then calls it a day.  The problem with this (and this is going to be a bit harsh) is that Scott and Mitch are not funny.  They are cute, and are cute together, but they're not funny and aren't comedians on YouTube; they're best at playing off of their friendship together and of course at singing.  As a result, these videos tend to be tedious at best and frequently they are more condescending, as if they are giving us a gift with their presence on YouTube.  I get that they are busy with their career in Pentatonix and that they probably do have more important things to do, but then skip a week or close up shop on SuperFruit-don't go around milking more money from your fanbase with work that isn't worth their time, as this hurts your overall brand.
Exception to the Rule: Grace Helbig is pretty much the only person on YouTube who can make a stream-of-consciousness video work, and it's actually kind of her forte.  I blame her for the copiers (everyone else-you cannot pull this off), but she's naturally funny enough to do it.

5. Excessive Channels

The Problem: YouTubers are businesspeople, I get it, and as a result they want to have more avenues to create content and earn more money.  The problem with this is that when they have multiple channels, they tend to have at least one channel that either gets neglected, making it seem wasteful and kind of pointless (how many YouTubers have a gaming channel they only occasionally use?) or that they ruin their brand by having a daily vlogging channel that is excessively boring, which kind of turns you off from their main channel.  I hate to break it to some YouTubers, but in some cases you're better off with less is more (you live a pretty damn charmed life, being young, beautiful, and wealthy, and having vlogs where you're randomly in Aspen and Maui and attending red carpet events but then trying to seem like an average person in your pajamas in a main channel video feels pretty false).  The combination of too many channels and channels that contradict each other makes even the illusion that you seem personable (I get that in most cases this is just a character you're playing, and I'm cool with that) go out the window.
Biggest Culprit: I'm trying really hard not to say the same people twice here, though it should be noted that Trent and Luke, who only have 150k subscribers, clearly don't need three channels.  However, I'm going to just throw a giant blanket over the British YouTubers here, as really none of their vlogging channels (save perhaps Caspar Lee) are particularly compelling and feel increasingly ridiculous in terms of the amount of travel, pampering, and shopping that goes on in their videos.  I get that they are all gorgeous and there's an appeal to seeing beautiful people spend money and do things you couldn't possibly do, but I don't understand the appeal personally and it makes them appear a bit vapid when they try to get deeper in their actual main channel videos.
Exception to the Rule: Going with the Vlogbrothers again, mostly because there's a distinct personality in CrashCourse and SciShow, and because they actually celebrate knowledge, learning, and creating a community that is shared and free of discrimination.

6. Playing Dumb

The Problem: If I hadn't already potentially offended my YouTube fan brethren, I'm going to do it now.    I am tired of YouTubers acting dumber than they are.  I'm not saying that we've got Einsteins on every single channel (okay, maybe Hank Green is), but it seems that for people in their late-twenties they frequently find themselves acting like teenagers.  This is actually part of a larger problem that I'm going to discuss a bit in an article tomorrow, but I couldn't let this article be written without pointing it out.  If you are 28 and clearly living on your own and self-employed by YouTube, you aren't dumb enough to constantly be talking about slumber parties, acting a fool on different hypothetical questions, and just seemingly playing dumb for the cameras.  You are aware that we actually can see that you behave considerably more intelligent on your Snap and vlogging channels, right?  And that we watch things like YouTubers React and your TV appearances and you've instantly added thirty IQ points?  I'm not talking about all YouTubers here, but we all are aware that this happens.
Biggest Culprit: This is so mean (though a weirdly backhanded compliment since I am saying you're smarter than you appear), but it is an issue I see way too often. One of the worst perpetrators, I have to say, is Tanya Burr.  Ms. Burr during her makeup tutorials frequently is very savvy, able to discuss contouring and skin tone with savvy, and has a terrific eye for recreating makeup looks.  However, during collabs, particularly with her fiance Jim, she seems to become doe-eyed and oblivious to any questions asked of her, frequently seeming quite silly in direct comparison to her fellow contributors.
Exception to the Rule: Jack and Finn Harries, though really more Jack since Finn doesn't do the channel hardly ever anymore.  Jack Harries is pretty oblivious to his incredible privilege in his videos which occasionally drives me batty when he wants to inspire without acknowledging his advantages in life, admittedly (he's a straight, white male who grew up with rich parents and looks like a cartoon prince), but he's never dumb and is unapologetic about the fact that he got older and his tastes on his channel changed to more documentary and travel photography-style content.  The same could be said for Charlie McDonnell, except Charlie never went through the "adorably dorky prank-youth" stage of his career.  Either way, both of them actually owning up to the fact that they are older and more mature than their fanbase is extremely admirable.

7. Ageism

The Problem: It might seem a tad hypocritical to follow the last post with one about ageism (since I chide the YouTubers for not acting their age), but I don't really view it that way (particularly since the above YouTubers are more than aware of what they're doing).  I have long gotten over-the-fact that all YouTubers assume that every single one of their YouTubers is thirteen and that they need to create content exclusively for that age group when in fact their communities seem pretty damn diverse age-wise, particularly if you look at Twitter where a disproportionate amount of YouTube fans are in fact considerably older than the average age assumed.  However, I find that more-and-more YouTubers condescend on older viewers of their channels, stating that they are "too old to make YouTube content" and that all of their videos are made for teenagers only.  It's not only bad publicity for themselves (it turns off viewers if you constantly underestimate them), but also it makes your channel have an expiration date, which is clearly not something you want to be doing.
Biggest Culprit: I'm returning to Shane Dawson here because he's the worst culprit of this.  Shane frequently talks about how he doesn't want to be "thirty and still creating YouTube videos" despite the fact that A) some of the most beloved YouTubers on the site are right around that age at the moment and still wildly successful and B) Shane's outside-YouTube-content has never risen above the taste palette of a 13-year-old.  Other YouTubers are guilty of this one as well, though, including some who should know better; even my beloved Grace Helbig falls into this trap frequently, and she actually had a television show on E!, so she knows that saying only teenagers watch the show is wrong since you're trying to appeal to the widest possible audience.
Exception to the Rule: Mamrie Hart.  Occasionally Mamrie does the "you're all teenagers" schtick, but she hasn't done it in a while, and will frequently, unapologetically, reference shows and movies that are from a time prior to those of a teenager (such as You Deserve a Drink episodes devoted to The Nanny and Full House).

There you have it folks-my look at my biggest YouTube pet peeves, and some of the people who most frequently fall into their traps.  Are there other YouTubers who do these things?  Are there other YouTube pet peeves you're tired of seeing?  Which of these people was I too harsh on (I'm already feeling bad about the Tanya comment cause I generally love her even if I do agree with my assessment and giving any sort of insult to Grace is like stabbing myself in the heart, though again I do feel she sometimes does this)?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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