Written by: Julia
Edited by: Megh
Visual by: Allison
“Whattup everyone, it’s ya girl Liza and we’re headed to the dollar store today!”
You’ve finally arrived home, embraced by the familiar comforts of your room after a long day at school spent under the sweltering heat. You lay down on your bed, comforted by the soft blankets, and excitedly click onto YouTube. It’s Wednesday – hump day for the average Joe – but for you, it’s Wednesdays with Liza. You make your way to Liza Koshy’s growing YouTube channel and eagerly open her new upload, settling in to be hit by her aura-like background superimposed on a closeup of her double-chinned face and “Wednezzdays with Liza” banner.
YouTube shows no signs of slowing down in our fast-paced society. Today, YouTube is close to boasting a whopping 2 billion users, with more than 500 hours of video uploaded onto the platform with every passing minute in May 2019 (Statista). Content creators from different platforms, most notably Vine, have flocked to the platform to make a sufficient living; in fact, being a YouTuber has established itself as a completely normalized and even desirable career choice for many in this generation. As such, YouTube is a cultural icon, representing the entire rising Generation Z and millennial generations with young children already racking up over five hours of screen time on the app every day.
However, many consider the “golden age” of the streaming service to be over. Content creators have come and gone, quickly replaced by other rising stars in their place. As YouTube algorithms changed to keep up with streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu, longer videos with more frequent postings were preferred. Old school or “OG” YouTubers such as Ryan Higa, Jenna Marbles, and the Wassabi Brothers have abandoned the platform, taking their authentic, high-effort videos with them. YouTubers were burning themselves out at unprecedented rates just to keep up with the algorithm, unable to keep posting quality content at such short intervals. And thus, influencers who once poured hours of hard work and dedication into their videos have faded away into oblivion.
In place of them, a younger generation has entered, thus undoubtedly changing the face of YouTube.
We have been left with influencers who upload videos several times a week, often sitting on their kitchen floors or riding in their cars, vlogging about nothing but their daily lives. These shorter videos have replaced longer and more delicately planned out skits or even mini-movies; the rise in vlogs reflects the shortening of our human attention spans. Clickbaiting flooded the platform, with the most notable successes being Jake and Logan Paul, who often performed dangerous, culturally insensitive, and even life-threatening stunts on their channels to obtain viewers. David Dobrik and his friend group, known as the “Vlog Squad,” have also amassed millions of viewers for their high-energy vlogs that involve jumping out of moving cars and random high-stakes car giveaways.
We’ve reached a point where high-effort content has been set aside in the interest of relatability and humor: carefully curated images of other influencers have been overtaken by a new wave of YouTubers with chatty and casual styles. Emma Chamberlain is another figure who has jumped to extreme heights, with a whopping 9.95 million subscribers on her YouTube channel alone. She publishes comedic, relatable videos that welcome a viewer into a seemingly normal day of her life, embellishing events and reactions with intense zooming and stop-start editing. YouTube is becoming a “real-er” and more relatable space: influencers using social media as a polished highlight reel have been replaced with more honest and laid-back videos.
From a humble, grassroots platform to the attention-grabbing, viral platform that it is now, YouTube has progressed through its own share of trends and content creators. It has continued to stand tall, holding monopoly over the video streaming industry. At the end of the day, however, it’s also important to remember that it’s us, the viewers, that are largely behind the successes of our favorite creators and streamers. Make sure to go out of your way to support your favorite channels by liking and sharing their videos, and to keep the online sphere as safe and as comforting as a place as possible. The future of YouTube is in our hands: with great power comes great responsibility.