It’s time we talk about not just the content creators on YouTube, but the videos they create. It’s time to consider the audience of those videos, the effort put into creating them, and the validity of their view counts. It’s time to understand why there is so much nonsense on the Internet – and how we can put a stop to it.
Stupid sells. Just look at the millions of dollars both the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo have made off of their reality shows. Also consider the recent rise in popularity of EDM music – with its minimal or non-existent lyrics. Content that is easy to digest and takes no research to understand rules every entertainment industry – from films to music videos. And, of course, it dominates YouTube.
The most-subscribed person on YouTube, PewDiePie, makes “Let’s Play” videos, in which he plays video games and records the process. Many top channels do the exact same thing, some specializing in specific games, like skydoesminecraft.
Another insanely popular category of content-creator is the “toy unboxer” – people who create detailed videos of taking packaging off of toys. These channels get tens of millions of views every day – above and beyond any television network anywhere in the world. But why?
This content is relaxing and easy to watch. People can just turn their brains off and focus on the video instead of going about their regular non-game-playing and non-toy-opening lives. These videos are made for everyone, but the people who really get into them are children. I’m talking 13-or-younger aged children. And this is where I start having problems.
My issue with this type of content is not only that it breeds stupidity but that it sets a precedent for future entertainment. If today’s children are watching mind-numbing, never-ending content for multiple hours a day – what will entertainment look like in 10 years, when these people become active media consumers? Will legitimate media companies start advocating “game playing” as professions? Will universities start offering courses in “Unboxing 101?” Will feature films consist of 90-minute shots of ass cheeks farting?
This last one was a reference to Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” – a film I recommend you watch if you agree with this blog post so far.
Another problem I have with this content is that while it is insanely popular, it is not very engaging. There is no intelligent conversation that can be had about someone playing through a videogame. In fact, PewDiePie recently turned off the comments on his videos because the stupidity of the feedback was intolerable. Likewise, there is nothing you can learn from a girl opening a box with a Barbie Doll inside. You’d be wasting your time.
When I present this argument to colleagues, many say, “You can’t police people’s viewing habits.” and “If the people like something, they will want to watch it.” and “Where there is demand, there will always be supply.” To them I say: I agree. However, you can police what your own children watch. You can also choose not to watch these videos and give fuel to advertisers and media influencers to jump on the brain-dead bandwagon. Or, you can do what I do and write about it – advising others to do the same.
To say that I fear for our children because of the YouTube they watch seems silly, especially when there are innocents being killed in turf wars and children who have no access to running water in Uganda. But in order to fix the serious problems going on in the world, we need to start paying close attention to the future influencers who will be running the planet. If a generation of children grow up having watched and listened to nothing but mind-melting garbage all their lives, how are they supposed to find the motivation to become great diplomats, research medical cures, and volunteer their time to worthwhile causes? They’ll be too busy trying to get that Associate Gamer job at Sit-On- Your-Ass Industries.