Gary C shares a brutally honest status update on YouTube culture in 2018
“YouTube has changed, we all know that.” Gary C opens his new video, YouTube Culture with these poignant words. It’s been thirteen years since the inception of YouTube in 2005, and the world of YouTube in 2018 is clearly not the one Gary C fondly remembers from when he started making videos.
Gary has been known for not shying away from topics on YouTube. From opening up the conversation about the less visible sides of mental health to his struggles with body image, he delves into topics few people are willing to talk about. In his latest video, he chats about the usually unspoken systematic and cultural issues surrounding YouTube.
Plenty of people have spoken of the more visible problems on YouTube: clickbait, drama channels and de-monetisation. But Gary isn’t afraid to look upon the overarching societal effect of these changes. Speaking on behalf of his YouTuber friends, Gary commences with a list of all these surface level grievances of YouTube: “We know that it’s algorithms, it’s adverts, it’s people bitching across comments, hate videos, drama channels, negativity, negativity.”
The YouTube community has been well aware of these problems for a long time, but what effect does all this negativity have on the creators and viewers individually? Reminiscing on when he started making videos in 2006, he admits that “as far as I’m concerned, [YouTube] has become a very toxic place now.”
Over a decade of grievances with the platform has profoundly changed the mind-set of YouTube creators. Gary speaks about the constant fear of becoming irrelevant, and how this fear sometimes comes at the detriment of content. The pressure of trying to produce advertiser-friendly content whilst standing out in an increasingly overcrowded space has shifted the focus. Gary tells us that the old ‘Broadcast Yourself’ idea has been “replaced with…clickbait, colour, flashy thumbnails that when you preview them there’s nothing there.”
Gary proposes that the creators of his generation are now all playing catch-up with the new hostile YouTube world. “They’re frightened of being irrelevant, they’re frightened of being left behind!”
Remembering a time of community, where YouTubers shared each other’s content, he speaks about how it was commonplace for creators to congratulate each other on sponsorship deals. However, in a culture where anything may be misconstrued or taken the wrong way, Gary admits, “I can’t just explain to you how damaging that is as a creator.” Given the controversial nature of sponsorship deals, creators are much less willing to support each other’s sponsorships publicly. He explains that this “breeds jealousy, it breeds bitterness and animosity, and there is an undercurrent of that now.”
All of these factors have created the perfect storm for self-censorship in recent years. Gary explains, “every little thing is picked apart, and then you’re frightened of sharing…you’re frightened that someone is using that against you.”
It is inevitable that YouTube videos are changing to reflect this new culture. Gone is the original ‘Broadcast Yourself’ ideal of early Youtube, and in its place are YouTubers who seem “fake and overly produced.” Safe, non-controversial videos with a distinct lack of voice have become the norm. In addition, the constant need for reinvention to stay relevant results in the “the spiral” continuing.
YouTube’s spiral of problems are now ingrained into the culture, but even so, Gary is hopeful that the culture of YouTube may choose to right itself. “Enough of this fakery and this tension and this friction between the audience and the creator. Yes, people want to be entertained, they want escapism, but I think they want the truth as well, to some extent. Because no one likes being lied to.”
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