YouTube. The epicenter of cat videos, prank videos, and total epic fail videos. It's where we go to procrastinate. We waste time watching early-2000s music videos, having a laugh (or twenty laughs) Rick Rolling our friends, freaking out watching Felix Kjellberg play horror games, and boiling over with envy when we see Dan Howell and Phil Lester take a two week trip to Tokyo just because they felt like it.
There's also an educational side of YouTube. HowCast has accumulated a whopping 21,854 videos since 2008, teaching us everything from how to ask someone out, to how to use the quadratic formula, to perfecting the squat (ugh). You can find a tutorial for virtually anything online in 2015, and most of the time, that tutorial will be in the form of a YouTube video.
YouTube is an integral part of millennial society. "To YouTube" is now a verb, used about as often as "to Google." According to a randomized survey taken of 100 Internet frequenters, literally everyone used YouTube. While a tiny 3% said that they "rarely" used it, not one person marked "never." It's certainly not the unknown video-sharing website it was ten years ago.
It makes sense that YouTube is such a popular service. You can find and do anything with it. The same survey that showed how often people used the site also showed that most of us use it for more than one thing. 77.66% of people checked off that they looked to the YT deities for educational purposes, primarily makeup and hair tutorials. In a weird coincidence, 59.57% of respondents said that they went to the site for both social and regular usage, meaning that they watched a lot of viral videos and also daily/weekly vloggers on a regular basis. We definitely can't forget the huge chunk of YouTube videos dedicated to music either, which 68.09% of respondents said they listened to regularly.
So, what's with the stigma against YouTubers? Based on the population sample that took part in the aforementioned survey, most, if not all, people with Internet access use YouTube or have used it before. It has become a universal part of the technological age we live in. That said, people still seem surprised or confused by the fact that many people make YouTube videos for a living. It's 2015, guys. If you're really good at something, you can find a way to get paid for it.
Don't let the confusion of the uninformed fool you. The YouTube community is massive. As of April 16th, 2015, YouTube's Swedish video game vlogger, Felix Kjellberg (a.k.a pewdiepie), has accumulated an insane 36 million subscribers, making him the most subscribed YouTube partner of all time. And he doesn't just get a really pretty plaque for that, oh no. Mr. Pewds has also made upwards of 8 million dollars in a single year from ad revenue after YouTube's 45% cut. Reconsidering your career path yet? (Me too.)
Pewds isn't the only YouTube success story. Out of a group of 20 YouTube Partners (ranging from Jack Howard's 352,987 subscribers to Pewdiepie's 36 million), the average Partner has about 5 million subscribers. That said, YouTube success stories don't always stay on YouTube once they've made it. On April 3rd of this year, New Jersey native funny girl Grace Helbig's new talk show, appropriately named The Grace Helbig Show, premiered on E!, even while she continues to maintain three videos a week on her YouTube channel. The following week, British YouTube couple Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes announced on Twitter (and to multiple British tabloids) that they were being made into wax figures at the uber-famous (and sometimes uber-creepy) Madame Tussauds in London. Talk about leaving behind a legacy.
Pano Tsaklas, a 19-year-old Media Studies and Production student here at Temple University, started making YouTube videos when he was 13. Since starting his current channel in his senior year of high school, he's won the hearts of and gained over 57,000 subscribers. He plans to make YouTube his career as many before him have, and he's well on the right track. He was even featured in the Huffington Post in 2013, after posting a video sharing what different Temple students thought about the use of the word "faggot."
Pano self-identifies as a comedy vlogger, but he isn't all fun and games. When asked how important it is to him that he has an impact on his viewers' lives, his eyes lit up and he got at least three times louder.
The LGBT community on YouTube is pretty extensive, and the better-known content creators like Pano have helped thousands of queer youth looking for answers, support, and love.
Not all of YouTube is full of content creators with 50,000+ subscribers. For every well-known YouTuber Partner, there's probably a thousand kids making videos that almost no one sees. Tampa-based YouTuber Ragan Landry is the perfect example of that, though she wasn't inspired to make videos the way most people are. Her YouTube channel was conceived from something as trivial as a dare, and it blossomed into something pretty awesome.
That said, you can't ask her about it, because she will deny everything. Ragan has invested in a professional camera, set up a semi-weekly filming schedule, and learned to hate editing videos like the best of us do, but she's kept her channel a dirty little secret from family and friends. (Being her best friend, I only found out because I live a thousand miles away.)
"When I first started my channel, I didn't tell anyone at all ... Slowly but surely I did start to tell people and even then now it's like, 'I tell you, that's great, let's move on and never talk about it again' ... Even the people who do know, know not to talk to me about it. I don't know why."
While Ragan isn't all about shameless self-promotion and getting millions of subscribers, her channel has had an impact on some lives; namely, hers. Everyone needs an outlet, especially people who suffer from social anxiety, which complicates basic human interaction. Finding a good outlet allows those people to grow and at least partially overcome their anxieties. As it did for Ragan, talking to a camera can help make talking to people an easier feat for those who struggle with it.
"Before I started my channel, I had severe social anxiety and a panic disorder and I was a hermit ... but now that I make my videos sometimes I force myself to get up and talk to this camera ... Social media itself has allowed me to do that, but YouTube has definitely become a bigger platform to me when it comes to interacting with people."
See the full interview here:
YouTube celebrated its tenth birthday this past February, and it definitely shows. As technology has developed, YouTube has reinvented itself time and time again, constantly changing its layout for a sleeker, more user-friendly service. The site has successfully pulled itself out of the awkward pubescent phase and has grown into a shiny good-looking grownup.
According to the site statistics, YouTube is home to over one billion users, and that number is only going to grow. Available in 61 languages in 75 different countries, we generate billions of views every day. We watch hundreds of millions of hours of videos daily. YouTube is no longer just a video-sharing website. Population-wise, it's the third largest country in the world.
Still think it's weird?
Never Gonna Give You Up Video (Rick Astley)
HowCast Squat Video (HowCast Media Inc.)
Survey Results (SurveyMonkey)
The Grace Helbig Show Video (E!)
Pano Tsaklas Video (Pano T)
Gordon Brown Screenshot (The Telegraph UK)
Statistics (YouTube, LLC)
Gagan's Best Friend Tag (My name is Ragan.)
Interview with Ragan Landry (stopgabbing)