If you’re like me, your brain truly never stops. It always hears a conversation of interest and it leads to a train of thought which goes on, and on, and on to seemingly a train station that is another universe away. For me, I think about WHY they have said this, and what led them to saying that. I focus on the social context; how has society taught them to think like that? What values do they have embedded in them that have led them to thinking like this? It’s not just language I focus on either: what led them to committing this action? What are the social values and influencers involved?
This leads me to the event that is the basis of this blog post. I was with my mother who was speaking to one of her ex-colleagues in a supermarket. The colleague (I’m not going to state his real name, so let’s call him Bob) had recently been posting ‘dance’ videos. These videos were simply him latin and tango dancing in his kitchen. It’s an awkward watch, but each to their own. My mother asked Bob about these videos, and if he wanted to be ‘an Internet sensation.’ He replied ‘yes. I want to be the next big thing and for everyone to know my name.’
This statement is not a new statement. How many stereotypical stories do you hear about those who want to be the next ‘big thing’ and want to be a celebrity? The Pussycat Dolls put this mindset into words with the lyric ‘when I grow up I want to famous, I want to be star, I want to be into the movies.’ In short, this is not new and it has occurred for a while, these inspirations of gaining a ‘famous’ status. People like Bob who dance in their kitchen with a million dreams whirling in their heads have existed for generations. It has evolved however.
Bob uploads his videos to YouTube. In case you’ve been living in a land of Internet isolation, Youtube is a social media platform where anyone can upload videos providing they have an Internet connection, a Youtube account and are not posting anything that violates the restrictions of the site. In the nineteen nineties, for example, people would have dreamed of becoming a professional dancer in their kitchens as they danced away to the latest catchy tune on the radio or copied dancing that they saw on MTV. Apart from their close relatives, no one saw this taking place. With Youtube, these dreams somewhat become a reality. Bob can upload whenever he wants, whatever he wants for the whole world to see. People can view his dancing. He might get recognised. The serotonin that releases when he checks his view count and finds he has TEN VIEWS is unparalleled. He’s been recognised, and it’s brilliant.
It’s a little sad when you think about it. Almost everyone who uploads to the site like Bob hopes to achieve worldwide fame on the Internet, and many will not. In some ways, it has created a new job hierarchy within our society especially in the West. Or, perhaps better worded, an achievement that some will make, and some won’t. This can be due to luck or chance, but could also be down to skill which is why I have placed it in the lexicon of job hierarchy. Here, it must be acknowledged that I am referring to individuals who have created their own sites themselves, and I am not referring to the music companies such as ‘VEVO’ who receive millions of views on their music videos. The site contains the ‘rich’ You-tubers who have millions in their bank account which is reflected in the amount of views they receive. Interestingly, the Youtubers in this class do not upload as frequently. There is then the ‘middle’ in society which create a substantial amount from the money, but their views are not in the millions. Lower down, there is then the Youtubers who create very little money from the site but still reach view counts in the thousands. And finally, at the bottom of the Youtube hierarchy, you will find individuals like Bob. Very few citizens watch their videos, they do not gain any money off the site and are just a little piece in the Internet and Youtube abyss.
The Youtube job hierarchy is strangely meritocratic in a way. Every individual who uploads on the social media platform has to start from somewhere and that is with zero subscribers. Usually, they work their way up through producing mass content for individuals to enjoy and if this is liked by the many, they will reap the reward with money and fame. Of course, ten years ago the idea of being a ‘Youtuber’ with status and money was deemed ridiculous. But now it has turned into a legitimate job area for many. My use of the term ‘for many’ can be debated however. As like in all job markets, the Youtuber community is not entirely based on meritocracy and an individual’s video making skills, as there are different factors that come into play. For example, the wealth of the individual (or sometimes, the wealth of the parents) can determine whether the individual ‘makes it’ in the job market. Common sense tells you that the general public will be attracted to videos that are genuinely well produced, and for this to happen money is needed for the film making equipment. Factors can range from a good, high quality camera to equipment to make the background lighting more pleasing to the eye. Although many of the ‘early’ Youtubers will tell you that they started their video with the most basic of technology, this was before the social media platform had generated a job market and many, many more users tried to acquire status and a career. Now, the market is much more competitive and it will perhaps be the ones with wealth that will be able to generate a career.
It is very evident although that the subconscious knowledge of the job hierarchy is already filtering down to the younger generations. In reports, on the news, or just in everyday life more and more preteens are saying that when they grow up, they want to be a ‘Youtuber.’ So perhaps, as the affixation towards Youtube continues growing, showing no signs of stopping, society will see a change in more children wanting to take vocational education to learn how to film make or produce their own art, just like those that have watched in their lives. Perhaps, we shall a change in government attitudes towards vocational jobs and learning now that being a Youtuber is a genuine job and will continue to grow. Many parents are worried about this trend as they want their children to achieve academically. But who is to say that these two events cannot happen at the same time? One might take a vocational and an academic career, and use their skills simultaneously. They might learn how to produce content videos and editing skills, and then have an academic degree in History to teach children about the Middle Ages to the Vietnam war, but digitally through online lessons. This would coincide with the trend that our society is becoming more and more digital.
I feel like I’m going a bit too Nineteen Eighty Four here, so this is where I shall round up my blog for now. However, I will leave you with two concluding thoughts. It is no doubt that there will be many more ‘Internet sensations’ as the hierarchy of jobs is very much evident especially in the social media platform of Youtube where people are taking up careers full time, but there will also be individuals like Bob who are stuck at the bottom of the job ladder with very little attention and little money from their career. Our digital and conscious society mirror.