The Social Media Generation: Where the Internet is Leading Us
The infamous internet award show, the Streamy Awards, took place for the eighth year in a row in Beverly Hills, California on October 22.
Hosted by The Try Guys, the Streamy’s awarded multiple YouTube creators with titles such as “Creator of the Year” and “Best Comedy Series of the Year.” Emma Chamberlain walked away with “Breakout Creator,” and James Charles won as the top creator in the “Beauty Category.”
The purpose of the Streamy Awards is to honor the best of Youtube, creators and stars alike, and has therefore become a milestone for the YouTube community.
The question is, what does an Internet award show reveal about how the increasing use of social media platforms, especially YouTube, are affecting society?
Even way back in 2011, YouTube’s impact was great enough to inspire University of Illinois student Christopher Cayari to conduct a case study to discover how YouTube changed the music industry. “The YouTube Effect: How YouTube Has Provided New Ways to Consume, Create, and Share Music” focused on Wade Johnston, a young musician, to demonstrate that YouTube has the power to change someone’s life.
Fame, money, and brand deals all act as incentives to join the YouTube community, and the website continues to grow. Millions of users log on every day, growing the audiences of more YouTubers than ever before.
As proven in Cayari’s case study, the outlet that YouTube provides has enticed the world to be creative in a nontraditional way. However, times have changed since 2011, and YouTube now changes the lives of more than just musicians.
Michelle Reed, a senior at The King’s College, is a lifestyle YouTuber with over 300,000 subscribers. She started making videos with her sisters when she was twelve, but her childhood hobby has evolved into a sustainable career.
“My message for my videos is really to promote confidence, and productivity, and just small things that women can use in their lives to be better versions of themselves. That’s kind of my goal at the end of the day,” Reed said.
Her love for spreading positivity to young women is a sharp contrast to some of the content that can be found on YouTube today.
This past year has been full of controversy and YouTubers “exposing” one another. Unfortunately, these videos, which are often negative and can be hurtful to other users, receive millions of views and often reach the Trending Page.
“Now it’s like, kind of a cool thing to do, and people start it [YouTube] to make money which I feel like is dangerous, but at the same time, it’s been such a blessing on my own life,” Reed said. “I don’t want to say I don’t want other people to have that same opportunity, but I definitely think it’s important to look at what your motives are.”
The rise of YouTube also displays the importance of social media as a whole to this generation. Beyond YouTube, more people are posting their lives on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat than ever.
For the past two years, Dr. Anthony Bradley, chair of the Religious and Theological Studies Program and professor of Religious Studies at The King’s College, has led a group of students in a social media fast. The social media fast encourages students to delete platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook for the fall semester of each year.
Bradley teaches about the harmful effects of a social media obsessed culture.
“Students are already in psychological distress, and social media makes that already psychological distress worse,” Bradley said. “There is zero evidence, absolutely zero evidence, that social media makes your life better.”
The University of Pennsylvania recently reported, after completing a study, that students experienced significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression with a decreased usage of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
On the other hand, Mikaela Baker, a freshman at King’s and devoted YouTuber, tends to look on the bright side. Baker describes how YouTube helped her through two knee surgeries, when instead of wallowing in her pain, she watched YouTube videos that motivated her to work toward a quicker recovery.
“Whenever I was struggling with my surgeries I would go on YouTube and find people that had similar experiences to me, and it really helped me cope with what I was feeling,” Baker said. “I definitely think there are people out there who are worth listening to.”
While Baker acknowledges that some influencers misuse YouTube and social media platforms, she firmly believes that they ultimately provide a positive outlet for creativity.
“I feel like I just have creative juices flowing out of me all the time, so being able to create it, and film it, and share it with people always helps me feel like I’m putting out that art and creativeness,” Baker said.
The Streamy Awards will be back again next year with new creators up for nomination. With the rate that YouTube is growing, anybody can join today and change the world tomorrow.