Media Essay

We live in a world that is consumed by social media. It is an integral part of everyday life, and a large part of the population does not remember how life was without it, and just like everything else in life it has its pros and cons. 2018 was the year that brought about a wave of change in the social media sphere, whether it was about personal issues or about social issues. Being an avid YouTube user, I have followed every step of the transition of YouTube from being something that people did just for fun, to something that is now commercialised and looked at like a full-time job. YouTuber Lilly Singh aka ‘IISuperwomanII",’ started her journey on YouTube, as she has mentioned in various interviews, in order to cope with depression. She believed that if she could make someone else laugh then that itself would make her happy. In November 2018, she released a video that announced her break from YouTube, in order to focus on her mental health.

YouTubers like Liza Koshy and Alisha Marie also decided to take a break from YouTube for similar reasons. Not only were the steps taken by them inspiring, but it also reinforced the fact that YouTubers are human beings too. Gabbie Hanna aka ‘TheGabbieShow",’ in her recent video where she reflected on the last year mentioned how people are now watching YouTube instead of/along with television shows and thus they look at YouTubers like fictional characters instead of real people. The question is that if that’s the case then why is it that YouTubers seems to get so much hate for every single thing that they do, even though their intentions were in the right place, and at the same time what is it about people that makes them love fictional characters even though they are not perfect and as flawed as a real person. An article written by Refinery29 titled ‘Why we get so attached to fictional characters",’ consulted Karen-Dill-Shackleford, PhD, a media psychologist from Santa Barbara, California, talks about how we get attached to fictional characters because of empathy. She explains",

‘storytelling is a way to touch on ideas that are important to us, connecting to a story and its characters is important – and often, we might feel more empathy for a story than we do for things and people in our daily lives.’ (Truong, 2018)

The question still remains, why is it that a social media influencer gets more hate than a fictional character? Maybe it is because people expect influencers to be honest since they are real people and to use their platform for the betterment of the world. It could also be because the story of a fictional character has a start and an end, while the story of the life of an influencer is in real time, and thus we can engage and express our opinions about it in real time. The bottom line is that the reason we invest ourselves in the lives of others is because we want somebody to relate to, regardless of whether it is a character or a real person. We want to know that somebody looks at life in the same way that we do. If that is the case, then why do people get angry when their favourite influencer makes a mistake. The TanaCon controversy that took place in June 2018 (Farokhmanesh, 2018), and the documentary series that Shane Dawson released on his YouTube channel made me realise that every event, situation and problem has two sides to it, which sometimes when it comes to the life of influencers people fail to look at and take into consideration. Every social media user wants to portray that their life is perfect, but social media and the power that an influencer has is really important and should be used to talk about issues that otherwise are not talked about. Needless to say, a lot of people use it for that very purpose and I think the numbers are growing as more and more influencers choose to break the façade and get real with their followers.

One thing that I think still triggers people, is that, any time there is a change or a mistake that an influencer makes there is backlash of people and the influencer is bombarded with a wave of hate comments. Social media connects people across borders and makes their voices and opinions heard. What would happen if people started being candid on camera and talk about real-life problems, small and big? The idea is to create a YouTube channel that shows the struggles of growing, not necessarily in a comic way, but in a rather real and raw way. Whether it is an issue regarding body image, physical and mental health, career, academics or even the pressure to be perfect, it should be talked about. There are certain YouTubers that are already talking about certain issues. Remi Cruz aka MissRemiAshten, started on her fitness journey over a year ago, and recently she opened up about how it was much more difficult than what she published on the internet. She mentions that not only did she have to deal with her own insecurities, but she also had to endure a lot of hate comments about the changes in her. A study YouTuber, Jade Bowler aka UnJaded Jade from the UK, made a video compilation of her journey through the process of giving A Levels and the exam season, which included a lot of raw footage and she was honest about the breakdowns that she had instead of portraying herself as the perfect student. The channel will be dedicated to start up a conversation and question the ideal life. The format of the channel would be something like an anthology. One season of it would cover one topic, with various men and women talking about the problem that is the central theme for that season/series. For example, if the topic of one of the video series on the channel is about the issues surrounding the perception people have about the ‘ideal’ body, the video starts with different women of different shapes and sizes and using the technique of morphing one woman transitions to another. This scene would have about ten to twelve women. In the background, is the voiceover of a narrator reading out the hate comments women receive about their body and how they look. Each episode of the series can follow one of the ten/twelve women and how they conquer their body image issues and talk candidly about their struggles throughout their journey.

The same thing can be portrayed through photography. In recent times, everyone wants pictures of themselves to be ‘Instagram worthy’ and ‘Tumblr’, but a lot of the times those pictures do not portray the real emotion being felt in that moment or rather the reality of the place/time it was clicked. One may look extremely happy and content in a photograph but may be feeling quite the opposite. An Instagram account that is made only for black and white pictures, which are not necessarily ‘Instagram-worthy’, but still have a story to tell will be the second medium to showcase the need to be real in the realm of social media. It will shed light on the difference between real vs posed and help people realise that a picture does not need to be posed to be beautiful. All the pictures will be in Black and White for the simple reason that it gives a raw and fervent feel to it. As the saying goes ‘A picture speaks a thousand words",’ applies here as well, regardless of the fact that the photograph may or may not be posed. As a photographer, I choose to photograph people when they are being more candid, even though they still might be slightly posed. There is also this pressure to find the perfect background, which is why when the ‘Ugly Location Photoshoot Challenge’ became popular, it showed everyone that you do not need to have a conventionally ‘perfect’ background to click a picture. The beauty of photography is that by using the right techniques, a photograph clicked anywhere can be a piece of art, if one chooses to look at it that way. One of the series that can be done is something that sheds light on issues that people have with body image and how everybody type is beautiful. Christine Benjamin is a photographer who already uses photography in this manner. She uses it as a form of therapy for the client. Through the platform of Instagram, a similar idea will be used to normalise all kinds of body shapes in mainstream media.

Social media started off as a fun way to share your real-life moments with friends and loved ones. It was about making memories and living in the moment. This essence of social media has been lost and is now replaced by this idea of having a picture-perfect life, where one is always having fun, is on top of their workload and has the best relationships. This is often not true. Through the YouTube channel and the Instagram page, I would like to portray and spread the idea that candid is beautiful too, because the unplanned moments are the best ones.

How to cite this essay: