Everyone wants to experience belonging in some way. Before the creation of the Internet, if you liked something a little off the beaten path it was difficult to find friends in your town that liked the same things. Now, people have the Internet to turn to.
The Internet is a vast place where you can find basically anything that you can imagine, including people that enjoy the same things you do. The Internet is made up of millions of communities where people can express their opinions and connect with others in ways thought impossible decades ago. You can most likely find some group of people online who find comfort in a community that supports the love of something you enjoy. One of the biggest groups made of some of the most diverse individuals is the YouTube community.
YouTube: The Great Unifier
YouTube is a site for video content where you can find a wide variety of things ranging from how-to videos, to music videos, to random viral videos. There is no shortage of content on the site. In fact, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. With an enormous amount of content located on the site, it would be logical to think that with such a vast viewership, it’s impossible for the site to act as a community. However, located within YouTube are a number of smaller communities and subcultures based around regular content providers called YouTubers.
A YouTuber is someone who uploads videos to the site, particularly someone that has some sort of “fan base.” Viewers will subscribe to a person’s videos to be notified when the videos are posted if they like someone’s creations enough. Around popular YouTubers have grown a number of smaller communities and fandoms. These fandoms may surround one or multiple YouTubers. Some of the fandoms that have arisen from liking particular topics revolve around different categories of video, including vloggers, beauty gurus, gamers, pranksters, musicians, and more. Each category of video has different types of lingo and norms. Each exists as its own separate entity though part of the greater YouTube community.
YouTube Subcultures Broken Down
One popular subculture of YouTube is the beauty community. Beauty gurus, or women that create videos relating to beauty and fashion, gain a following by posting tutorials and explanations of trends. Many young women watch them for advice, to learn new techniques, or simply just for inspiration. They then will interact with one another in the comment section or give the video a “like” to indicate their satisfactoriness with the content. The beauty guru then takes their feedback to create more content. Sometimes, they even directly interact with viewers by answering the questions they ask in the comments or on separate social media sites, like Twitter or Tumblr.
The beauty community also tends to have its own lingo for things that people not familiar with beauty videos would not understand. For example, one popular type of video many make is called a haul. A haul video is where people show off their recent purchases to give inspiration to others about what products they’re using. There are currently over 800,000 hauls on YouTube and their total combined view count has topped Psy’s “Gangnam Style” that’s nearing 2 billion views. The insane popularity of the videos in the beauty community has lead companies to start using them as a great marketing power through either sponsorships or ad clicks. Marketers are able to target this specific audience through these videos for young women. Not many others would have heard of this term before beauty gurus started creating them.
From their popularity within their own community, some YouTubers have even attained a high status to that of almost of celebrity outside of the community. This is especially exemplified with 18-year-old Bethany Mota. Bethany began making simple videos describing beauty products with her webcam at the age of 13, and 5 years later, her channel has exploded with success. With over 5 and a half million subscribers, Bethany’s popularity has allowed her to create her own clothing line in partnership with Aeropostale, a popular store for young teens. Her fans, or “motavators” as they like to be called, support her in every way and feel as though she is indeed their friend. This close knit relationship she creates with her fans by interacting with them so much began her own fandom. Thousands of her viewers will show up at meet-and-greets she puts on just to get a glimpse of the young mogul.
Transcending the Online World
Much like Bethany Mota’s fans want to meet her, many other viewers like to connect to whom they are watching. The community extends to giant YouTube conventions and meet-ups so that content creators and viewers may interact with one another. People and fans alike may finally get to meet each other in person as opposed to just talking through social media sites. Meet-ups and conventions are essential to make a successful online community flourish to strengthen bonds among those in the group. As posted in an article in Forbes, “an effective online community is also an effective offline community.” To keep the community feeling that exists within YouTube, VidCon brings thousands from all over the world to Los Angeles for one giant convention. VidCon, similar to Comic Con for comic book lovers, hosts YouTubers as guests, along with sponsors, viewers, and supporters of any kind in a series of events. Ideas are exchanged in order to let creativity blossom and keep the community as tight knit and integrated as possible, especially when everyone lives in different parts of the world. Other events for YouTube meet-ups include Playlist Live in Orlando, Florida and DigiFest in New York, London, and other locations.
Representing the Whole
The subcultures within YouTube that have emerged in recent years have become so popular that other brands and companies are reaching out to use those users to expand success beyond the site. Benny and Rafi Fine, also known as The Fine Brothers, are beginning to take their YouTube success off the site to create content for television and outside projects. The directors, known for their successful React series (Kids React, Teens React, YouTubers React, and Elders React), are in the process of creating their own TV series for Nickelodeon based on the videos. In order to help get their show picked up by Nickelodeon after filming a pilot episode, they enacted the power of their 7 and a half million subscribers to create positive buzz about the show. They created a video asking for viewers to comment on an article on Variety.com about the new television production and asked them to tweet using the hash tag, #ReactToThat.
Without the immense following they have created for themselves, the Fine Brothers would not have been able to have the amount of success off YouTube. The power of the community of fans that enjoy watching the videos by the brothers proves to be impressive. They interact and will do things in support of the brothers much like a fandom or community. Viewers help out the content creators by giving likes, comments, and sharing the video, while the content creators work based off of the feedback they receive.
The popularity and celebrity status of YouTubers has also led them to use the power of their community for the good of society. Tyler Oakley, a vlogger known for fangirling and his love boy bands, has amassed a following of 4 million subscribers. As a gay man, he greatly supports the Trevor Project and other pro-gay foundations. He calls his followers a fandom of sorts that works to support the gay community and raise money for charities like the Trevor Project. His following has become so powerful that he was even invited by President Barack Obama to the White House to have his input heard on issues the government is certainly dealing with. As he says, Tyler serves as a voice to the YouTube community and allows the opinions of this subculture to be heard.
The YouTube community is a force not to be reckoned with. The tight knit community found on the site is a prime indication of the power that the Internet has to connect people from all over to bond over interests.