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“Fame” on YouTube

According to its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/youtube/info?tab=page_info) , YouTube defines itself as “a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire other across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.” The online interactions between users of YouTube are different than interactions on many other online forums because of YouTube’s largely visual nature. Videos change the dynamics of online interaction because of the more personal experience an audience member, and even the creator of the video, gets. While there are tons of sub-communities of videos (like beauty, gaming, comedy, vlogs, short film, and DIY) within the community of YouTube, one thing remains the same across the board: the opportunity to listen to a real person and be involved in a seemingly intimate interaction.

YouTube varies greatly from regular forums because, like most current social networking sites, users can create profiles which give more details about themselves and where others can find out about the user. Members can also “subscribe” to other members which is a very different concept from other forums. Instead of just seeing content that is recent to the time you go on the forum, you can see content easily from people you subscribe to. The username people create for themselves can be their real name or can be made up in order to perhaps conceal identity. For example, beauty guru Ingrid Nilsen used the name “missglamorazzi,”(https://www.youtube.com/user/missglamorazzi/featured) even when her videos were gaining popularity, to maintain privacy and did not reveal her real name until she was years into making videos. These “About” sections are not always real and can be what the users use as a tool of deception. “About” sections can also include visuals giving more clues to identity.

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For example, even though this user has a fake name and identity, you can draw some clues about his or her identity based on the pictures.

Identity is also created on YouTube based on the number of views, comments, and likes your video gets. Getting likes and views on your videos gives a positive light to the identity you have created through these videos. This is mainly the identity that other people see rather than a self-defined identity. Some members of YouTube have even gained an influential identity and have become like celebrities because of the number of how popular their videos are. Because it is easy to see how many people have viewed your video and compare it to how many people “like” your video, people constantly strive to increase that number by commenting on other videos and interacting with others. While people are looking for attention on many other forums by commenting and trolling, one YouTube, many users have become famous in the embodied world which takes “attention-seeking” to another level since fame is possible. Read more about stars of YouTube here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/15/hollywood-vine

Anonymity and deception, I feel, are less prevalent in YouTube communities than other communities because of the way members share ideas and interact through video. Members can even make videos to respond to videos instead of just posting comments. Although it is still possible for people to create completely fake profile, and it probably does still happen, it seems to me that YouTube leans more toward the real because many people on YouTube now are trying to gain fame since it seems fairly simple. Many spam comments look something like this:

The commenter says something nice about the video and then tries to promote themselves to others saying that in return, they will look at other peoples’ videos too. If all you have to do is post a video of yourself doing the “Cinnamon Challenge” and comment on a few other videos to gain recognition from thousands of viewers watching, then why wouldn’t you? You might even make some money off of it. The problem is that this kind of fame-seeking tends to dumb down the content of videos. Senseless things will gain viewers and short-lived recognition, but are a terrible replacements for real artistic videos that should receive more recognition.

Because YouTube has become so popular, businesses have also portraying their identities on YouTube which is a very different aspect of internet forums. Here, companies can interact with the YouTube audience and make videos to represent the image and identity of their brand. This, however, makes many interactions seem artificial since it is evident that the companies are trying to get publicity and not just trying to state their opinions.

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Just as eye-catching but ridiculous content on YouTube is decreasing the chances for good inspiring and artistic work through video, I think large companies making YouTube accounts is having the same affect. The question becomes does a company really like my videos if they comment on them or are they just trying to get their name out there? The dilemma of whether something or someone is genuine or not has always been a problem on the internet because of lack of physical cues. Now, reliability over the internet is somewhat determined by how much you think the content is related to advertising or not. What is perceived as “trolling” can now be considered what is seen as “advertising”. Both are still annoying. Overall, I think the community setting of YouTube is becoming more and more utilized by companies because companies have realized that the young YouTube audience is who they need to be reaching out to.

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