By Caitlin R. ’20
Emma Chamberlain. It is crazy to think that just a year ago, Emma was a regular Bay Area girl attending one of our local schools. Now, she boasts over 5 million Instagram followers, 5.6 million YouTube subscribers, and countless fans who would do anything to be like her. Her rise in popularity was shocking to the Youtube community, and for a period of time she was so talked about at school that she would come up in conversation almost every day. Even my thirteen-year-old brother, who does not watch any of these types of videos, knows who she is. I know my parents still have a hard time understanding the huge influence of YouTube and how it can develop actual careers, but Emma’s story is a perfect model of just how influential the Internet is right now.
Many other familiar names that go along with Emma’s are Ellie Thumann, Hannah Meloche, Olivia Jade, Summer McKeen, and so on. These girls and countless others could be categorized as very similar. They all document their daily lives: usually makeup routines, vlogs, outfit videos, and more. Watching these videos may sound boring to some, but I and many others can vouch for the addictive quality of sitting down and binging these videos during a time of deep procrastination. People like me are the reasons that many of these girls have over one million subscribers.
Even though these girls do many positive things, such as inspire young girls and provide entertainment, there are many harmful effects from them as well. One primary problem I know most girls, and many people in general, struggle with is body image. This group of YouTubers seems to represent the “ideal” body: they are all extremely skinny, white, tall, and have perfect faces. To constantly see these perfect girls living their perfect lives is not healthy. I know I find I compare myself to them whether it be when I’m watching a video, or seeing their Instagram photos on my feed. Why am I not that skinny? Why are they so pretty? How do they have the best clothes? Considering I am 17 years old and know in my heart that comparing myself to others does no good, it worries me to think of the millions of younger girls who don’t know any better and think this is normal. This can develop into an unhealthy mindset of not only admiring these girls but wanting to be them, which can lead to potentially dangerous eating habits and other types of risky behaviors. Girls could start to think, “How do I make myself look like this and live this life?”
In addition to the harm of comparing body images and physical looks, comparing one’s life to theirs is also harmful. Realistically, the lives of these girls is extremely rare and difficult to obtain. They are some of the lucky few of millions whose YouTube channels grew to success. Of the specific group I am writing about, many have dropped out of high school to take online courses, or have graduated and did not go to college. (Both completely respectable choices; I do not mean to degrade them.) As portrayed online, these girls seem to spend their days traveling to exotic locations, having photoshoots, meeting famous people, and receiving free makeup and clothes from brands. Who wouldn’t want this life? The danger here is that young girls could try to aspire to be like them by dropping out of school to live this life, when really it is very unrealistic for the average person. Girls need to know the difference between admiring their role models and trying to be them in every way, because this is what could ultimately lead to the most damage in the long-run.
Overall, I think YouTube is great for the occasional (or sometimes obsessive) entertainment, but there should be a clear line between YouTube and the real world. Because let’s face it, the life publicized by this specific group of girls is not the real world.