Someone just tagged me onto a video produced by BBC: “Inside the weird world of YouTuber burn out”. I watched it because my 14-year-old goddaughter told me at Christmas that she has not watched any TV for a few years (might be a few months, at her age the difference is not clear) because she and her friends prefer to watch what people do on YouTube. Her argument is that these are real people and what they talk about is their life experiences and it is relevant to everybody else’s life experiences, contrary to TV which is all about fantasy stories. Also, it is funny.
I watched the video with great interest because I thought it would give me a better understanding of where she is coming from. Unsurprisingly, the aim of the video was exactly what it says on the title: it shows a number of young YouTubers, some as young as 11, coming to terms with the fact that what they do is really not good for them or for others. It is not good for others because, to put it simply, it gives them the impression that the people they watch somehow live an enchanted life where they are always happy and looking great. It is not good for them because they come to the point where they find the pressure to be these perfect versions of themselves exhausting, they realise that the people who “like” them are not real friends but just people who feed on their energy and to make it worse, the ones who decide to come clean and post about how they really feel about the whole thing and admit that actually they suffer from anxiety and depression because of the pressure they are under, immediately lose millions of viewers and “likes”. I guess they are no longer funny.
So, it looks like this new way of thinking does not produce the quality of life that we are all looking for. The momentary online fame does not make one happy or feel better about oneself and what is more, watching it is not like watching reality any more than watching a movie about princesses and monsters, at least not until the truth comes out and then the story is no longer enchanted.
What I ask myself though is why we have a whole generation of young people who clearly need this constant validation from without? And, more importantly, how can we make this better?
It is not the place here to analyse the reasons for this problem, and sadly there is no universal solution to it, but I do take some comfort from the fact that what I do for a living, which is to run a company that delivers life skills courses to children which help them grow up into more resilient, more sociable, more creative teenagers, is a job worth doing and the more children we reach, the happier I will be.