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The value of vlogs

Tyler Vu/The Observer

A couple weeks ago my friend asked me what I liked to watch on YouTube. This question, for some reason, made me a bit self-conscious. I tried to think of the most impressive form of content since I’m keen on deeply understanding the ins and outs of the stock market or taking deep intellectual dives into systemic oppression. In the end, however, I decided to go with the truth: vlogs.

Yes, I watch vlogs. This answer may surprise you. It certainly surprised my friend. She admitted that she expected me to say something educational—to answer with some form of content that could benefit me in life outside of the internet. Instead, I find comfort watching a woman I’ve never met taking me along on her silly little errands, daily family interactions and outfits of the day. YouTubers such as Kianna Naomi, Tâm Mai and Deb Smikle provide entertainment to me and millions of other people on a daily basis. As far as I know, vlogs are an accepted form of leisure activity. After this conversation, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why so many people like to watch them in their free time. Are we just wasting our lives away by living vicariously through someone else, wishing we could do and be what other people are? But no, that couldn’t be it. There had to be some value that vlogs carry beyond mere entertainment. Determined to gain some sense of clarity, I pondered and eventually realized that my own fascination with vlogs stemmed from my curiosity about the human condition.

I was quiet as a kid. Many people who know me today would argue that’s still the case. Unfortunately, being quiet is often equated with being shy—an understandable misconception. It can be difficult to make new connections as someone who doesn’t always fill silence with words just for the sake of someone else’s comfort. I often found myself wondering why I should even try when so many times I’d end up being talked over. But vlogs are different because everyone is included, no matter who you are or how you act.

If someone is making an intentional effort to share their life with you, there’s virtually no possibility that they may try to shut you out for not responding in a way they deem appropriate. Regardless of the vlogger’s personality or the friends they have, you are still included. There are no uncomfortable moments when they have to figure out how much you talk or how boring you are by how little you say. In fact, they don’t have to know you at all because there’s no expectation to.

Furthermore, I enjoy the exposure to the many different human beings and personalities that exist in the world. You could argue that someone will never fully be their true self on the internet. I agree, but even offline you will never see every facet and innermost thought of another person. As humans, we share different pieces of ourselves with different people. What we say to a camera may be completely different from what we say to our family and friends. Vlogs expose us to the many different sides of the human experience through people outside of ourselves, and by doing so, can even shape our own experience.

At the risk of sounding parasocial, I think many people in my generation will agree that, at least once, a so-called “influencer” has motivated them to try to pull their own life together. Whether by eating cleanly, exercising, spending more time with family or reading more, the romanticization of life through a visual diary is a wonderful motivator. I have friends who enjoy watching live “study with me” videos while doing work because it forces them to hold themselves accountable. I also have friends who watch “a day in the life of” videos. It’s important to constantly remind ourselves that we don’t just live in a bubble in a certain corner of the world. We contain so many shared experiences and emotions, and as a result, we can learn a lot from each other.

Additionally, vlogging encapsulates a childlike fascination with the digital age. I can remember getting my first camcorder. I would take it around with me everywhere—to my birthday parties, local festivals, my grandmother’s house—telling everyone who would listen that I was keeping a video log. Growing up in a generation that can keep its life experiences tucked in its back pocket is both a blessing and a curse. Yet I can’t help but view vlogging as a return to an age when it was easy to center ourselves as important—as main characters. A video log was a keepsake because it was something I would return to in order to remind myself of where I was in my life. It was both a creative outlet in which I was the director and something very real.

Today, vlogs capture a very similar feeling. They are a space that may have creative direction, but they still manage to strike a chord of reality—a place of acceptance and human understanding. So, to my friend from earlier: No, maybe the vlogs I watch aren’t inherently educational. But I can definitely say they’ve taught me a lot regardless.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Johnson
Hannah Johnson, Copy Editor

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