YouTube, like many social media platforms, has a lot of content, ranging from offensive to useless to educational to heartwarming to dangerous. I think we are the generation who grew up on YouTube; we grew up with content creators, we incorporated watching other peoples’ lives into our own lives through vlogging and lifestyle videos. There is certainly a negative side to this: you need to look no farther than the Paul brothers to identify the issues with cult followings of influencers and bad examples being amplified. However, YouTube is the opposite of traditional media and formal education in that you get to choose what you’re exposed to. In most media, you can’t pick the actors on your screen; in education, you can’t ask for what you want to know to be in the textbook. YouTube presents an interesting opportunity to democratize media and knowledge exposure, and I find a lot of value in the lessons I’ve learned there that I never heard from a teacher.
- Your value exists independently of your ability
Jessica Kellgren-Fozard makes content about her experience as a lesbian and person with disabilities. She discusses and shows her coping with and embracing her migraines, chronic pain and fatigue, deafness and Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, and talks about her journey of finding self-worth inside and outside of productivity. No matter what someone’s level of physical or mental ability, no matter their limits or skills or circumstances, human value is not in what they can contribute - it’s inherent.
- You don’t need to be embarrassed to talk about sex and sexual health openly
Hannah Witton is a sex educator who makes videos and podcasts about sex, sexual health, bodies, and gender. She promotes education and destigmatization surrounding kinks, sexuality, sex toys, masturbation, polyamory, and more, and her content has a really important message about open conversation, the kind conventional sex ed does not invite. You deserve to feel happy, safe, and fulfilled in your sex life, and there’s a lot more to that than just pregnancy and STI protection.
- Expect more from your doctor
Mama Doctor Jones is an obstetrics and gynecology doctor (pregnancy and health for people with vaginas) who makes a wide range of really interesting and educational content. One implicit message in her breakdowns of inaccurate TV scenes and reaction videos is to expect more from your doctor. Expect them to be continually educating themselves, to be honest about what they don’t know, to be trans-inclusive and anti-racist. Expect your doctor to talk to you about risks, benefits, and alternatives: don’t settle for care that doesn’t make you feel respected and heard.
- Compulsory heterosexuality is a real, oppressive phenomenon that needs challenging
Alayna Joy is a LGBTQ+ content creator who recently realized she was gay and not bisexual. Through her openness about her self-discovery process, I learned a lot about compulsory heterosexuality. This is the thousands of small and large ways that heteronormativity is enforced. You don’t need to mold yourself into the societal expectations for what a person of your gender or sexuality looks like. We should not settle for a culture of shaming and erasing people who deviate from the “standard” relationship model: straight, cisgender, monogamous, allosexual, with the end goal of engagement, marriage and children. There is no normal.
- Question the design of things
Kel Lauren is a freelance graphic designer who makes hypothetical redesign videos on the side: reworking merch, logos, and product design for existing companies. For a person who does not work in that field, their videos are an invitation to think more deeply about the design of the world around us and how it affects people, from the ultra-femininity of tampon boxes to the feelings evoked by soda can labels.
- It is impossible not to improve
Emily Artful is an artist who’s best known for her Sketchbook Storytimes, in which she narrates a story from her life over a timelapse of a painting. She focuses on stories with lessons: don’t have important conversations while angry, compatibility is just as important as love, and don’t talk about people behind their backs are just a few. One idea she is always pushing is being kind to yourself as a creative, which I think we don’t hear enough. Be kind to yourself, take the breaks you need, make mistakes, try for things you don’t think you can do, because at the end of the day, we are all constantly learning and improving, and you can’t move backwards.
- It is worth the work to try to love your body.
Sierra Schultzzie is a fashion and lifestyle creator who talks about a wide range of things she likes and makes reviews on clothing lines and stores. While a part of that content seems surface level, she has taught me something that nobody ever bothered to say in any classroom: you are deserving of love, respect, and inclusivity, no matter what your body looks like or how much you weigh. She’s a big advocate of body positivity and making loving yourself a priority rather than waiting to look a certain way or hit a certain milestone to be happy. Taking the care to change your language, to challenge your negative thoughts, to refuse to participate in fat shaming and body shaming, are all worth the time and effort. You don’t need to be skinny to be worth loving, and you don’t have to change your body to fit your clothes. You can just change the clothes.