Are Content Creators Really Who We Think They Are?

Since YouTube’s beginning in February of 2005, we’ve seen thousands of influencers go viral on the platform. But broadcasting your life online comes with consequences: mistakes are broadcasted too. So, what happens when these mistakes are less than forgivable? And where do we draw the line? A scandal only lasts as long as the retweets do, but what it reveals about the perpetrator’s morality can ruin a career.

After facing rejection from Vidcon, one of the largest Youtuber conventions in California, Tana Mongeau decided to host her own. As a YouTuber with over 3 million subscribers at the time, Tanacon was highly anticipated by her fan-base. It was advertised to be a completely free event, with meet-and-greets with some of YouTube’s most popular names. However, this is nowhere near what fans encountered when they arrived. Attendees waited six to seven hours to enter a venue that could hold only a quarter of the 20,000 guests who’d shown up. Not to mention what inevitably happens when you wait out in the hot, California sun for hours on end — that’s right, you burn. Some fans even left the event in an ambulance due to heat exhaustion.

Tana has since doubled her subscriber count and continues to receive support from her fans despite putting them in potentially life-threatening circumstances due to her own irresponsibility and neglect. Inevitably, public uproar eventually died down and Twitter’s keyboard warriors moved on to the next scandal.

However, it doesn’t stop at inadequately planned events — influencers have even gotten away with breaking the law. YouTuber Gregory Jackson, also known as “Onision,” was widely disliked among the YouTube community. Nevertheless, his fan-base continued to grow into millions. For years, he asked young girls to submit pictures of themselves for a “rating” in his videos, disregarding the possibility that they could be underage. This rubbed many viewers the wrong way, however, it was never taken seriously enough for a consequence more severe than public criticism.

In 2014, Jackson and his romantic partner developed a close “friendship” with one of their 14-year-old fans named Sarah. Publicly, this didn’t seem to be much of a problem — until the couple acquired legal guardianship of Sarah and moved her into their home. People began to take notice, including Chris Hansen from NBC’s To Catch a Predator, and allegations of predatory grooming were brought to the table. Despite photo and video evidence proving otherwise, the couple continues to deny having any inappropriate relationships with their young fans. Since the publication of these accusations, dozens of women have spoken up about the disturbing abuse of power he demonstrated when they were minors.

So, what about his millions of subscribers? Why would anyone support an individual who has exhibited such predatory behavior towards his own fans by allowing his content to reach thousands of views on every video? It seems people are willing to ignore any evidence that suggests the immorality of an individual simply because they idolize the version of them they see online.

The people who publicly display their lives online choose to reflect only the best versions of themselves. But sometimes, inadvertently, their worst will slip through the cracks and onto our screens as well. We all inevitably make mistakes and — although forgiveness is sometimes warranted — the lines between right and wrong should never be compromised because of it. It’s important that we remember to look past the glamour of internet stardom and recognize that the idols whose channels we adore aren’t always the seemingly-perfect, charismatic individuals they appear to be on camera.