YouTube has been the longest standing media source of this digital age. Beginning in 2005 as a place for people to just upload videos, YouTube today has grown into a multi-media platform where you can not only watch videos, but subscribe to their cable service. That’s just one innovation that has evolved YouTube into one of the top internet sites today. But also in many ways, YouTube has changed into a place of toxicity. With almost a new scandal every day from successful YouTubers or the website itself, the question then becomes “is this a place we should continue to spend our free time?” Certain aspects have brought down its ethical value and made it not the safest space for viewing.
YouTube bread and butter: pranks, fail videos, and people performing impractical stunts. There is nothing wrong with these types of videos—to a certain extent. Yes, these videos can be funny, but they also can be harmful. In some cases, these videos make it seem like going out in public and harassing people or making scenes is ok, and that is not the case. Whether they are staged pranks or not, it’s the shock value the video creates that draws its viewers.
For example, recently YouTuber Trending Pranks posted a video of him and his alleged sister kissing. It left viewers shocked and disgusted by how graphic it got, but because of how shocking it was, it went viral within days.
The videos on YouTube get wilder and wilder by the day. It brings up the question just how far content creators are willing to go to get views and subscribers. Videos more or less graphic than this leave room for more of a similar kind to be created, which is harmful not only to viewers but the creators themselves.
The problem with clickbait is that it is more of a nuisance than a problem, but it’s a common theme seen on the site since its creation. Titles and thumbnails are often filled with colorful language and images to lure people in to clicking on it. Viewers then get reeled in by an interesting title, only to sit through ten minutes of absolutely nothing going on. By the time you click out of it, you’ve already watched enough to contribute to that ad’s revenue. It’s just the unfair game of content creators almost scamming watchers in order to make money.
- Flagging and Monetization
Within the last few years, YouTube has gone under a serious amount of fire for its flagging and monetization policies. Monetization allows its content creators with enough traffic to make revenue off the ads put on their videos, but the system has its flaws. Small instances of playing copyrighted music, even for a short time frame, or displaying sensitive content—as subjective as that term is— can get videos demonetized. But, when YouTube changed their policies over a year ago, most of the videos being flagged or demonetized were LGTBQ+ content-based videos. These were not videos promoting hate speech, so having the videos flagged caused an uproar from its users. For some, creating videos is their livelihood. With such strict and inflexible rules, it gets harder and harder for content creators to make the videos they want.
- Problematic YouTubers
This is a problem that is out of YouTube’s control, but it’s the most troubling concern. There is no restriction on who can and cannot make content. YouTube also does not have much control over what can and cannot be said. But like any industry, there are those few bad apples that ruin the rest of the bunch. There are numerous “influencers” with large followings who aren’t the best role models. You can count on multiple hands the amount of YouTubers that have used racial slurs or are just plain mean, and whether they asked to be in their position or not, there’s still a responsibility that comes with having a large following. Of course it’s a personal choice to watch a certain YouTuber or not, but as their subscriber count grows, the site provides a platform for every YouTuber’s content to reach more and more people.
YouTube is a site that has withstood the test of time. It is where trends are born and go to die. It can’t be deemed all bad. For example, YouTubers like Cody Ko, Jackie Aina, and Anna Akana, are all unproblematic and talented influencers who make the website great. YouTube definitely has its shortcomings like all other social media and streaming sites, but it’s also not hard to find quality content to watch. With that, the site isn’t always problematic, and it is possible for it to change. In order for that change to happen, YouTube has to both evolve within itself and with its viewers.