Monday, March 24, 2014

Disillusioned with Humanity (The YouTube Sex Scandal)

This is a slightly nerve-wracking blog post to write (especially since my parents read this blog), but it's important and I'm going to write it.

By the way, this post concerns sex. So if you don't want to read about that, don't read it.

Here we go.

I was disappointed to hear about the recent events that rocked the Nerdfighter community last week. I found out about them from Hank Green's video (posted below) and have since researched the topic so as to better understand what happened.

So basically what happened is that several people associated with Nerdfighteria and specifically vloggers (YouTube video bloggers) have been accused of sexually manipulating and/or abusing their fans. It started with Tom Milsom, a popular vlogger and singer, being accused on Tumblr, and since then several more victims have come forward and spoken out, implicating Milsom and another notable YouTube celebrity, Alex Day, as well as a few others. Alex Day admitted to the allegations--read about that here and here (the first link is an internet news site and the second is Hank Green's Tumblr). And here is a link to Alex Day's blog, where he has posted his responses to this (scroll past the music video and the next three posts are the most relevant.) Alex Day's and Tom Milsom's music and merchandise have been removed from the DFTBA store (DFTBA=the Vlogbrother's record label. The acronym stands for "Don't Forget To Be Awesome").

I got into YouTube and Nerdfighteria about two years ago via Charlie McDonnell (a.k.a. charlieissocoollike) (here's a link to his blog if you're interested--first post down is his response to all this) and I still enjoy YouTube. My favorites are the Vlogbrothers, of course (that's John and Hank Green if you didn't know) as well as danisnotonfire and AmazingPhil.

I used to watch the very occasional Alex Day video, back when he was Nerimon on YouTube, but I was never a huge fan. I couldn't really pinpoint why. But since I never watched any Tom Milsom videos at all, the news about Alex Day was more surprising to me. It was especially weird because he used to share a flat with Charlie McDonnell, and they were really good friends, and I really liked Charlie McDonnell's videos (and still do). So it was really scary finding something like that out about him.

And it really made me think about how you can't know someone unless you've actually talked to them in person, and I don't mean a "Hey, I love your videos it's grand to meet you" conversation, I mean a real conversation about real things.

Being a fan of stuff is great. It can be really fun, but you have to be careful--I make it a point not to let anything I like take over my life. At least not for more than, say, a week.

But YouTube isn't your typical fandom. Vloggers tend to feel much more personal to their audience than, say, Justin Beiber feels to Beilebers Belibers Beliieliebers his fans.

YouTubers aren't just singing, or writing, or acting. They're telling you stuff about their lives. They're sharing stories with you. They let their fans tour their houses through videos, tell them exciting news about pets, projects, relationships--and they do it all face-to-face, albeit through a computer screen. It's easy to get attached.

It's easy to feel like you know them.

But no matter how much you know about them, no matter how many times you've watched all their videos and how much they feel like your friends---you don't know them. You cannot know a person without having had an actual, two-way conversation lasting more than five minutes with them.

And they don't know you, either. The YouTubers you're watching--they don't know you exist. They know nothing about you. There's no guarantee that you and the YouTuber would get along in real life.

That's also why I'm being super formal and not referring to anyone by first name only. Because I'm not on a first-name-only basis with them. I don't really know them, and they don't even know I exist.

I'm going to use an analogy that any Nerdfighter worth his or her salt should recognize. If you haven't read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and are planning to read it, well, SPOILERS.

So in the book there's this other book that Hazel, the protagonist, just loves. It's called An Imperial Affliction, and Hazel feels like it describes her, like the author wrote the book just for Hazel. 

An Imperial Affliction was written by a reclusive author called Peter van Houten who lives in Amsterdam. A big part of the plot is that Hazel gets to fly to Amsterdam to actually meet Peter van Houten. She naturally assumes that the author is brilliant and amazing and that he'll be at least reasonably friendly to his most ardent fans--but when she gets there, he's not. Peter van Houten is a rude, abrasive, and rather asinine drunkard, and he absolutely crushes Hazel's hopes of learning what happens to the characters after the book ends. He insults her and is just really horrible and mean, and Hazel leaves in tears, her dreams crushed to smithereens.

That might be a weak analogy, but I hope you see my point. My point is that you can't know someone you've never met. You just can't. 

That said, I still think that YouTube can be an enormous force for the positive in the world. We just have to be careful with it, and we have to be especially careful about the relationships between creator and fan. 

Having never been in any sort of romantic relationship, and certainly not an abusive or coercive one, I'll leave the explaining about that to the positive forces on YouTube:

Here's Hank Green's video response to the allegations:

And here's Charlie McDonnell's:

This whole incident is big, and scary. But it's also something we can learn from if we handle it the right way.

Here are the articles I'm using for reference:

The Daily Dot:

The post on Hank Green's Tumblr:

Alex Day's blog:

Charlie's blog:

And a helpful overview of the whole thing, if you're still confused:

(EDIT: I'm sorry the links are invisible. Hover over the little black space where it seems like a word should be and they'll appear. I'll fix that as soon as I figure out how.)

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