Another day, another YouTube media shout-out. In a SouthBendTribune.com advice column, a concerned mother asks columnist Kim Komando whether or not her daughter should be allowed to become a YouTube partner. Anticipating a positive response from Komando, I was surprised by her advice. Komando writes:
“YouTube partnership allows YouTube to run ads on your videos; you make a percentage of the profits. For most users, this won’t amount to more than a few dollars per week. And although it is free to sign up, your child would have to spend hours making and promoting videos. She should be focused on schoolwork and spending time with real friends instead. Plus, YouTube commenters can be a very unfriendly bunch. Internet harassment can have a major impact on a teenager’s emotional health, and it would be worse with YouTube popularity. If she does keep her video blog going, make sure you monitor the activity on it and how much time she spends blogging.”
While I agree with some parts of her response, Komando seems quick to dismiss a productive and potentially lucrative hobby. With this advice, she is essentially lumping the entire YouTube community into friendless, unmotivated trolls.
In the first part of her advice, Komando explains that becoming a partner would take up a good portion of this young girl’s time, saying, “She should be focused on schoolwork and spending time with real friends instead.” Komando is implying that the people you could bond with through YouTube are not “real friends.” I fail to understand how becoming friends with someone who is interested in the same things you are is in any way inauthentic. Komando speaks to this issue as if the lack of a physical friendship completely nullifies a genuine relationship.
The second portion of this advice states that, “YouTube commenters can be a very unfriendly bunch. Internet harassment can have a major impact on a teenager’s emotional health.” Yes, of course Internet trolls exist, and yes, they can be nasty. But should that be reason enough to stifle creativity? There are options to disable comments on YouTube uploads and report cases of harassment. Someone creating art for the world to see will always receive harassment in some form or another. However, that should not be seen as a reason to pack up and stop being a creator of art. Of course, trolls can be brutal, but on the other side of the coin is a YouTube community that is infinitely supportive and inspiring to young creators. If creators like Smosh and iJustine allowed trolls to scare them off, then they would never have become the entertainers we know today.
To the concerned mother, I say that perhaps Komando’s advice may be a bit too knee-jerk. The Internet can be a time-consuming and scary place, but it can also be used for so much good. A young person looking to create videos for YouTube can learn about art and the nature of creativity while possibly getting paid to do so. This is an opportunity to create something that they are passionate about with other people who are just as passionate.
Internet comments can be cruel and hurtful, but are they any different from gossip and bullying in high school? Contrary to what you may have been told, the Internet is not full of hateful loners. By just saying that a young girl will be emotionally destroyed if she tried to express herself on YouTube only perpetuates the stereotype of YouTube being a place to breed hate. If you gave the community a chance, perhaps you wouldn’t find only hate and loneliness but instead a group of compassionate and driven creators willing to support your daughter’s creativity.