It happened like this: Benny and Rafi Fine stepped out of the Anaheim Convention Center and were met by a single tentative fan. They posed for pictures, signed shirts, then they made it about 10 feet before another fan approached, then another, then another, then another. An hour later, and Benny and Rafi are presiding over a 50-deep line of sweating, swaying fans. I have no idea where Benny and Rafi were headed, but I can guarantee they didn’t make it in time.
The whole thing depressed the hell out of me. Coming straight to VidCon in the wake of San Diego Comic Con, the two events mirrored each other far too closely. Last week I wrote that VidCon was important because, like SDCC, it shines a spotlight on the hardcore YouTube community, and that’s great because it is a relatively small and growing community. But VidCon, alive with the anxious buzz of 10,000 fans, lifted the veil on the lie we’ve all been telling ourselves these past few golden years.
You already know the truth if you’ve ever read the advice column of Cosmo. It’s the reason he didn’t call you back or why she thinks we need a break — the harder we love something, the further it drifts from us. What was displayed at VidCon 2013 was the most ferocious kind of love. It was a type of fandom that starts civil, but could quickly become a frenzy if not checked.
No one is to blame here; the future of YouTube fandom won’t unravel because of one event. The reality is that once we elevate these creators to superstars they become entirely inaccessible. Like the celebrities I saw people nearly breaking out into riots over at SDCC, the sheer strength of our fandom will inevitably force them behind guarded booths and onto 10-foot stages.
And that’s what is so tragic, isn’t it? You and I love creators because they are us. I like Shaycarl because he seems like a great guy who I could hang out with without feeling self conscious or unimportant. But that image fades as we’re asked to participate in ticketed signings or when bodyguards (which I’m told no less than two creators showed up with) are brought into the equation. Again, it’s not the creators’ fault — if I were facing down a mob of 500 screaming fans, you better believe I’d want a little protection.
YouTube is not slowing down, and neither are its creators. Felicia Day and Tyler Oakley won’t get any less popular. The YouTube community is growing and so is our adoration of these creators. We want them to be successful, but with that success, of course, comes greater distance. It’s a sad truth, but it’s the cost that comes from elevating this medium we all love so much.
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