Dearest online Influencers,
We love the endless hours of entertainment you bring us. Your DIY videos make building Ikea shelves possible without a degree in foreign language and culture. Your self-immolating antics engender as much laughter for us now as America’s Funniest Home Videos did in our youths. And your attempts to live lavish celebrity lives let us vent our own lived frustrations in ruthless gossip of the most dehumanizing degree our sleepless minds can summon on Twitter waiting for the bus at 5:40 AM.
We do not mind whether you are a selfless entertainer at heart or are just running an honest business. The one thing we do mind, however, is when you target children as an easy audience to bounce autoplay videos between. You know who you are. Not the influencers who can move us with a single overacted reaction to a Game of Thrones season finale; but the manipulators. Those who create films of animated men yelling gibberish at equally, poorly animated babies to justify using catch-all-advertisers tags for the YouTube algorithm. Those who scream, and bounce, and wear low cut tops in their DXRacer chairs for hours a day on Twitch just to trap the lonely into getting their comment heard, by way of pay to post donation schemes. And those who steal beloved, storied characters like Elsa and Spiderman to throw together in innocence-killing on-screen abominations, just to get a few horrified seconds of paid views from little girls and boys.
Most online media outlets have little to no content protections for parents and children. At best, the systems in place are reactionary, relying on user submissions of complaints to purge predatory productions after the damage is done. At worst, they excuse themselves of responsibility, hiding behind protests of creator freedoms or the need to regulate by way of tagging algorithms alone due to audience size. So, it falls on users of the platforms to police them and I, on behalf of we, want to say this: please do not go down a path we cannot follow.
YouTube created a wonderful new frontier of citizen creation outside of monetary gain or investment gates. For the first time in the history of democracy, common folk had the ability to share their perspectives, stories, and imaginations directly with each other without limits or filters. Twitch and Patreon opened the door for audience-sponsorship of entertainers and artists, which was historically the domain of the rich, powerful, and socially influential. And now we have arrived at the moment when our heroes have lived long enough to see themselves become the villains.
Should you find yourself in the influencer seat, consider why you are doing what you do. Keep your relationship with your viewers to a simple exchange the length of each video. Let your audience choose you and leave them feeling good about themselves, not you. Create what you love, and your audience will respond to that positivity and reward you in kind. Be an influencer, not a manipulator. And thanks for all the cats.