Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dawn of the YouTube Family

In the eight years since it's inception, YouTube has become many things to many people. For some, it's a social network, for others it's a replacement for television.  It's a tool for social change, and a wide-open forum for self expression.  It's a repository of all kinds of talent, and a source of pop culture thats so prevalent that it's hard to remember a time when such a platform didn't exist.

As YouTube continues to evolve it's place in contemporary culture, it's also becoming a source of family bonding.  Recently, as part of my "Vlogger Interview" web series, I've interviewed two families  that are living what might be called a YouTube lifestyle.

The Flores Family, of Ontario, Canada, consists of single mom Tammy Flores and her sons, Craig and Calvin.  All three maintain YouTube channels.  Mom vlogs about her family's daily lives, travels and adventures, while the boys thirteen and fifteen years old, simply create for the sake of creating.  Craig, the thirteen year-old, is often asked by his friends when his next video will be posted, though they're really, in his words, "randomness."  The boys aren't creating for subscribers (at least not yet), but for themselves.  For the Flores family, creating on YouTube also comes with an added benefit - it's provided a gateway into and connection with the YouTube community.  Through YouTube, Craig and Calvin enjoy friends and mentors across Canada and the United States.  It's something the boys appreciate, and Tammy recognizes as something that helps and enriches their lives, even as they offer videos to enrich others.

My discussion with the Flores family came just weeks after a discussion with another YouTube-centric family.  While dad and their daughter don't have their own channels, mom and her three sons are actively involved on YouTube.  "Fur" is even a YouTube partner, creating collaborative videos not only with his family, but with many other members of the Florida YouTube community  (Check out their interview here).

The wider and growing familiarity with YouTube and what it offers is beginning to encourage parents not only to allow their kids to create online, but to jump in themselves and become part of the YouTube experience.

What will it mean in the long term?  "The Family YouTube" is still a new phenomena, with very few engaged to the extent of these two families.

The opportunity to create together can be powerful, but might prove challenging as well.  Creative expression and egocentric behavior sometimes go hand-in-hand, and not every family may be equipped to juggle those traits fairly.  Still, as parents become more aware and sometimes involved with YouTube, there's likely to be a wider acceptance of the potential benefits.

The chance for kids to grow up with enhanced verbal and media skills in an increasingly media-centric world might offer a strong competitive edge.  YouTube also offers the creative boy or girl a chance to find other similar creative minds world-wide.  Millions of young content creators have already discovered this; future generations may not have to work as hard to prove it to their parents.

On the other hand, will some families become overly sensitive to reflecting and catering to pop culture trends?  Will entire families, like some individual YouTubers, lose sight of the creative and social benefits and become obsessed with monetizing their content?  Will micro-celebrity culture distort the family structure?

Finally, what will it mean to "Grow Up YouTube?"  What's your view of the world, if you've always been shared - and eventually shared yourself?  Do you live only to please your lifelong subscribers? Do you compromise part of your identity to serve your followers and subscribers?  There have been movies that touch on this theme (The Truman Show) - but soon we'll be experiencing the reality.

For now, one thing seems certain after chatting with these two families:  Creating online content together may not be for everyone, but for a family with creative and artistic talents, it may prove to be a real gift.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your cautions. There are some egocentric people on Youtube and when it becomes more about money than having fun I think we will stop. I don't want to know the stats of who watches what and what your target audience is, ect... That makes Youtube work and I have enough work. It's good to be aware of those things, but I don't see me getting involved at that level. Those kinds of issues takes the joy out of it.

    We loved the Truman Show. Actually Jim Carrey is one of Craig's favorite actors. I think they would make a very funny dual in a movie. In the Truman Show I felt he was exploited and didn't buy into the experience. With this "Youtube family" as you coined it, it has been a bonding experience because we have something in common that we like to do together.

    By allowing my kids to explore whatever talents they may have could lead them to a rewarding career. It will be interesting to see what they actually end up doing as adults.