In response to the question of how she predicts social media will change in the future, Youtuber Siu Mei answered “frankly, Youtube is a freak”. Being a platform where she can freely share her experiences mostly in beauty and lifestyle, Youtube has surely witnessed and undergone the influence social media has had on society.
Siu Mei started her Youtube channel back in 2013, during her freshman year in university. Unlike her floormates who brought suitcases filled with necessities and clothes, Siu Mei pulled to her dorm a beauty product filled suitcase. As we all do in uni dorms, floormates ‘jam’ (use one another’s things, usually with consent) her skincare and makeup products, as they often ask her for advice and recommendations. Later, her floormates suggested her to start a Youtube channel, so that she wouldn’t have to answer similar questions repeatedly.
Filmed with her friend’s camera because she did not own one, Siu Mei’s first Youtube video went up on the internet. Thanks to her floormates’ help with sharing the video on Facebook, one of her first few videos made it to the ‘Trending’ list of Youtube. From there, her subscriber number increased very quickly, and has now reached 27,160.
Just a few decades back, media in general was treated as a 2-dimensional channel, where advertisements, either print or television, was limited to uni-directional communication. Information and ideas used to be conveyed to audiences through the influence of celebrities, which is why businesses tend to use celebrity endorsements. However, the rise of social media overthrew the celebrity effect, as non-celeb Youtubers are capable of creating the same effect as influencers. Since their content are not manipulated to suit commercial purposes, Youtubers are more appealing to their audience.
While Youtuber recognition has been improving, people are now more acceptive of the diverse types of Youtubers. People are starting to understand that even though Youtubers are not television celebrities, they can still get signed with talent agencies, and that Youtube, too, is operated systematically, and sometimes even commercially. But an irony rises with the commercial part of Youtube – when a Youtuber’s popularity increases, his/her audiences tend to demand for better quality of video while disagreeing with him/her getting product placements or sponsors, but without these product placements or sponsors, where should the Youtuber get his/her resources? Like many other Youtubers, Siu Mei finds it hard to balance between being genuine and creating a career path.
Although there are tons of ‘Instagram celebs’ and notable Facebook pages, for people who enjoys talking and sharing ideas like Siu Mei, Youtube has got to be the best option. According to ‘2015 Social Media Trend and Opportunities’ report done by SMK, 30 hours of video being uploaded onto Youtube every minute, which technically means that a massive amount of information is being spread non-stop.
She reckons that people initially watched her videos for the content, but afterwards it was her character that has propelled them into subscribing. “They (subscribers) are very interested in my daily life,” Siu Mei notes, “and sometimes I feel very close to them. It’s not like I am a star and they are nobody. Actually, that is the most interesting part of being a Youtuber – we are all of the same class – and I am content with that”. Siu Mei initially presumed her subscribers to be all girls at a similar age as her, but the Youtube viewer statistics told her otherwise. In fact, most of her viewers are office workers, while the gender ratio of males to females is, to her surprise, 4:6. After all, there are abundant Youtubers out there, but those who stayed stayed for the genuineness Siu Mei showcases on her channel.
When asked about the influence social media has brought to society in recent years (to which I was expecting a ‘social media has hindered quality human connection’ kind of answer), Siu Mei gave her commendation to social media for inducing positive changes. Having a smartphone enables us to record everything at any given moment, and by sharing them on social media, more people are exposed to these little things in our lives that matter to us. Comparing to the days without social media, as she recalls “what is so pretty about the sky? nobody cares,” we are now definitely more open to appreciation of minutiae.
Another phenomenon Siu Mei believes to be the positive influence of social media is that we have become more courageous to speak our minds. Now that social media has boosted the accessibility of connection, getting in touch with people who have the same thoughts is becoming almost effortless. Things that we do not dare to tell people about, have become contents that we want to share on social media, hoping that they can resonate with our audiences.
As of the future, Siu Mei expresses her concern regarding the development of Youtube. Supposing that 30 hours of video continue to bombard Youtube every minute, information would be spread too rapidly that their credibility would be unfeasible to verify.
“Youtube originally serves a good purpose, and is a platform for us to exchange ideas and influence one another,” Siu Mei said, “but if it gets blown up by product placement and commercial activity, then it will become another television platform, and from there the uniqueness of Youtube will be long gone”. As abstract as it seems, that is the freakiness of Youtube.
Follow Siu Mei on www.youtube.com/user/siumeibeautychannel.
Check out our short catch up with Gladys Lo-Reynolds as she talks about her instagram and read about Social Media and it’s growing popularity in today’s society.