When I was a little kid, I used to love making YouTube videos. I was around nine years old when YouTube launched in 2005. Armed with a laptop, a camera, and iMovie, I was truly unstoppable. The holidays were a particularly fun time because I was able to get together with my cousin, and as tiny creators, we’d make holiday home videos: vlogs, music videos, and elaborate blockbuster trailers (with an impressive amount of continuity editing for nine-year-old brains.)
I’m pretty nostalgic for those times. As much as social media was dangerous and probably rotted our brains, growing up on the internet during that particular era was fun in a lot of ways. It was a time of unrestricted creativity and curiosity — and at least for me, making money or getting famous from silly little videos was never something that crossed my mind. I just wanted to have fun.
At some point though, everything became commodified. Of course, I got older and had to worry more about making money, for one thing. But also, the advertising ecosystem adapted to this wild world of creation and found a way to exploit it. Tech companies and brands make millions off the ads playing next to the silly little videos we create. And even though much of that revenue doesn’t get shared with us, the prospect of being one of the lucky few to strike it rich (or simply go viral and get attention) is enticing. Ask any little kid these days why they want to be a YouTuber, and most of them will mention fame and wealth as the primary motivating factors.
At the end of the day, part of our mission here at Passionfruit is bringing recognition to the “labor” side of this creator economy. Making art isn’t all fun and games, it takes time, elbow grease, and real work. Too often, people take advantage of those working in creative professions, abusing starry-eyed creative minds to mine free or cheap labor. And that kind of predatory behavior burns people out from creating at all. It crushes dreams.
Still, as the holidays roll around, I’m recognizing how I took something I loved (creating things) and commodified it. When something becomes your job, it loses its sparkle.
You’re still going to hear me prattle on about “labor” this, “pay creators” that, yadda yadda yadda. Some of the work I’m most proud of this year from Passionfruit is our coverage of strikes, protests, walkouts, and unionization. We try to hold the financial powers that be to account.
But we also try to go beyond the money side of things and recognize the weird and wonderful niches of the internet that are just… fun. Skibidi toilets, Grimace Shakes, Woppenheimers, 4-hour-long video essays, WeedTubers, furries, people acting like NPCs, unfiction and alternative reality creators — these are just a few of the things we’ve written about that tap into that whimsical nature of the internet that can so easily be stripped away from us.
My nine-year-old self’s movies are lost to the sands of time. But that’s kind of perfect because most things on the internet are ephemeral. What’s important is the moment in time they brought us joy.
This holiday season, I hope you creators make something just for you and your friends. A silly little meme, a shoddily edited video, a song. Something that has nothing to do with capitalizing on viral trends, nothing to do with SEO or algorithms. Something that no one is planning on making money off of.
Happy creating, and happy holidays!
– Grace Stanley, Newsletter and Features Editor
In Today’s Newsletter:
- Creating When the World Is on Fire: A Christmas Eulogy for a Bad Year
- The 5 Best Video Essays of 2023 (According to Me)
- Smosh’s New Leadership is Adapting to the ‘Modern YouTube Landscape’