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    Is it ‘Far Too Convenient' to Blame Influencers & YouTubers for Society's Ills?

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    Brenton Tarrant, who killed 50 people in massacres at two mosques in New Zealand earlier this month, shouted "Subscribe to Pewdiepie" before the attacks. Pewdiepie said he was "sickened" by the attack but Sputnik looks at just how much power influencers and YouTubers have in 2019.

    In the last five years the power of social media influencers and YouTubers like Pewdiepie, Logan Paul, Jacksepticeye, Huda Kattan and Cameron Dallas have gone through the roof.

    What they talk or post about can vary from cosmetics, fashion, haircare and cooking to video gaming, sport and cars, while some dip into the world of politics and religion to give their opinions.

    Last week a huge brawl in Germany was reportedly triggered by a dispute between rival YouTubers. Hundreds of fans of Bahar Al Amood, a Berlin YouTuber with 14,000 subscribers, clashed with supporters of ThatsBekir a Stuttgart YouTuber who has 263,000 subscribers. 

    Rosalind Shimmen, founder of The Influencer's Diary, said young people were attracted to "a more personal and interactive experience" which digital media creators provide and is very different from mainstream media.

     

     

    "Mainstream media platforms like film and television can tell unique stories and make connections with their audiences, but the ability to go on Instagram and go ‘live' to talk directly with thousands of viewers in a matter of seconds sets social media apart," Ms Shimmen told Sputnik.

    "The younger generations are growing up in a world in which they can't remember a time when the iPhone didn't exist. Social media and the internet is imbedded in their version of history. To see people online who share in their same interests, whether it be make-up or gaming, makes them want to follow them in the same way as if we befriend someone because they have similar hobbies as us. The readiness and high availability of content is what keeps this relationship between YouTuber/influencer and viewer going," Ms Shimmen told Sputnik.

    ​When Brenton Tarrant shouted "Subscribe to Pewdiepie" before carrying out the New Zealand mosque massacres, it sent a chill through many people who worried about the damage when the opinions of ill-informed influencers and YouTubers meets the impressionable minds of troubled souls.

    Lucas Arnold, a journalist and regular YouTube viewer who lives in Canada, said he felt it was unfair to blame Pewdiepie — a Swedish YouTuber whose real name is Felix Kjellberg — for Brenton Tarrant's violence.

    "Very dangerous people like that are not sane in the mind in my opinion and their actions should never be related to an innocent member of society," Mr Arnold told Sputnik. 

    Kerry Torpey, from The Influencer's Diary, said the "subscribe to Pewdiepie" trend began as a collective effort among those in the YouTube community to keep Pewdiepie as the most subscribed channel on YouTube as it came under threat by the Indian channel T-Series.

    "Pewdiepie has 91 million subscribers at the moment — more people are subscribed to him than live in the United Kingdom. His reach is unprecedented and, unfortunately, dangerous people like the New Zealand attacker are not monitored as closely as they should be in terms of their internet activity," Ms Torpey told Sputnik.

    "I could never even try to understand, nor do I want to, the attacker's mind — what he did was purely inhumane. In this case, because Pewdiepie's audience is so large, he has a responsibility to create and put out content condemning these sorts of actions and people. His impact is substantial, and not using it to promote peace and tolerance could create further destruction on the parts of those who are watching and desire to inflict harm on others," Ms Torpey told Sputnik.

    ​Mr Arnold said he thought it was "far too convenient" to blame influencers and YouTubers for society's ills.

    "Yes, young people are impressionable, but before it was footballers who were failing their position as role models, and now the argument is watching people play games and make make-up tutorials is ruining minds. Young people are always going to be influenced but to suggest ‘too much power' would make it sound intentional," Mr Arnold told Sputnik.

    "Sometimes you will come across YouTubers/influencers who get into some trouble with the law or cause an international outrage over posting insensitive content. It is people like this that take away from the hard-work of content creators who genuinely want to connect with others and build a following," Ms. Shimmen told Sputnik.

     

    View this post on Instagram

    lol

    A post shared by Cameron Dallas (@camerondallas) on Mar 17, 2019 at 4:05pm PDT

     

    "Because of the sheer scale of the internet, it is nearly impossible to completely block the troublesome creators from the eyes of young people. I would say you can spot people who are trying to take advantage of young minds for their own benefit and it is the responsibility of the platforms to help sort the good from the bad. On the other hand, it is primarily important for content creators to use their platforms to create spaces for young people that are safe and harmless," Ms Shimmen told Sputnik. 

    Mr Arnold said he believe YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat should do more to monitor the content put out by YouTubers and influencers.

    "With the amount of profit they make they should be making much more attempts and I think it's laughable how they are not more accountable for the bad that social media can cause," Mr Arnold told Sputnik.

    He said he thought some of the older generation simply did not understand the appeal of influencers or YouTubers and that fear generated dislike, or even hatred.

    "I definitely think there's an element of that. Fear of the new and what people don't understand. I do think there should be more attention given to it as well though, there's a difficult balance that needs to be found," Mr Arnold told Sputnik.

    "My favourite Youtubers are gaming-based vloggers, because that's where my interest lies. My favourite Youtuber would be Nadeshot. A former Call of Duty professional player, he now just vlogs and I've watched him for over eight years or so — so in a weird way it feels like watching a friend," Mr Arnold told Sputnik.

    Ms Torpey said YouTubers and influencers needed to be aware of how closely what they say and do is followed and with that comes a responsibility.

    "I would argue that younger generations want to see content that is genuine and true from creators. Use Yovana Mendoza as an example. She was a vegan YouTuber/influencer who used her three million plus following to promote a vegan lifestyle, then she was recorded eating fish. Although it's fine that she decided to change her lifestyle, the lack of transparency between her and her following created a sense of panic amongst audiences who believed in what she promoted. I think these sorts of stories create a ‘moral panic' that did not necessarily even exist prior to the rise of social media," Ms Torpey told Sputnik. 

    "Those in the older generations who consistently look to mainstream media hear these stories and assume all of social media is like this — they want to stick to what they know, which is what causes the panic as social media begins to  dominate. But there is still panic for younger generations if they trust in the validity of these voices they hear everyday and are disappointed to find out it was not what they thought it was," Ms Torpey told Sputnik.

    Mr Arnold said he thought influencers had become so successful because they perfectly mirror the way society is progressing.

    "As well as suiting the way technology is changing, with our constant access to social media, they also are also a loud voice in a society which has become very opinionated and craves controversy — which a lot of influencers provoke," Mr Arnold told Sputnik.

     

     

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