By Chris Henson, Creative Director
Our daughter is deeply ensconced in what is called “The YouTube Generation,” roughly one hundred trillion young people who get the majority of their entertainment from YouTube. And not the YouTube that you and I watch on our steam-powered computers — not the falling kittens or rapping parents or “A Hobo Dropped a Paperclip and What Happened Next Will Blow Your Mind” videos. No, her generation is watching full-length content created expressly for her by other young people via YouTube. She’s also a gamer and loves to immerse herself in technology. Apparently she is not the only one. So, when she started talking about something called PewDiePie [rhymes with “Cutie Pie”] a couple of years ago, her mother and I were utterly clueless. We still are.
Evidently it’s nothing we should be worried about. According to Rob Walker, Tech Columnist at Yahoo, PewDiePie is a person. “ …Felix Kjellberg dropped out of college in Sweden because he preferred to spend time playing games, making videos of himself doing so while offering running commentary on his experience, and uploading those clips to YouTube. And like most pop phenomena that seem to have come out of nowhere overnight, Kjellberg’s PewDiePie channel built up steam over a period of years. PewDiePie has an easy mastery of the qualities that have turned YouTube into an unexpected star-making platform: while he can be raucous and crude, it always comes across as genuine.”
That’s right. The single most popular person on YouTube got there by making videos of himself playing video games. He has more than 32.5 million followers — that’s just 2 million shy of the population of Canada. And according to Forbes, he’s gone from goofing around for free to making $4 million a year, basically through ad sales.
Another popular YouTuber is a young Brit who calls himself Danisnotonfire. Though with only a paltry 4 million followers [Croatia], he’s got a subscriber for every dollar PewDiePie makes in a year. He’s a funny, quirky, smart and extremely likeable guy who talks to his viewers about everything from opinions to the horrors of having an existential crisis. Our daughter has actually used some of his brilliant videos to help us understand some of the complicated teenager feelings she’s going through now that we have absolutely no recollection of going through ourselves. Even though we did.
Then, of course, there’s John Green, bestselling author of books like “The Fault in Our Stars” and another famous YouTuber. He’s an adult, so he only has 2.3 million subscribers [Qatar], but he’s earned his fame by taking things that confuse most of us — like science and history — and explaining them simply and factually in an energetic but no-nonsense kind of way. For instance, weren’t we supposed to be terrified of Ebola?
With so many kids staring at video screens all day and night, shouldn’t we be more terrified that our young people are becoming anti-social and care less about the world around them? Aren’t they really just zombies now? “It’s just not true,” says Green in a CBS interview. “I mean, that’s what our parents said about us. That’s what their parents said about them. It’s always been untrue. It’s still untrue.
“Yes, they are learning in different ways, but they are still learning, they are still reading, they are still thoughtful, and I am inspired every day by their intellectual curiosity.”
As for our daughter, she’s plenty engaged and immersed in the real world. And she can certainly hold her own against her geezer parents. Recently, my wife and I asked her why she would spend a lot of time watching videos of people playing video games rather than just playing the games herself. “That’s easy,” she replied. “For the same reason people watch sports instead of playing them all the time. It’s entertaining.”
My wife countered, “But I still don’t understand it because I don’t like to watch sports.” What my daughter said next absolutely blew her mother’s mind.
“You do realize you’re watching the Cooking Channel right now, don’t you?”
Learn more about PewDiePie here:
Meet Danisnotonfire here:
And watch this piece on John Green here: