THE MOST FAVORITE PEOPLE YOU HAVE HEARD OF
In 2017, YouTuber Logan Paul wreaked havoc when he attended the popular YouTube convention VidCon despite being banned from the event. Paul hid over $3,000 around the venue for fans to find and when he was spotted by fans, it caused a stampede.
The idea of someone’s appearance causing a hoard of screaming pre-teen fans is an idea usually attributed to movie or music stars. But if you’re unfamiliar with YouTube—or are over the age of thirty—there’s a good chance you have no idea who Logan Paul even is.
In short, Logan Paul is a popular YouTube vlogger who currently has 22.2 million subscribers on the platform. He is recognized by fans in the occasional video but a situation of that caliber is something that could have only happened at VidCon. As a controversial character, he is huge in the YouTube space; it is impossible to be an active member of the YouTube community without knowing about Logan Paul (or his even more controversial brother Jake, for that matter). But outside of YouTube, knowing about either of the Paul brothers is a coin toss.
YouTube isn’t the only platform where this occurs. On the app TikTok, user Charlie D’Amelio is the most followed person on the platform with over 75 million followers. But his name probably doesn’t ring any bells for someone who isn’t on TikTok—or, even more narrowly, someone who isn’t particularly involved in the kind of dance-based TikToks that D’Amelio creates.
Influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, and more
Influencer culture has been on the rise for years, particularly when celebrities and everyday people alike realized the monetary potential of social media. Kylie Jenner is often credited as an early pioneer of influencer culture, but Kylie also doubles as a real celebrity. As a member of the Kardashian family, she suffers the traditional consequences of fame. But in the same way, Kylie Jenner couldn’t walk into a grocery store unaccosted at the height of her popularity, it’s impossible to imagine the same thing happening to someone like Charlie D’Amelio.
It offers, in a way, a better alternative to the idea of fame. Both Charlie D’Amelio and Logan Paul have absurd amounts of money. When he isn’t filming dead bodies, Logan Paul is spending time in his $6.6 million dollar home. Except for the YouTubers who gained their fame through daily or weekly Vlogging, their fame allows them the privacy of normal people, because fewer people care intimately about their personal lives.
But 2020 internet celebrities are a rabbit hole, because it seems like you can find a new influencer with a gigantic audience that you’ve never heard of before, and it seems every one of them comes with their own plethora of scandals.
An underlying dark side
Take, for example, Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway, whom I myself only found out existed about a month ago. Calloway was a pioneering influencer who was using the platform as far back as 2012. By 2017 she had more than 800,000 followers. ABC News even called her the “envy of social media” back in 2015.
But, just like household name celebrities, for whatever reason, no influencer can gain popularity without skeletons in their closet. Calloway is no exception—a major scandal involving her was the essay written by a woman named Natalie Beach, entitled I Was Caroline Calloway, which alleges that Beach ghostwrote Instagram captions for Calloway. She was even meant to ghostwrite Calloway’s unpublished book meant to be about her life as a twentysomething going to Cambridge University. Beach also alleges that Calloway was a terrible and dismissive friend who took advantage of Beach’s insecurity and kindness.
Calloway has fallen from grace since the publication of that essay (as well as because of a few other scandals involving workshops). But she has been swiftly replaced. Grab a handful of influencers from across all platforms and you’ll see flawed people with dedicated followings. There’s YouTube’s make-up king Jeffree Star, who has 17.4 million followers—he’s faced severe allegations of racism. TikTok’s newly born Hype House, which has 18.3 million followers, has faced allegations of sexism.
But this isn’t too different from normal celebrities—it’s hard to ‘stan’ anyone these days, given that a cancellation is probably always around the corner and their lack of widespread appeal also works as a kind of shield in a way. If you’re someone unfamiliar with YouTube shopping at Ulta Beauty and you see a Jeffree Star palette that you like, to you, Jeffree Star is just a name. You’re less likely to know about the allegations of racism, and thus are more likely to support him.
If cultural awareness shifts to the online world and internet personalities and influencers become household names, perhaps this issue will go away. The idea of a ‘YouTube Star’ is still new and is definitely growing and changing. Hopefully, in the coming years, the position in itself evolves to find less harmful people to shine in its limelight.