Daily life gets boring. People are constantly trying to escape the mundanity of personal routine. Restlessness can build as people get tired of the same places and responsibilities.
Summer is an especially common time for students to feel locked in place. Many find themselves back at home and separated from the friends with whom they spend the school year. Although it offers a break from academic schedules, summertime can come with obligations of its own, including jobs, internships, and the daily pressure to feel productive (or at least entertained).
There are various methods to beat boredom, including the growing production and consumption of web and video logs (better known as blogs and vlogs, respectively). These hubs of human interest are defined by the documentation of peoples’ personal lives. As the publications grow in popularity, so do their creators. In essence, a new brand of celebrity has been established. Reaching a level of fame that parallels that of celebrated individuals from the film and music industry, these individuals are credited with a different talent: the art of blogging.
In May, Women’s Magazine named 18-year-old vlogger Emma Chamberlain “the most interesting girl on YouTube.” According to Business Insider, as of May 2018, YouTube boasted more than 1.8 billion logged-in users. As one of very, very many, Chamberlain has some big shoes to fill. What does she post to merit such a title? She films her daily life, recording everything from therapeutic baking sessions to errand runs with her mom.
There is a curious paradox at play with figures like Chamberlain. Running out to pick up essentials is one of the most basic—yet necessary—chores imaginable, one that many put off until they have no other choice. Why is it so entertaining to watch her peruse the aisles of Walgreens? This task may be ordinary when tackled alone, but through the lens of someone else it becomes entirely more fresh and intriguing. What Emma notices, comments on, and purchases is unique to who she is and her perception of the moment at hand.
Blogs place a heightened focus not so much on one’s setting, but on the way one responds and engages with it. In doing so, they can inspire us to find joy in the little things, the things we ordinarily overlook or even resent. Not to mention, the scenarios that bloggers document are often relatable to viewers. And when this is not the case, their content exposes viewers to situations that they may never have encountered otherwise.
From YouTube accounts to lifestyle Instagrams, these autobiographical reports of peoples’ lives, opinions, and practices has taken off. Blogs serve all sorts of purposes; they entertain, inform, and advise. Titles span a diverse array of topic areas:
‘Here’s why I went vegan, and you should too!’
‘Listen to my predictions for the 2020 election!’
‘Guess who just got engaged?!’
The career title of “influencer” has even developed as a result of this booming market. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary has added a specifier for the very word “influencer.” It states that “often, specifically” it refers to “a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.”
Growing concern over people spending so much time immersed in the lives of others is reasonable. Living vicariously through the stories of strangers may seem to bring more harm than good. Second-hand experiences are not the same as the real thing, and what good is reading a blog if it only leads the viewer to pine for more adventure or opportunity? Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
In many cases, blogs do the exact opposite of foster comparison and feelings of self-criticism. The raw, genuine nature of content builds a community of viewers, as opposed to an audience wallowing in self-pity. Today’s producers generate discussions about a variety of topics, some of which they may specialize in. What’s more, the value and relevance of that specialization is left to the audience, as they are constantly in the position to choose who and what to follow (and if/when they want to stop).
Furthermore, the diversity of figures and formats means that just about anyone can find a blogger with whom they identify. Lighthearted accounts like Chamberlain’s offer the opportunity to relax and laugh, but other, more serious accounts can have a far different effect.
Hannah Durbin, owner of Instagram @healthy_happy_hannah, posts her meals and workout itinerary, along with emotional advice. Having once overcome an eating disorder—and battling its effects on a regular basis—she offers consolation and encouragement to her followers, many of whom share a similar story.
Instagram account @morganharpernichols (named after its creator) is centered around beautifully composed pieces of advice. Nichols combines words and art, creating designs for individual followers who message her asking for guidance. The results are a form of counseling that just about any reader can resonate with.
The millennial generation has a reputation for being self-absorbed, yet this notion conflicts with the fact that young people are finding such joy in following the lives of others. A completely self-absorbed person would not derive any pleasure from reading a bride’s blushing blog about her honeymoon to Mexico or from listening to Chamberlain relay stories from the ever-exclusive and expensive Coachella festival.
This form of investment in the lives of others speaks to the human condition in a positive way. People are hardwired to care about each other and, more importantly, to learn from one another. Breaking away from one’s personal routine by diving into the routines of others is evidence of empathy. Not to mention, observing the ways other people live can serve as inspiration or even motivation.
Of course, not every routine is built the same. Twenty-two-year-old David Dobrik, a vlogger since 2016, has a net worth of 15 million dollars. As a result of sheer excess, he is privy to people and places which many are not. But this is Dobrik’s “normal,” and it is exactly what attracts people to his channel.
In the same way, Durbin’s normal means running half-marathons every couple of weeks and working long shifts at a local, up-scale fitness center, Equinox. Vlogger Cody Ko’s normal is filming good-natured critiques of videos with his friend and colleague Noel Miller. YouTubers Tara and Mandi Rosa’s normal is raising their three daughters together and navigating “the millennial life.”
Platforms like WordPress, YouTube, and Instagram allow for the dissemination of people’s stories as they go about doing what they genuinely love.
To this point, on the subject of reaching success as a vlogger, Dobrik told Forbes, “Just go do you. If people see that you’re passionate about what you’re creating, they’re going to enjoy it.”
Rather than being a detriment in today’s society, the popularity of blogs and bloggers is arguably a benefit. Laughing and crying with creators while they navigate their lives helps viewers cope with their own lives.
Susie Driscoll, MCAS ‘22, spontaneously got the chance to meet one of her favorite vloggers, Gretchen Geraghty, this past year at the Playa Bowls in Chestnut Hill. She rushed out of Bapst library for the opportunity to interact with Geraghty, whom she has supported for more than five years.
“It was… strange in the way that I know so much about her and her life but hadn’t actually met her until right then,” Driscoll remembers. “I honestly think she’s a really entertaining person who I love to keep updated with. I think the biggest reason I still watch… is that I’ve been watching for so long and feel really invested at this point.”
Today’s bloggers consistently express gratitude to those who follow them, and for good reason, seeing as many of them earn a living directly sourced from the enthusiasm of their viewers.
Blogging and vlogging is much more than an industry, though. As with more classic celebrities, the bonds that followers (fans) form with bloggers are real and strong. They offer support, stress relief, and virtual friendship. All that could be said to be missing is physical interaction, and even that can be achieved—that is, if one is as lucky as Driscoll.