From Zoella to PewDiePie, YouTube isn't what it used to be.
Once, the online community was about ordinary people coming together and connecting over shared interests. With the birth of the 'YouTube Star', those ordinary people could start making money just by talking about and doing their favourite things. But at what cost?
In the past few years, scandalous stories about YouTubers have hit headlines almost as often as 'real' celebrities. It seems that the more money they're making, the more at risk they are of doing or saying idiotic things without thinking of the consequences.
The most recent example is Joel and Lia, who were forced to issue an apology this week over a video highlighting 'dangerous' areas of London; areas which turned out to have a high percentage of non-white residents and low-income families.
They were accused of blatant racism, but in a world where Felix Kjellberg (aka PewDiePie) can still have 64 million subscribers despite numerous instances of alleged anti-semitism and racial slurs, can we really be surprised? The worse thing is, when it comes to PewDiePie, Disney might have severed ties with him but he still likely has a bright future ahead of him.
When YouTube stars aren't being racist, they're being massively ignorant. Zoe Sugg's boyfriend Alfie Deyes (PointlessBlog) recently came under fire for a video entitled 'Living on £1 for the day' (later entitled 'Spending £1 in 24 hours') which sees him wandering around his sprawling Brighton mansion while complaining about having to drink tap water rather than his specially filtered water, and training in his private gym with his personal trainer but not being able to have a black coffee first. It's as if he was completely unaware of the reality that people were actually living below the poverty line, with no choice but to live of £1 a day.
Still, that kind of attitude doesn't seem like a big deal when you consider what other YouTubers get up to. Rather than being focused on connecting with fans and like-minded people, some of them are solely interested in getting as many views as possible and they'll do literally ANYTHING to achieve that goal.
Logan Paul uploaded a vlog on New Year's Eve in which he featured the corpse of a man hanging from a tree in Japan's Suicide Forest. The attitude of his and his friends was upsetting to say the least. The fact that they continued to film the footage of the dead person with no permission from their family, while exhibiting behaviour that showed more fascination and excitement than concern or horror, caused a lot of anger across the online community.
Meanwhile, Mike Martin and Heather Martin (DaddyOFive/MommyOFive/FamilyOFive) lost custody of two of their children when their disturbing YouTube 'pranks' drew accusations of child neglect and abuse, and Sam Pepper incited controversy by donning a mask, kidnapping his friend Sam Golbach and pretending to shoot their other friend Colby Brock in front of him as a prank.
People have literally set themselves on fire, snorted condoms and necked huge amounts of alcohol all in the name of going viral. At the beginning of the year, people started filming themselves attempting to eat Tide Pods - including popular YouTuber Glozell Green - with the American Association of Poison Control Centers receiving more calls in the first two weeks of the year than in the entirety of 2016.
But it gets worse. Monalisa Perez pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter earlier this year after accidentally killing her boyfriend Pedro Ruiz III by shooting him. They were attempting a variety of dangerous stunts, one of which went badly wrong when Monalisa shot at Pedro as he held a book in front of him to stop the bullet.
That's about as bad is it can get for YouTube. These kind of things are happening everyday online and there's almost no regulating this kind of content. Children aspire to become YouTube stars, and while there's no harm in them mimicking their favourite make-up tutorials, doing their own voiceover while playing video games or recreating comedy moments from viral videos, they are in genuine danger of forming misinformed opinions or being led to do life-threatening stunts of their own.
But many of these big YouTubers not only don't seem to care about the image they're portraying, they'll also happily rinse their millions of subscribers when AdSense isn't enough to fund their lifestyles.
Zoe Sugg (Zoella) launched an advent calendar last year for an extortionate £50 - when all it contained was items such as confetti, stickers and cookie cutters. Then there was her debut novel 'Girl Online' in 2014, which she seemed to make out she was writing herself on her channel, but she actually hadn't written it at all. It was written by a ghostwriter.
In 2016, TmarTn and ProSyndicate started vlogging about winning a whole bunch of prizes on a gambling site for CS:GO Lotto, which allowed users 13 and above (many of whom were that young given that these were gaming YouTubers) to use. What they failed to mention, or even make any indication of, was that they were actually the owners of the website.
It's official: Where YouTube was once a place to find relatable role models and share funny cat videos, now it's become an almost unreachable world with the stars turning it into just another reality circus. Not worth your time. And definitely not worth your money.