Something I’ve noticed, in the act of spending countless hours recording, editing, producing, uploading, and marketing my YouTube videos: on social media, likes/reacts are a social commodity, not a transaction of actual appreciation.
To put it another way, the motivation to react to something on social media has much more to do with your own validation – how you are perceived, the opportunity for reciprocal reacts, the off-chance of your own commentary getting a signal boost – than it does with agreeing with, appreciating, enjoying, or validating the thoughts of another. This may be a conscious choice, or it may not, but the end result is the same: it is a game, a kind of low-level social politics in which we all take part to some degree. And I challenge you to stop. Even writing this, I know I probably won’t.
To get back to my original premise, each five or six minute video I post on YouTube accounts for probably four hours of my time: at least an hour of in-game footage, around two to two-and-half hours of editing, plus audio syncing, sound effects, music sourcing and syncing, preparing and inserting art assets, title cards, overlays, next episode teasers, and other assorted tasks, which add up to another hour. I won’t count video rendering or uploading, because I can go do other stuff during that time, but I do count the half an hour I spend prepping the video for launch (writing the synopsis, scheduling it on various social media platforms, tagging, and so on). So yeah, four hours of hard (but FUN) work for about six minutes of entertainment.
And it gets ONE like on Facebook and NONE on YouTube.
And yet, I can spend ten seconds making a cheap, easy joke or a stupid pun, riffing off somebody else’s comment, and it’ll get fifteen likes in under a half a day. Why? Because it engaged the other person. It validated them. And by being something they enjoyed, it validated me. And wanting to join in on the fun, a bunch of other people reacted as well. We are all validated. We’re part of a group. We are all in on the joke. Yeah, we’re throwing insults or making obscure references, but we’re kind of like a little family taking part in a group activity in which everyone is potentially an equal.
And yet… there is a point at which an entertainment outlet reaches critical mass, and suddenly, reacting to their work becomes validation again. They are popular, and funny, and popular, and cool, and popular, and popular, and popular! How AWESOME would it be to make a comment and have it LIKED? How meaningful would it be for them to respond with the universal internet symbol for love (a less-than sign followed by a three)? That’s worth like one hundred regular likes!
If I were a scientist, this is the point where I would introduce a graph which plots out a bell curve mapping that no-man’s-land space between social banter and popular entertainer in which I currently find myself. But instead, here is a picture of a baby elephant, because only sociopaths don’t love baby elephants.
When stuck in this void, I might as well be drifting through a starless nebula. I have nothing by which to guide me. Am I doing well? Is my stuff funny? Derivative? Lame? Are people even watching past the first thirty seconds? If so, are they only doing so because they are my friends; if they didn’t know and like me, would they even bother? EVEN if a friend told them to check it out?
How many times in the last month has somebody recommended you check out a video? How many times have you followed through? Exactly. That’s the answer right there. There are SO many options available to us, and it’s kind of like the menu at your favorite restaurant; you look at it, but you already know what you want to order. It’s why you came, you’ve been craving that beef brisket and blue cheese sandwich on ciabatta bread with the smoked apple barbeque all day. There was never any question.
So, adrift and rudderless, I just have to wait until somebody decides that they want to try something different, and my sandwich looks tasty. That could be three years from now, for all I know. It might never happen. All I can do is keep making videos, keep honing my craft, and not give up. And in the meantime, if you could please like and share this article, it’d just mean SOOOOO much to me. Thanks!
That was sarcasm.