YouTube Drama: The New Face of Online Bullying
In the Golden Age of the Internet, we are all too familiar with social media and the way it has changed over the years. Hell, many of us use social media sites as a joking way to talk about our ages (Hey, it's easier than carbon dating. Cheaper, too.) Some of us remember seeing Myspace pages morph into Facebook posts. A select few may even recall the rise and fall of Napster. If you remember either of those, you know just how far the internet has come in the past few years.
However, with all the great strides the web has made come quite a few new pitfalls...one which being the unfortunate creation and evolution of the phenomena we now know as online bullying.
As if it wasn't difficult enough dealing with unsavory people in one's everyday life, online bullies take things to the next level, with children younger than ten years old being driven to self-harm and suicide from this form of harassment. The news in the past few months has been riddled with heartbreaking stories about young people affected by this new wave of bullying. The comments under these stories are usually sympathetic, but one interesting thing I have noted is that this is only when the victims are very young. Older recipients of online harassment and bullying are not given this same sympathy. In fact, in many cases, they are mocked for being "soft" or "overly-sensitive." (I believe the new favorite term for those lacking empathy to use is "snowflake.") People over a certain age are not allowed to feel the same levels of hurt as those younger. And this is not only a dangerous mindset, it is an extremely alarming one.
It is frightening for a few reasons, but the main one is how such a mindset desensitizes people to the suffering of others. When it seems "normal" to harass others online, more people are open to both allowing it and perpetrating it. Usernames and false identities add the allure of feeling "untouchable" or "untraceable" by one's bullying victims, thus making online bullying all the more prevalent. And while popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do have reporting features to try to counteract some of the harassment that inevitably occurs, there is often little that the authorities can do when certain instances escalate.
Unfortunately, there is more to YouTube's brand of online bullying than just mean comments. The video element adds something much more direct for YouTube content creators. Instead of responding to a comment with an avatar, YouTube creators can respond to other creators in a "personal" way: by making a video. Videos allow parties to see one another's verbal responses, making them feel like face-to-face interactions.
Now, while debates and disagreements aren't issues in themselves, some content creators escalate situations past what should be acceptable on YouTube. However, recently, it has been content creators within YouTube's niche "drama community" who have been guilty of this. For those who are not familiar with the drama community, it is made up of content creators whose channels can be informative or defamatory, depending upon each individual creator. These channels all claim to give viewers insight or, sometimes, their own opinions, on the public scandals and dealings of their YouTube peers, which is okay. Criticism is not a bad thing. Others go the tabloid route,
But others...they go the tabloid route. And that's usually where they get into trouble. However, the point where these kinds of drama channels go horribly wrong is when they defame content creators that they dislike, going so far as to (supposedly unwittingly) incite campaigns of online harassment against other people. Some even dox their victims, often revealing personal, identifiable information and/or intentionally trying to get people fired from their real-life jobs. One such drama channel has landed itself in scalding hot water for just that. In the short span of just one year, this particular content creator has accused multiple other YouTubers of serious crimes ranging from fraud to the most recent, allegations of child molestation and child grooming, without any credible evidence. All under the guise of "drama."
Another drama YouTuber is allegedly being searched for by the NYPD for describing a threat of rape against another drama channel. One more drama channel spearheaded a hate campaign against her peers, with her thousands of followers harassing the victims. There is even a YouTuber whose claim to fame comes entirely from creating "funny" videos in which he brutally mocks the physical appearances of unsuspecting people, often using an array of slurs in his insults. A particularly disturbing case that occurred recently was that of a relatively small YouTube vlogger allegedly stalking and harassing a drama channel's owner for over a year, extending the harassment to the victim and his family members in real life.
While these content creators are not the only YouTubers to bully and escalate bullying behaviors, their continued presences on YouTube is very telling. It tells us that their online bullying is becoming normalized--to the point where neither their followers nor the bystanders watching the situations unfold see the magnitude of their behavior.