Most people don’t realize that the first Youtube videos were uploaded onto the site over a decade ago. In my early twenties, I was part of the Youtube celebrity class of 2007. In those days, there was a much smaller group of creators working on the site. I started my first vlogging videos after beginning university. I wanted to capture my experiences from this time; the project was meant to be personal, and I didn’t expect anyone on Youtube to actually watch what I was making. However, I steadily built a loyal and passionate following on the site.
Most videos were about 9 minutes long; the maximum length for Youtube videos at the time (remember that?!). I’m proud of a lot of the work I did on the site, although I still cringe when I look at some of my earliest videos. The quality of my videos steadily improved as I taught myself the basics of digital editing. As always, my friends in the vlogging community were on hand to provide me with tips and tricks to get the best out of the platform.
Many followers became friends who I still keep up with today. I shared the highs and lows of my life with them, and they rewarded my openness and trust in them by sharing their life stories with me. I always tried to be authentic and respectful of my audience and fans. When I spoke, it mattered.
I collaborated with other great Youtube creators and together we forged a really close community. None of us knew what we were doing when we started; we just made it up as we went along! The community grew organically, out of nothing.
As my presence on the site grew, I began getting offers from ‘regular’ TV shows. I thought that this was crazy, how could someone like me be on TV? I thought about it long and hard but decided that I owed it to my fans and the community on the site to stick with Youtube. I wouldn’t have got to where I did if the experienced members of the community had left the site after becoming successful; I felt I needed to stay and give something back. I also felt that TV wouldn’t have the authenticity or connection with the audience that I’d managed to build with my vlogs.
Eventually, the authenticity of my videos became a problem. I kept vlogging during a painful break-up; I felt that I owed it to my fans to keep to my release schedule and not to try and hide the sad or difficult things in my life. However, I found talking about the break-up to a broad audience tough. I used to enjoy my work on Youtube; now I was starting to dread it.
The ‘break-up videos’ were some of the most popular and highly viewed that I made, but they came at a personal cost to me. I realized the fame I’d gained through the site was now driving the decisions I was making in my life; I didn’t feel like I was in control anymore. On top of that, the darker side of Youtube had started to rear its head. I began to get some disgusting, personal comments directed at me. This won’t surprise anyone using Youtube today, but at the time this kind of hateful language was much rarer. I decided I needed to take a break from the site to work out what to do next.
I made the decision to go back into education. When I was young, I’d always wanted to be an engineer. I was really nervous before my interview (which is surprising given the amount of hours I’d spent over the previous few years talking to an audience of thousands!). However, it turned out that a lot of the skills I’d gained from my vlogging were transferable to engineering. I could show that I could manage large technical projects and get to grips quickly with complex software.
I finished my postgraduate studies recently, and I’m excited about my new career as an engineer. I still occasionally get recognized by fans (even once at a recent job interview!) who want to reminisce about the old days. I enjoy talking with people from the Youtube community; in fact, part of the reason for establishing this blog is to share my thoughts and memories with the fans. I hope you like what you find!