I was planning on uploading something else today… and then I read an article and that went out the window.
I was browsing through twitter (as you do) and saw someone shared a link to a Guardian article “Zoe Sugg: the vlogger blamed for declining teenage literacy” by Zoe Williams.
Obviously I know neither of these people personally, but I found some of the comments in this article a little odd and somewhat under researched so I wanted to share and open up a discussion.
Now I haven’t read the Girl Online books yet so I can’t comment on that however, I was curious to see what the article had to say about why they believed that, or if they referenced some other article to discuss whether they agreed or disagreed based on their own experiences with her books, and her book club.
Instead we get a full length article about ‘Zoella’. More specifically everything they perceive to be wrong and, shock horror, her income from YouTube.
I’m going to talk about income first because I find it odd. Personally I was taught from a young age that when I start earning I shouldn’t share my income with people because its private and personal to you. If you’re comfortable with sharing with friends and family then OK fair enough, but somehow I’m not sure you’d be happy for a random stranger to demand how much you earn per year.
Yet YouTubers seem to be on the receiving end of this quite a lot and it baffles me. Yes it’s different and something new for people to wrap their heads around but demanding to know someones salary – or not knowing exactly but throwing out an estimated figure (don’t forget to round up for dramatic flair!) – is astonishing!
I want to go through some quotes of topics discussed:
“Her online presence is by far the more important, however: she started as a teenager in 2009, filming herself giving make-up tips in her bedroom, and went on to – well, to continue doing exactly that (one of the curiosities of vloggers generally is that they never give over).”
You mean how if a horror fiction writer knows they do that well, they continue doing exactly that. If in an office the employees find a system which works well, so they continue doing exactly that.
“She’s technically very adept, if by “very adept” you mean “able to do things I wouldn’t know how to do”. The image comes up in a frame in the corner of the screen. “Oh my God, I loved that necklace. I think I wore that necklace in every video.””
You know what they say, ignorance is bliss.
There is a lot to take into account when creating content. The set up of the equipment, ensuring it’s working and will see them through to the end of the video. The lighting set up, the microphone and most likely checking throughout because we all know technology is temperamental.
Then all the work afterwards with editing the footage to create something thats easily viewable for their subscribers. Bear in mind YouTubers have to be willing to invest the funds to buy decent equipment. Be willing to spend about £300 for a decent editing software like Final Cut Pro, and then actually learn how to use it. Thats all before knowing whether it could actually lead to a career, and don’t forget that most well-known YouTubers started at an age when it was a hobby.
“Yet there is certainly effort and artistry to it: Zoella has the paced, artfully slowed down delivery of a Just a Minute contestant, arcing each sentence to allow no hesitation, no repetition. Digression would be impossible to spot, since it’s never clear what the subject is.”
In the same way an author wouldn’t constantly repeat something that the reader already knows, a content creator doesn’t want their viewers to become bored and frustrated waiting for them to get to the point. You’d think as a writer the journalist would figure out it’s the same across all mediums.
“But in the era of the vlogger, when every video comes complete with links to the clothes she’s wearing and where she bought her curtains, when the Instagram feed is a straight three-way split between selfies, cakes and things to buy, it is impossible to tell where the advert ends and the selling begins. I secretly suspect her of being in an endorsement contract with the pug breed.”
If this person had ever read viewers comments they’d see that a lot of what they ask is “Where is this from” “Where did you get that” “Where could I get one?” Honestly if she does make a little more income from it I say why the hell not?
If it’s something she enjoys wearing/using/ or having around her home then what’s the harm? But once again, most people – even smaller YouTubers – have a lot of that information in the description because viewers ask.
“While her key constituency is 13-year-olds, Sugg herself is almost 27.”
Ahem, I’m 23, almost 24.. 10 years older their statement. Sucks to be wrong, I know.
“She has lost none of her teenage fascinations (make-up, doughnuts, herself), but this growing disparity between her age and her chatter does make one wonder how much of it is constructed, or rather, how much of this is a teenage persona that the businesswoman she clearly is has no mind to demolish.”
Of course she’s a businesswoman, but why can’t she be a businesswoman who likes make-up and doughnuts? I think the statement that she has a fascination with herself if off, for goodness sake she is the face of her own business and if anything she’s teaching young people that they can do the same. They can be successful business people and do what they love if they work hard at what they do.
“So she might tell you about her boyfriend, or about how to get rid of a spot, or about the fact that she woke up this morning thinking it was Tuesday when in fact it was Wednesday. The inane will blend with the salient, like a good and well-applied foundation, and the result will be smooth, flat, utterly without blemish. The person has become the make-up.”
There was another paragraph before this one but that ruined it. This just sums up the article really, the title seems like just an excuse for her to go on a rampage against someone almost half her age. Against someone who’s built a business and earns a living from doing something she loves – which, if I’m not mistaken, is most peoples dream.
You might wonder about the part where she is blamed for declining teenage literacy. Well, that was apparently a different article and the part where she actually talks about her writing is in the very first paragraph or, to be more specific, she’s quoted what someone else thinks about her books.
Clearly Zoella’s books are popular. What I will say is that if she’s inspiring a generation to read, where’s the bad in that? She hasn’t just released three books (a massive feat in itself) but she also has a book club where she encourages people to read and discuss the books that she’s read, loves and recommends. Those kids may think “Oh, I liked that – I want to read more by that author” Or “I wonder what other books there are which are similar to this” and then their world will open up beyond what they ever fathomed.
My generation had Harry Potter, that’s where I fell in love with reading. If she’s doing that for another generation then surely she’s doing more for teenage literacy than anyone truly knows.
The article goes on to give a profile, providing various details on her life including “What she says” It’s something which the original article itself doesn’t do (in my opinion), and it’s a quote I want to end this post on:
“Every time you post something online you have a choice. You can either make it something that adds to the happiness levels in the world – or you can make it something that takes away.” – Zoe Sugg.