One of the miracles of our modern age is the ability – for better or for worse – to share one’s greatest passions, passing interests, or simple notes of intrigue and gather a sizable audience. And with COVID seemingly restricting all walks of life except for the digital kind, many have flocked to online publishing or creation platforms to share their work with cyberspace, either by choice or necessity. As such, learning about the ways in which Lakesiders use social media and publishing platforms, even starting prior to the pandemic, would be an appropriate reflection on what is now two years of the pandemic passed. Such students share music, game reviews, gaming videos, and decor tips on the various platforms available today.
Rahul S. ’24, for example, operates the YouTube channel “yxnghustle.” On it, he posts music videos produced using the digital audio workspace FL Studio, usually west coast and plugnb type instrumental beats with thumbnails that “match the aesthetic or core vibe of the beat” or “the type of person that would rap over it.”
Rahul started in early/mid 2019 as he wanted to start producing music. “My beginning beats were abominations,” he remarks, “they didn’t have a sense of rhythm or flow at all,” a result of trying imitate viral creators of similar music at the time. YouTube attracted him in particular for its ability for him to get his name “out there” and its monetization of users with at least 1000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. He expected “an easy way of making money, which it’s not, I’m still not monetized to this day,” but is getting close – 944 subscribers at time of writing. In the meantime he hopes to be more consistent with his upload schedule, though this prospect remains difficult with his obligations as a student and a family member. Breaks are thus very important. For expansion he looks to collaborate with other YouTubers and start networking with various singers, and in the near-term, is “also very near a major milestone: 1,000 subscribers. I already hit one major milestone at 100,000 views, but since viewership grows exponentially I am looking forward to see my future growth.” Finally, he is looking to evolve his sound and music. “I’m always pushing myself to make a better beat than I made last time,” he says, as every day he comes up with new ideas while surrounded by new inspiration.
On the topic of YouTube he dislikes their removal of, fittingly, the dislike counter since it is now impossible to filter content, and recommends “GloPierre,” an inspirational workout channel.
On the same platform is Matthew B. ’25, uploading gaming and game review videos under the moniker “MSGuy01,” largely uploading videos about Nintendo games. He started in 2019 and started uploading consistently in 2020, inspired by his enjoyment of Nintendo games and the YouTube videos about them, and plans to continue for the foreseeable future. Also of note is the time that “one person actually made a poem about my recent livestream which was kind of funny.”
He also believes that YouTube should bring back dislike counts, and in a similar vein, find a “way to showcase smaller creators because it’s kind of hard to get discovered.” He recommends the videogame review/retrospective/variety channel Scott The Woz.
Another freshman gaming YouTuber, who prefers to remain anonymous, originally joined as a consequence of his skill in the field, and thought there would be an audience for short clips. His additional expansion to TikTok has yielded greater results since its algorithm sorts for short-video formats; for example, his favorite video is a “funny moments video I made with my friends, since in my opinion it was really funny,” though, disappointingly, “it got like 1 thousand views.”
He did not leave comments on how to improve the platform, nor a channel name, but does note that he aims to work on his thumbnails in the future and cites Ludwig as his favorite content creator.
Finally, on the TikTok front, we have Grace H. ’22 posting on @gracattackk, posting creative content including outfits, bits about her life, decor, and occasionally more important affairs like piercings and tattoos. She originally started in 2019 where her audience largely remained only people she knew, posting videos about outfits based on what she saw on the platform. Her major breakthrough was a massively popular video posted in late 2020 – sitting at 2.2 million views at time of writing – where she mouths along to a song while assembling a fake gun out of Monster Energy cans and hot glue, then putting on her wall. “That was kind of what started it,” and from then she kept posting largely about room decor and Monster guns. When asked why, she replied “I don’t know, the TikTok algorithm is weird. I think if you just keep posting eventually one of your videos will reach the For You page,” though she does ponder that perhaps “everyone really liked my caffeine addiction, they were like ‘wow that’s really cool!’” Although she does occasionally take sponsorships and see how to grow as an account, “it’s always been a thing that would be nice to be an influencer and have it on the side, but I would never do it as a job, more as an addition to my life.”
Grace describes how people’s words have luckily been largely supportive, “people going ‘you inspire me to go out of the box and follow my own style,’” though there have been a few more negative experiences. Other than the occasional person rating appearances, she has encountered some annoying comments on her most popular post with the Monster gun. It was never made to be realistic given that the end product “looks like a balloon animal in my opinion,” but it did end up getting attention from “guys saying ‘you don’t know anything, you’re just a dumb girl that doesn’t know what a machine gun looks like’ and I was like ‘welp, this going to get buried in the comment stream.’” Other than this experience, she explains how “I’m really lucky I don’t have a lot of really horrible comments,” and her experience is generally positive.
Regarding TikTok, she comments on its lack of effective cancel culture in multiple ways: first, the term has little power since “canceled” people still have a platform, even exposed pedophiles keeping their audience base, and information spread is inconsistent or unreliable so that people can get canceled for insufficient reasons. There’s also a toxic beauty standard since, naturally, attractive people dominate the top of the viewership, which also plays into Asian fetishization.
Finally, she recommends @kyngnh and @hannahharrell, both of whom make fashion content on TikTok.
In the end, despite their varying paths, Rahul, Matthew, the anonymous freshman, and Grace are unified by the fact that they tried and kept trying. Rahul cites the importance of “just going for it,” and Grace states the best way to gain an audience is “to just keep posting” and “don’t care about cringiness”; if you’re putting yourself out there, you might as well do so with your authentic self.