It's the first thing you think about in the morning. It's the last thing you think about at night. Some people call this love. Most would call it an addiction to social media.
The sea of imagery, videos and notifications from social media is immense, and it becomes easy to feel like you’ll drown in it if you aren’t staying up to date on everyone’s latest Instagram posts or Snapchat stories. There is an insatiable desire to stay afloat, constantly consuming the visuals of someone else’s life. The constant need to stay informed is one thing, but the need to actually create content for social media outlets is another entirely.
While all of us use Instagram to occasionally post pictures, most of the time we are scrolling through the images of our friends and family. And while some may use Twitter to retweet, the majority of time spent on Twitter is dedicated toward scavenging popular hashtags. Youtube, popularly revered as the place to watch Vines since the app’s untimely death over a year ago, is an extraordinary hub for unending rabbit holes of videos.
Not everyone just watches and scrolls on social media. Some people have harnessed the communicative power of social media to carve out a brand for themselves and tell their own story. YouTube opens the doors to these stories, including those of a documentarian, a track athlete, a Disney princess and a fitness YouTuber who dealt with the deletion of her channel.
Content creation for the internet is a demanding job. When you’re a University of Georgia student, time management is important for managing an often complex schedule of work and school. For Micaiah Ransby, a sophomore intended-entertainment and media studies major from Roswell, Georgia, time management is a matter of survival. Ransby combines a successful YouTube channel with classes, tutoring, a social life and being a UGA track athlete
“It is hard to manage everything. But it’s fun at the same time, which is why I did it at first before I even got subscribers,” Ransby says. “It’s fun. It’s not a chore to do.”
Ransby has a full schedule on her hands, but she finds ways to use it to her advantage. Many of her channel’s videos focus on the life of a college athlete, which includes her practices, her classes and her friends. In watching her channel, an image of her life comes together on screen.
“I really didn’t think I would go anywhere with this, but after I got back to campus and started getting into the student athlete stuff and vlogs, then it kind of really blew up after my ‘Day in the Life’ vlog,” Ransby says. “It got a lot of views, more than i expected, and then with the views came the subscribers.”
Ransby’s path toward internet stardom didn’t begin overnight. In the summer of 2017, Ransby rebooted her YouTube channel, marking the start of regular postings and trying out new things on the channel. The creation of her channel was almost inevitable. Ransby had been making videos and editing them since high school, with the help of her dad.
“My dad got me this really cool editing software which has just been really making videos for fun,” Ransby says. “But then I got to college and decided I wanted to be an entertainment and media studies major. My dad has been getting me on other software and teaching me how to use them which is good practice, and it’s fun to upload them to YouTube so that everybody can see them as well.”
Ransby’s dad and family members all support her channel and watch all of her videos.
“My dad is really into videos, so he helps me with it actually,” Ransby says. “My little sister loves YouTube. I think she watches YouTube more than she watches TV, so when [the channel] took off she was really excited about it.”
During the early days of Ransby’s channel, there were less than 100 subscribers. Each day, there was slow and gradual growth, and she ended the summer with nearly 200 subscribers. Now, Ransby has over 33,000 subscribers. For every video, thousands (or sometimes hundreds of thousands) of people tune in to Ransby’s channel which covers her track life, vlogs, beauty, lifestyle and fashion.
Many people who create popular YouTube channels create a brand and a name for themselves through the intricate combination of other social media outlets and YouTube. Twitter and Instagram can follow along with the YouTube channel, keeping viewers connected across media.
Since Ransby is already an athlete and YouTube star, her other social media just serve as a more personal look at her life.
“With my Insta and Twitter, I just use it as a personal thing,” Ransby says. “What I post lines up with my YouTube channel, just track or hanging out with my friends, so I think it all ties into one big thing.”
With YouTube channels with such a large following, it becomes easier to make money off of each individual video. For many, YouTube is a source of income. For Ransby, that dream may have to be on hold until after college ends. College athletes cannot make money off of their own fame.
“If I keep growing past college, maybe I can start doing more with it and actually accept the monetary offers I’m receiving,” Ransby says. “Since a lot of my videos have to do with athlete things,it depends on if I’m still doing track after college. I can’t really tell right now so I’m just letting it flow.”
While Ransby cannot make a profit off of her channel, she finds other incentives to keep posting and creating content for her viewers.
“Everybody that watches my YouTube, they’re just really nice. They’re supportive and it motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing in regards to track and the Youtube channel,” Ransby says. “It’s a positive impact because everyone is so nice. When I read the comments in the comment section, a comment makes my day.”
With so many followers, coming up with ideas for new videos actually gets easier since people comment their ideas and suggestions which Ransby reads and makes a note of.
“Ever since more people started to watch my videos, it’s been easier to come up with ideas because people are like, ‘You should do this, you should do that,’” Ransby says. “I made a list of my ideas and it’s like, ‘whoo, I got to find time to do that.’”
Ransby’s followers come to her videos from all over, to the point where she began to question where everyone came from and why they’re there to watch her videos in the first place. It can be hard to tell what makes a YouTube sensation, but feeling comfortable enough to be yourself on screen might have a lot to do with it.
“I’m really myself in my videos, and as you make more it really becomes easy to let loose and be goofy and just have fun with it”
Ransby says. “I think a lot of people who try to make a YouTube get caught up in trying to make yourself appear a certain way or make something that everyone else does. I just try to have fun with it and be myself and be more relaxed with it.”
The challenge of being yourself, even off-camera, can be an overwhelming feat. Being yourself on camera is an extra challenge, one Madi Hoover, a senior entertainment and media studies major from Dewitt, Michigan, embraces with every new upload.
In the beginning, Hoover struggled with trying to be someone she wasn’t to attract viewers to her channel. Gradually, Hoover began opening up and acting more like how she acts in person, a personality that includes laughing at her own jokes, making corny comments and sometimes saying “grandma-y things.”
“When I started acting myself, like how I talk to people in normal life, people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I relate to you so much,’” Hoover says.
“And I was like, ‘Okay, people like me because I’m just strange as heck and they can relate.”
Hoover’s channel began in the summer of 2017 out of boredom, but blossomed into a practical side hustle for a college student who dreams of acting. Her channel consists of health, fitness, storytime, advice and lifestyle. The creative nature of shooting and starring in her own videos served as an outlet for her passion for acting, since she can’t yet run off and start starring in films.
“With going to college and stuff, I know if I went out and got an agent and started having auditions I wouldn’t go to class and I’d fail out,” Hoover says. “So I started [the channel] and it just started becoming a passion of mine and it was just like, ‘Oh I can express myself any way I want to and people like it.”
Hoover shares her passion, creativity and thoughts with the internet while also striving toward goals in her life off-screen. Balancing an online world with the physical world can sometimes be a hassle.
“You got to stop caring about what the people in your real life say,” Hoover says. “I was so receptive to my mom or my friends who would message me and be like, ‘You’re acting really strange, don’t do that.”
Instead of focusing on the occasional judgement from those close to her in her real life in the early days of her channel, Hoover delved into the world of making friends with people through the internet and truly joining the YouTube community. She began commenting on other people’s content to ensure they knew she supported them, and in turn these people began to start supporting her channel as well.
“Then all of a sudden, I went from nothing to way more and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is cool,’” Hoover says. “There’s a whole community out there, and you don’t realize it’s there until you start reaching out and helping other people, too.”
This community of people were involved in her life, so much so that the lines between virtual and reality would sometimes blur. Hoover’s long-term boyfriend at the time was supportive of her channel and started wanting to be in her videos, which was great for a while until they broke up and all of Hoover’s followers noticed and wanted to know more. Hoover felt it would be weird not to address the truth with the people who subscribe to her channel.
“So then I made a video about it, but I don’t want to tell the world exactly what happened, so it was just very vague,” Hoover says. “You don’t want to lie, but at the same time you want to be respectful of everybody that’s in your life.”
The nature of presenting aspects of your life online, which for Hoover occasionally means reading diary entries or talking about unpopular opinions, means that anyone can essentially have access to your life through the channel.
“If you ever want to go out there and make friends or future boyfriends or whatever, they’re going to have to be really okay with either being on [the channel] or not being on there,” Hoover says. “You have to be very careful with what you say online now, too.”
The YouTube community has also been a source of friendship for Hoover. One of her friends is form North Carolina, and they had never met before in-person. Their friendship consisted of mutual comments and shared ideas, until they decided to meet off screen.
“We were like, ‘Hey, we might get along in real life,’ and then we did. He’s one of my best friends,” Hoover says. “He’s in Los Angeles now so I won’t see him much anymore, but if I’m ever in LA I know I can hit him up and be like, ‘Hey, can I stay with you?’”
Hoover did not always really feel like she was a part of the YouTube community, until her entire channel got deleted by YouTube and she found an outpouring of support and help from people she had never met before. One of her followers was on the phone with YouTube support for two hours trying to fight for the return of Hoover’s channel. People created Twitter hashtags in support of reactivating her channel. Other YouTubers created videos trying to figure out how to get her channel back.
“I didn’t know that they actually liked me,” Hoover says. “I was like, ‘I don’t know you guys, and this is awesome.”
The reason for her channel’s deletion is still unknown, and it came as a surprise for Hoover. She found out the devastating news while she was away from the computer at a friend’s house when her brother texted her.
“He watches my videos a lot to see if there’s anything he could help me out with in the future, and he texted me, ‘Where’s your channel? I can’t find it,’” Hoover says. “I went home and it was just gone.”
There was no explanation and no further information. The channel was just gone, and it seemed impossible to get it back. YouTube sent an automated email that explained the channel had been removed, but did not explain anything else. Hoover spent hours googling how to get her channel back.
“You can send an automated report to them to tell them why you think it was taken off, and I had no clue,” Hoover says. “It was scary that an automated system could just take you out without reviewing it first and then deciding.”
After waiting for a bit, things seemed to return to normal, though still with very little explanation. Hoover never got an email, but one day her brother sent her another text to let her know that her channel seemed to be back up and running. Hoover was lucky, for many people it takes months to hear back from YouTube.
“All of my videos weren’t there at first, but they’re slowly coming back. There’s a lot of messed up things with how YouTube is run and their algorithm, because they have a very specific way that they run things and then it gets messed up a lot,” Hoover says. “A lot of people complain about getting demonetized.”
YouTube can be an actual job, one where creators profit off of videos and can work toward saving up a little money here and there from the videos. Hoover strives toward creating a channel that can also serve as her workplace. She noticed a lot of other young adults were making it into a job, and she was attracted to the idea.
“I’ve never wanted a job where I hated going,” Hoover says. “Now I’m just really working hard to make that my job when I graduate, and then also be able to act and have those two things that I really love doing and can make money doing.”
It is because of her goals of making sufficient money off of the channel that the unforeseen deletion of her channel was so frightening. The idea that you could put so much effort toward a goal and have it taken away without explanation was unthinkable.
“To me, it was just like a censoring for something I had worked really hard for the past six or seven months,” Hoover says.
Hoover has had to work with the YouTube guidelines to try to start making money off of her videos, although right now it’s not enough to really pay the bills. Once your channel gets 10,000 views, YouTubers can sign up to make money off of ads or brand deals.
“I try to post 2-3 times a week, just because of the YouTube algorithm for who they promote. They won’t really promote you in the side bar unless you have a good like to dislike ratio and you’re very active,” Hoover says. “if you aren’t active, no matter how good your videos are, you aren’t going to get promoted.”
In addition to being active on YouTube, Hoover must also navigate YouTube’s constantly changing algorithms and guidelines.
According to a study on social media entertainment, YouTube continuously changes their algorithms, which has “resulted in the mysterious -- mysterious that is to creators who depend on the constant connectedness to their viewers -- disappearance of millions of subscribers overnight for some creators.”
It is extremely easy for videos to get demonetized. While some rules make sense, like no swearing, others are a little more questionable.
“Any exercise video, like my butt workout video, was demonetized because I say ‘butt’ in it.
If you’re wearing sports bras or something, sports bras get demonetized,” Hoover says. “I don’t get it, but you got to work around it.”
Hoover has only learned about what will get demonetized through monitoring her videos and learning from them.
“There’s not real guidelines about what is inappropriate content because everything is always changing. It’s subjective,” Hoover says. “No one ever really knows but you find out after you see what’s made you money.”
As if juggling YouTube wasn’t enough, oftentimes social media moguls have to create a name and a brand for themselves through their other social media. Hoover mostly just works with Instagram.
“I have days where I’ll be like, ‘Okay, take 10 pictures of me in 10 different outfits,’ and then I won’t take pictures for a month. I feel very vain doing that because I don’t like taking pictures of myself, but it’s also like I have to keep the brands the same and that’s the content I put out.”
Instagram is also a useful tool for interacting with her subscribers and fellow YouTubers because of the direct message function. Hoover and one other girl direct message each other and send each other gifts for Christmas.
Hoover aspires to make her channel more interactive, so that she and her subscribers can feel like equal parts of the process. While it can be difficult to be so open with strangers, Hoover does not feel too stressed out about it.
“Sometimes it bothers me, but then I think that I can’t be bothered because I put myself in this situation,” Hoover says. “I want my life to be a certain way and to make that happen you have to go through certain steps. I’m choosing it, so I’ve got to be okay with it.”
Hoover made the choice to start and maintain a YouTube channel and a brand name for herself, and anyone who feels the desire to start a channel can do the same.
“I know a lot of people think that you can’t do it, but if you can time manage a little bit it would maybe take a couple hours a day,” Hoover says. “It’s very possible, and if you’re your genuine self then you can do it. If anybody wants to do something like that, just start one.”
Establishing a social media brand for often begins with inspiration from others. Jackie Cabrera, a freshman intended-business major from Norcross, Georgia, decided to start a YouTube account in 2013 after seeing other girls creating YouTube accounts. She had the resources and the passion, so she began her channel despite some fears.
“I was afraid people would make fun of me. So I didn’t look into it until my sister did one and I was like, ‘Well, if she’s doing it and she doesn’t care, then I can,’” Cabrera says. “I slowly started, but I never really wanted to do it the way I’m doing it now.”
The way Cabrera runs her channel now is as a lifestyle documentation that includes vlogs about college, daily life and beauty. It began with a simple prom vlog, where suddenly an avalanche of followers and views poured in.
“I was like ‘What is going on?’ I just wanted to record it and have it there for memories,” Cabrera says.
“I see all my videos as memories and I never thought I would get such an audience. That surprised me.”
What could have just served as a personal video diary became a public sharing of Cabrera’s life. With over 300,000 videos on the prom video alone also comes thousands of suggestions and the need for more involvement from Cabrera. She decided to embrace the new requests with a renewed effort.
The prom audience for high schoolers gave Cabrera her start, and it helped launch the college videos, in which both high schoolers and college students could find interest. Cabrera sees it as a way to put yourself out there and teach people about your own college experiences.
Cabrera hasn’t lost her original purpose for the videos: documenting them for her future self. Her college lifestyles serve two purposes, that of educating people about the college experience as well as serving as a keepsake and memory for Cabrera to return to at any time. The life documentary will not stop after high school and college are over for Cabrera.
“I can’t wait to film my wedding or my first kid,” Cabrera says. “I want to pinpoint and hit all those important milestones in my life and have them there.”
Perhaps our desire to film and document so many things via YouTube or Snap stories comes from an older time, when our parents would chase us around the house with an archaic video camera to later turn into a home video.
Cabrera’s parents were no different, except Cabrera would sometimes take control of the camera, a foreshadowing for future passions to develop. Cabrera would take the camera and film her little sister whenever her mom was not using the camera herself.
“My mom would technically vlog back in the day,” Cabrera says.
Cabrera’s family helped shape her in more ways than just giving her the passion for videography. Her drive to be so involved, work hard and stay positive came from her parents who immigrated to America 20 years ago.
“I’m a reflection of their hard work and I want to make them proud at the end of day by coming to college and making something of myself,” Cabrera says.
Now that Cabrera is in college and she posts with more consistency, a few times a month, she has to juggle filming more while also making the most of each individual college experience. Her channel is still in the early stages, but she puts a lot of effort into putting herself out there and sharing her life with everyone who watches.
When putting herself out there, Cabrera is careful to keep some distance and ensure that everything that she does is something she is fully comfortable doing. She’s had to come to terms with sharing herself with the world and dealing with the occasional judgement, finding time to be proud of herself.
“Sometimes I just don’t give a flip about when I take out my camera and start talking. Or dancing, I like to dance. I just like to be fun and bold,” Cabrera says. “You only live one life and you shouldn’t have to waste your energy on someone’s negativity or judgement.”
Cabrera’s fun-loving spirit fuels the videos and keeps her coming back to her favorite hobby. She films whenever she does something new or fun, different than her usual day in the life, although she does find time to film that, too.
“It’s definitely something you have to like and want to do. Sometimes I decide a week ahead to film something interesting,” Cabrera says. I normally always remember to vlog. It is kind of weird to do it in public, but at the same time, if it’s something you like to do, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”
The freedom to be yourself and use that as a personal power to create change for yourself and others is something Allie Merwin, a freshman early childhood education major from Cumming, Georgia, is learning to do through her YouTube Channel.
Merwin’s channel took off, like most others, due to her videos that showcased what college move-in was like and what college continues to be like. The channel is not just for college lifestyle videos or blogs, though. Merwin has found two different opportunities which she showcases through her channel, one of which takes her to hospitals dressed as a princess.
Merwin and a group of other college girls dress up in Disney princess costumes and head to Atlanta to cheer up children in hospitals. The group is called Hospital Heroes, and Merwin found the idea in a JCPenny dressing room.
“I saw a princess dress so I tried it on and then thought, ‘It would be so cool if I could get a bunch of girls together to dress up like princesses and visit kids at hospitals,’” Merwin says. “It’ll just be a really cool experience to bring more awareness to childhood cancer and just have fun with the children. I just want them to forget why they’re in the hospital and have a good day.”
Merwin, inspired by a her summer volunteer work at a retreat for kids with cancer, decided to create Hospital Heroes at UGA. She put out fliers and had people send in video auditions. On Jan. 13, they visited Scottish Rite in Atlanta.
Of course, through her YouTube channel, Merwin was able to bring even more awareness to the cause by creating a video all about Hospital Heroes. Merwin firmly believes that people on YouTube can make an impact, and it’s also about just having fun, living your life and expressing yourself.
In the process of Merwin living her college life and sharing it with the world, she found another great opportunity through her channel. Merwin got a job with UGA housing by making a dorm tour as an audition video. A lot of firsts were opening themselves up to Merwin, who got the job that UGA Housing was offering for the first time ever while also experiencing her first year at UGA.
Merwin’s hobby is also her work, which actually makes balancing her channel with the rest of her lifestyle even easier to manage.
“It’s never been overwhelming because I’ve always wanted to do it,” Merwin says.
“I’ve always wanted to sit down and edit a video and put something creative out there. So it’s never felt like a hassle.”
Merwin has carved out her own home for herself on YouTube over the past four years. Merwin has seen a lot of change over her time on YouTube, including finding a community and finding out how to genuinely be herself.
Her first video was a voice over of her doing her makeup, which she finds hilarious in retrospect as she attempted to replicate the style of another girl on YouTube.
“I tried to make my hair all voluminous because her hair was like that,” Merwin says.
Gradually after that, Merwin moved more toward day in the life videos where she grappled with portraying her life as it actually is versus doing things just to seem glamorous. Merwin recalls the early days when she would make hot chocolate for the video as if she did that every night, when in reality that was never the case.
“I didn’t want my channel to seem fake or ingenuine. I always wanted it to be me interacting with people,” Merwin says. “I guess I just always wanted it to be more realistic. I wanted it to be more raw and more real so people would connect with it better.”
Being open and raw on camera is something Merwin tries to find a happy medium for, since being open and raw can sometimes contradict the positive and optimistic vibe that Merwin hopes to share with her channel. She makes a point not to talk too much about the hardships of college, but at times she opens up a bit more and finds that her viewers respond with support and appreciation.
One of the best parts for Merwin in running her YouTube channel has been finding the community and connections. Anyone can start a channel and be a part of the community.
“I think people seeing other people making videos and just getting to urge to use that creative outlet to put themselves out there has inspired other people to do that. That’s what inspired me,” Merwin says. “I always encourage people to start a YouTube. I don’t like people getting exclusive about it, but I do like that anyone can do it.”
The YouTube channel has served as a learning experience, even in regards to engaging with the more negative aspects of YouTube. With so many viewers, some comments are bound to be more negative responses in the midst of all of the positives.
“I think that it’s really important to become experienced with that just to know how to deal with it. Obviously I am putting myself out there and anyone can comment, so there can be hate and positivity,” Merwin says. “If I’m happy with myself, that’s all that matters. It’s helping me learn to be confident in myself enough to be able to ignore what other people say.”