YouTube stars and fans are gathering in London for Summer in the City, the UK’s largest and longest-running online video festival. We meet the people who get to call YouTube their job.
Lucy Moon is a 23-year-old online influencer, whose days consist of creating videos for her YouTube channel, writing blog posts and recording her podcast from her flat in London.
With a combined online following of more than half a million, Lucy says it’s her honesty that’s kept people watching, reading and listening for the last eight years.
And in 2016 she really put that idea to the test, when she uploaded a video to her channel, revealing she had “an alcohol problem”.
“I don’t think that video was a choice for me to make because I was in a really bad place in my life,” she tells the BBC.
“For me, it’s about being authentic and honest with the people who watch me, and if I hadn’t addressed what was going on in my life at the time then I couldn’t have ever made another video.
“At that point in my life, the best thing I could do was address it publicly, so I made this video and then had to deal with the consequences of making it public.”
Lucy says the whole experience was “really helpful” but she was not prepared for the response, with “hundreds, even thousands of emails and messages” from people telling her about their own experiences and giving her advice.
She couldn’t believe how many people were invested in her life.
According to data from the US, YouTube is the most popular online destination for teens, with 85% of them choosing it as their top platform to visit in their spare time.
So why is it that millions of young people are shunning traditional entertainment like TV and choosing to watch the lives of ordinary people unfold instead?
“People turn to TV for a more glamorous view of people’s lives,” Lucy says.
“They watch scripted and curated personal stories of what script writers and directors have gone through, whereas with YouTubers we are very current and everything is very raw a lot of the time.
“Whilst some of that can be construed and manipulated, there is a lot of real and honest discussion that is really vital in making it normal for us to talk about our feelings and normalise it to teenagers and young adults.”
Lucy’s audience get a look in to many aspects of her life on her YouTube channel, from the clothes she’s bought to the make up she puts on in the morning and how she chooses to spend her weekends.
‘YouTube is a microcosm of celebrity culture’
She says it’s “very easy to become invested in someone’s life” as the video-sharing platform is a “microcosm of celebrity culture”.
“You get to really follow someone’s life and there’s this ability to really connect with someone every day through a 10-minute window of their time and your time.
“They develop personal relationships with that person and they become role models and I think that’s really nice,” she says.
But just like celebrities, YouTubers get criticised by the public too, except it’s a lot easier for them to be exposed to hateful comments and trolls.
Lucy says she really “struggled” at first with cruel comments because they were really accessible – seeing them underneath her videos or in her mentions on Twitter were hard to block out.
“I’ve learnt how to deal with the online forums and gossip, but a big part of that was getting support.
“I have management who help me now and a therapist, I also get my sister to read my comments before I do so I don’t have to see something nasty and cutting that will ruin my day.
“She leaves up valid criticism, but if it’s just cruel then it’s gone and that’s such a relief – it means I don’t have to fear going into places where I can actually get good feedback.”
‘There are so many common misconceptions’
Lucy is clear to point out that whilst her job has “a lot of perks” it is not as easy as just hitting record on a camera and then uploading straight to the internet.
“At the end of the day you’re having to keep a business going and you’re a self-employed person,” she says.
“A lot of my work day is not actually about making videos, but all the elements that come with running a business – like answering emails, admin and planning future projects.
“On top of that I’m making content every week – I’m making a video every week, which can take between a couple of hours and two to three days to film and edit.”
She says she is often frustrated by the thought “that if you don’t work a 9-5 specifically, then you don’t work”.
“I don’t know why that’s levied at YouTubers but not every freelancer or photographer,” she says.
“Everyone is working a 40-50 hour week in different ways – a lot of YouTubers don’t take weekends but I force myself to and recently I took my first bank holiday for example.”
She also says “a common misconception is that we receive loads of packages all the time – free gifts and presents.”
“If I get one thing a week I get really excited and run to the post office!”
And does YouTube reveal everything there is to know about Lucy’s life? Definitely not, she says.
“We don’t document all of our lives, we do have friends who don’t do YouTube and have family we don’t put on camera.
“We have big worlds as multi-faceted people, but we only portray a small amount of that because it’s what we enjoy sharing and is a nice amount to give to the world.”