Youtube as a Beauty Advisor
Video blogging, which is defined as a collection of videos posted on a blog, has recently increased its popularity. One of the main reasons of its popularity is most people now have access to video equipment and simple video production tools. Moreover, publishing videos has never been so easy; especially with the abundance of video platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo. Youtube, especially, is very popular among youth for uploading videos and creating individual channels. Vlogs can be shared separately or published under Youtube channels, which are usually created based on a general theme or an area of interest. Although online videos are nothing new, blogging of videos based on a theme can be considered relatively new. After presenting brief information about beauty related vlogs on Youtube, I am going to focus on their effects on youth in terms of participatory culture, gendered identity and consumerism.
There are several vlogs about beauty on Youtube with contents including, but not limited to, how to do specific makeup, tricks about how to hide imperfections, and information about skin products. In many of vlogs, individuals record their videos at their home without any script. Vloggers, or people who create vlogs, usually give live instructions on how they do their makeup while applying skin products. Moreover, they talk about their daily routines, their friends, family and their relationships. Even in some of the videos, they introduce their boyfriends, husbands and they ask for comments. Introducing aspects of their lives, and asking for user feedback, are good examples of New London Group’s statement which asserted that private lives are becoming more public as everything becomes a potential subject of media discussion (New London Group, 1996). When we analyze the creators of these videos, we see that many of them want to become celebrities and be recognized by others. The creators compete for more followers on their channels. Although most of them simply seek for the attention of the audience, some of them create these vlogs to earn money.
Audiences of these beauty channels are generally teenage girls who recently started to do makeup and want to learn the tricks. Interestingly, most popular beauty vlogs have been watched million times and followed by several million subscribers. How do these vloggers attract so many people’s attention? Firstly, they choose attractive titles such as “How to look like a pop star” for their videos. Moreover, vloggers choose topics from a teenage girl’s daily life, for instance “Getting ready for first day of school.” Creators use colorful backgrounds, and generally include pink items. Additionally, creators use video editing strategies such as adding striking effects, texts, and emojis to the videos or by using various framing styles. What messages do they try to create? Baker stated that different people experience the same media messages differently (Baker, 2012). Basically, a young girl may deduct the following conclusions: she needs to buy makeup products and know how to do makeup properly if she wants to become popular and be accepted by her social environment. On the other hand, adult audiences might interpret the video as merely one way to dress up, but adults may not tie as much social importance to the videos. In contrast to teenagers, adults may realize that some of the vloggers are paid by the companies for introducing their products.
As Lessig stated, with the advancement of the internet, the style of audience has changed from being consumers to being participatory (Lessig, 2011). This statement can be applied to vlogs too. Before Youtube, beauty videos and advertisements were mostly seen on TV and audiences could only watch them at specific times. Nowadays ordinary people involve in the creation and production processes. Also, audiences do not only watch but participate. Many of them interact with the creators by commenting on these videos, expressing themselves immediately, and they can even easily interact with the vloggers. As a result of this interaction, after watching some of the videos of a specific vlogger, audience members usually start to relate to the vlogger and feel as though they are a part of community. Thus, audience members start to establish a new discourse to fit within this community. In this connection, vlogs facilitate the process of personal identification and allow audience members to become involved in social relations. This interaction reminds us Debord’s spectacle, which is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images (Debord,1967).
Besides the participatory nature of these videos, vlogs also inadvertently, sometimes deliberately, involve marketing and create new consumers for the beauty industry. Many vloggers receive promotions from companies and advertise some products on their channel. As a result, audience members are persuaded to believe that if they use the same products, they would see the same beauty effects, even if the results, in some cases, seem to be manipulated. One of the reasons why these vlogs seem more convincing than usual advertisements is that audience members identify themselves with the vlogger, due to the interactive nature of the social medium. Another aspect of these vlogs is that when one subscribes to this kind of content, one is automatically classified as a potential shopper by recommendation algorithms. Youtube or even other web pages suggest some related products, and even similar channels, in their ads section.
Beauty vlogs are published mostly by women with women as their target audience. Vloggers usually demonstrate themselves in a gendered stereotypical way: they identify themselves with makeup, clothes and hairstyles. With the help of the vlogs, the audience members aim to be the ‘perfect woman,’ which is defined by the dominant social group in society. Beauty vlogging is aimed to eliminate and minimize physical differences. For instance, there are several makeup tutorials targeted to high school students in which the audience need to do their makeup to resemble a pop singer such as Adele, Beyonce, Rihanna etc. Vloggers try to teach the audience how to hide their imperfections because these do not match to their ideal beauty notion. This phenomenon creates a false perception of reality among today’s youth which lead them to construct their identities based on popularity and community’s beauty norms. On the other hand, when one watches a few videos related to beauty, Youtube further recommends beauty related videos to watch. Interestingly, YouTube suggests videos about home-decoration and personal training, which are expected to be women’s interests. As a result, the audience may stick to videos related to women’s interests instead of watching any other type of videos.
In conclusion, the beauty vlogs on Youtube, which become popular lately, have various effects on youth. Video sharing platforms allow ordinary people to easily create videos and let audiences interact with the community. This interaction between teenagers and community direct teenagers to create new discourses to adapt the community. Moreover, these vlogs encourage teenagers to become consumers of beauty products. These videos reinforce gender stereotypes and force teenagers to question and doubt their physical beauties. I believe beauty vlogs continue their popularity among youth, therefore further studies should be carried out in order to analyze their effects in depth.
- The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.
- Baker, F. W. (2012) Teaching Media Literacy from Media literacy in the K-12 classroom. International Society for Technology in Education.
- Lessig,L. (2011, August 26) Two Things, Not One, [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TadjlMDQdG4
- Debord, G. (1967). The Commodity as Spectacle from The society of the spectacle. New York.