Google the term “Movie Stars.” Go ahead…I’ll wait. The result is a scrollable list of individuals that have captured the hearts of people all over the world through their character portrayals on the big screen.  Their names include everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie to Marlon Brando.  I scrolled through about three pages of celebrities, remembering the various roles they’ve played over the years.

Now, Google the term “YouTube Stars.”   Once again…I’ll wait.   The results is a scrollable list of…um…wait, who are these people?  PewDiePew?  Lilly Singh?  Should I know these people?

We’re not in Kansas anymore
When you look at that list of YouTube stars, you may feel like you’ve been whisked off to another world.  It’s a world where technology has been integrated into many aspects of our lives.  A world where people in their early twenties who play videos games online and make bad jokes achieve a celebrity status.  Well, this isn’t a dream Dorothy.   Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePew) is a college dropout who decided to focus on creating content for his YouTube channel after struggling to find a traditional job in Sweden in 2010.  Almost eight years later, he has built the largest channel on YouTube with 57 million subscribers.  His videos have received over 16 billion views during that time.   

People who have found fame through online platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat are known as “instacelebs.”  The Instacelebs category is made up mostly of young adults ages 15 through 28.   Their online content includes videos of gaming, style, makeup, and sketch comedy.   Instacelebs are masters at building their brand.  They are also known for being very well connected to their fan base.  They’ll often respond directly to fans who comment on their videos, ask a question, like their posts, etc.   In return, their fans are overwhelming loyal.   

In a previous post, I discussed how Generation Z has unlimited options when it comes to how they spend their time, but like the rest of us, their time is limited.  Generation Z looks to instacelebs for original, high-quality content.  The influence these online stars have is remarkable.  For example, PewDiePew merely mentioning another YouTuber in a video in 2013 was enough to lead to Internet fame for Seán William McLoughlin.  Seán, who goes by Jacksepticeye online, comes in at number 16 on the list of top 20 YouTube channels with almost 15 millions subscribers. At the 2016 SXSW conference, organizers shared a list of the top 10 Generation Z influencers.  Only one traditional celebrity, Jennifer Lawrence, made the list.  The rest of the list included Kylie and Kendall Jenner along with various SnapChat and YouTube stars.  

What does this mean to parents?
The youth culture of today views the stars of the small screen in a similar way as we look at the stars of the silver screen.  The difference is that these new celebrities are not out of reach they way existing stars are.  These celebrities don’t live in Hollywood with the glitz and the glamour.  They are real people.  Their fans have watched them rise to instaceleb status, but yet they are still filming videos from their bedroom.  Kids today have seen how one person can share their ideas with the world and build a following through those ideas.  The barriers to becoming a celebrity are much different for the Netflix generation.  They don’t need famous parents, casting agents, runways, or even money.   All they require is a camera, an idea, and a platform to broadcast.  The path to becoming a celebrity gained a new avenue.  

This is one of the reasons your kids spend so much time on their tablets, computers, and smartphones.  They are communicating with the new reality. In a single minute, they can message a friend, share the latest video from Smosh, and browse photos of their peers online.  

The goal of the Help @ Home project is to help parents become better connected with their student’s digital lives.  This post is designed to help you as a parent have a better understanding of this aspect of your child’s life.  There is quite a bit more to discuss with this topic which I’ll do in posts over the next few weeks.

What does this mean to educators?
This generation has elevated ordinary people to extraordinary heights.  These instacelebs got their start by sharing their ideas, thoughts, and designs with the world through a variety of free mediums.  YouTube has provided a platform where the topics are endless. These new celebrities have thrived off the idea that everyone has a voice and it is not too difficult to share that voice. 

As an educator, you’re continually pushing students to develop their own ideas. Use the instaceleb phenomenon as a way to build an army of creators!   Imagine a class of students who had ideas to publish with the world and the skill set to do so safely and positively.   Show them the power of social media and the Internet.   This is also a fantastic opportunity to have a conversation about cyberbulling, posting mean comments, and the downsides to internet fame.  Common Sense Media has a great pre-made for teachers working with High School students that looks at Rebecca Black and her web celebrity story.  There’s also a lesson for Middle School children that focuses more on how they spending their time online.  As I stated above, there are other aspects around this topic that will be covered in future posts.

Assignment
This week’s task is to watch a few of the videos from the YouTube stars mentioned above.  I need to caution anyone who chooses to attempt this assignment that it may be hard to get through the full video.  For starters, it can be difficult to understand precisely what is going on most of the time.  Similarly, the language, as well as the content in some of the videos, can be graphic.  

 

Resources
List of highest paid YouTube stars