Monday, 21 November 2016

The Community Conjuration

Soooo... yeah. I'm writing my first blog now, as we speak. It's something I wanted to do for a very long time but ironically never had the time for. The main reason I started on a Monday is because it's a Monday. It's the one day where I have a gazillion thoughts running through my head, but never have a place to put them. Twitter? Nobody cares about serious stuff. Facebook? Uhm... Tumblr? Yeaaaah... Website? Ain't nobody got time for that. So, I decided to use Blogger. Because Google.

But this isn't about me. Well, technically it is because it will showcase my own experiences, but the first topic I want to desperately discuss goes a lot further than just me. Because even though I am a part of that very topic, there's something strangely ironic about being part of it. Today's topic is YouTube's community, or rather, 'community'. Don't get your panties in a bunch just yet, because I love the community. I actually do. There are just profound reasons as to why it is getting increasingly difficult to advocate for that community even though, again, I am forever grateful of its existence.

For those that know me, and my channel (PLUG!), I am not serious. I take life as it is, and do the same with any hobbies I choose to undertake. For those that know me a little better however, I can be quite serious. And I do the same with any hobbies I choose to undertake. So in essence, my thoughts are always divided by a feeling of not wanting to take things seriously, and a feeling to do exactly the opposite. It is this general state of mind, found especially on a Monday, that made me want to write a lil' sum'n sum'n about the community that everyone starting YouTube finds themselves in. It's a vibrant place, mostly, but its increasing toxicity makes you want to answer that one question: is it even worth it?

Now, once more, I love the community. I have met many friends, some significantly closer than others, and it enriched my experience in ways I could not have foreseen. Most of us 'new YouTubers' started out in some sort of a community, whether it is Google+-, Facebook, or well-known websites such as DamnLag. And we all did it for the same reason: subscribers and views. Don't deny. Don't lie. This is why we do it. Sure, you'll get some feedback, meet some people, and crack some banter during collaborations, but at the end of it all, your main goal is to get your channel noticed. And there's nothing wrong with it. Hypocritical as I can be, I will not deny any of it. Of course it's great to see a new subscriber join your minimal fanbase. Or when you get a few likes and comments on a brand new video. But in the grand scheme of building your 'brand' and your channel, is it indeed rewarding down the line? Or is it disabling any kind of 'real' traffic to your channel?

There's no arguing that a large part of the community is supportive because of own potential gain. After all, by labeling themselves as 'part of the 'real' community', rather than the shitfest that is spam-nation, you're much more inclined to go seek out their content. Right? Because you're a nice guy or girl, who would gladly do something in return. But it isn't until you've not visited their channel for a week, after about 3 nice comments with a cute little timestamp, you figure out they weren't actually there for your content. And yet again, we do not speak of spammers here. That's a whole different breed. Enough saliva has been spilled on those pests. Ask yourself this: if you would not check out their content for 2 weeks, who would remain? Who would continue to watch your content if they don't get some dickrubs themselves?

Because THAT, to me, is the essential question. Because when we talk about what and who helps build your channel, I'm fairly certain the community drastically lowers in significance. Just for the sake of saying this, I am not talking about the real friends you made while active in the community. They're friends, not content creators. Well, they're content creators, but they're friends. Get it? Probably not. It's not you, it's me.

You may ask: "Why are you spitting on what made you get to your channel's current state?" I'm not. I am fully recognizing the importance of a community. The feeling you get from growth. The satisfaction and morning boner when you see a bunch of new likes and comments. But are they contributing to your channel's durability? Are they making your SEO-efforts pay off? No. They just don't. See, the tricky thing about a community is the lack of respect for each other. We don't see each other as content creators that put in hard work into our videos. Nah, f that. We see each other as an extra like and comment. And because of that, most will jump in, leave a comment and a like, get that sweet timestamp in there, and leave, subsequently leaving you with a feeling of devilement. More so than the US presidential election.

"So where is the damage Stefan? I see nothing but advantages!" Good question, worse statement. Yes, growth is extremely important in the early days of your channel, and a community like the ones mentioned before is almost always a key factor. No denying that, and I have nothing bad to say about that. But at the same time, wonders wonders, communities limit your growth. Members of most communities limit their own growth. Without getting too technical, you know what really makes you grow? Youtube. That suggested video bar. The search results. The way it annoyingly pushes someone's videos into their face if they watched multiple videos of a certain channel but that person hasn't subscribed yet. That's where it is. And you know what damages that? Communities.

I speak of generations of communities. I started YouTube around the same time as my 'generation' did. Because of it, some of those content creators are still my friends to this day. After a certain amount of time has passed, we started not being involved with the community that much anymore. "Bitch!", you might scream. "Turd!", you might yell. "Ungrateful!", you might state. And in an utopia of YouTube, I would agree. In this current state, no. As an example, my retention, you know, that most important factor when it comes to ranking in search results, increased from 35% to 45%-50%. And that's over the course of the last year or so. Obviously, though arguably, I've increased quality of my content. Made it better, funnier, less cringey*. But you know what strikes me most? The incredible decrease in likes and comments. It's almost as if there's a direct correlation between my comments and likes, and my retention. What the hell? And I'm not the only who has seen this happening.

The main point of me scribbling down is not to put the community in a dark shade, surrounded by trust issues and clouded by bad experiences. Au contraire, everyone should start out in a community. The point I'm making, or atleast trying to make, is that you should be wary about who you connect with, and who you 'return the favor' to. After all, there's nothing wrong with watching content of other creators you enjoy watching. Spin it any way you want, but at some point, you need to let go. While a small portion will always be with you (romantic right?), the largest portion functions as poison, making your channel ache and bleed out slowly. I guess my point is, in a way, to not be afraid of decreasing interaction. Because ironically, it's the worst possible way to measure your current state.

* debatable

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