UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM Faculty of the Humanities
Breaking down cancel culture: How it
redefines the relationship between audience and creator on YouTube
Supervisor: Leonie Schmidt Second reader: Joke Hermes
A thesis submitted for the degree of Television and Cross-Media Culture
of June, 2021
YouTube has become the newest source of news and entertainment for the younger generation. The formation of a judiciary that is led by its users, without formal education or interest in deep-rooted social issues such as racism, sexism, or homophobia, is a growing phenomenon that is beginning to emerge. Ostracization is becoming an increasingly popular form of punishment to penalize the individuals who go against the platform’s accepted social norms. This behaviour is also known as cancel culture.
Previous studies have suggested that cancel culture is a negative effect caused by the cruel nature of social media platform users. To study the building blocks and complexities of cancel culture on YouTube, this thesis discusses five main concepts that relate to the topic. The analysis is conducted through discourse analysis, where the comments, views, and tweets surrounding six different YouTube videos are thoroughly examined. This thesis has shown that cancel culture is largely a battle for authority and power between the audience and the YouTuber. The audience’s interest in drama over social justice contributes to the precariousness of the phenomenon. That is to say, cancel culture poses a growing risk to the democratic values and organization of society, due to the tense and unstable relationship it stimulates between the audience and the YouTuber. At the end of this thesis, following completion of the research and analysis, the conclusion will propose a path for future research to consider.
iii TABLE OF CONTENTS
3. SAMPLE ANALYSIS……….16
4. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK………..….21
4.1 Social Media Activism versus Online Shaming………...…22
4.2 Platform Surveillance………...25
4.3 Toxicity and Authenticity as Social Norms………..….28
4.4 Virtual Communities………....30
4.5 The YouTube Celebrity………..….33
5. MAIN ANALYSIS………37
5.1 Dramageddon 1………...…....38
5.2 Dramageddon 2………....…...43
5.3 Dramageddon 3………...…50
4 1. INTRODUCTION
As the people of the world increasingly move their lives online, their norms, values, and opinions move with them. This transfer to the digital world means that communities will begin to find their homes on social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok. It is on social platforms like these where global culture is growing and developing in ways which it could only do so on the internet. It is with this change that generations, both young and old, are beginning to follow and create social contexts through social media forums and comment sections (Storsul 2014, p.18).
Unsurprisingly, it is social media that has the biggest social and cultural impact.
However, the complexities related to this influence remain largely undiscussed. For example, the formation of a judiciary that is led by users, without formal education or interest in deep-rooted social issues such as racism, sexism, or homophobia, is a growing phenomenon that is beginning to emerge (Manu and Romero Moreno 2016, p.57). The operation of virtual communities of practice (Strangelove 2020) allows these users to determine the focus of the discussions about these issues.
Virtual communities of practice (VCoPs) are environments where individuals come together online over shared interests, goals, and opinions. However, where there is a debate, there is always an opposing party present (Strangelove 2020, p.105). That is to say, conflict is inevitable. Furthermore, ostracization is becoming an increasingly popular form of punishment to penalize the individuals who go against the accepted social norms within these VCoPs. This form of punishment is most commonly seen on YouTube and TikTok, where audiences stop engaging with creators with whom they do not agree. This behaviour is also known as cancel culture. It bears a close resemblance to online shaming, in that cancel culture is a newly established tool used to control the behaviours of others on social media. The practice of shaming has been used as a tool for social control for centuries and has since been integrated into modern society (Oravec 2020, p.291). It is primarily used to deter people from committing crimes, such as tax evasion, by threatening the public reputation of the individual and by association, their relatives and friends. However, a big difference between cancel culture and shaming is that cancel culture originates from social activism. That is to say, it continuously demonstrates a complex mixture of the positives and negatives that are
5 rooted in shaming and social activism. Moreover, the growth of VCoPs allows increasing room for expressions of positivity, but also of hate and negativity (Tucker 2018, p.4). Overall, cancel culture is the practice of individuals judging and penalizing the ones who break the social norms and values established in their community (Carpenter and Amaravadoi 2019). On YouTube, these communities typically revolve around the content and social interactions of YouTubers (also known as ‘creators’). If a YouTuber performs an action that is not accepted by their audience, they are semi- permanently labeled as ‘cancelled’. Cancel culture can be seen as a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it brings awareness to deep societal problems which otherwise would remain unnoticed on YouTube. On the other hand, the practice of ostracizing the perpetrators introduces the risk of censoring the problem, rather than encouraging the implementation of constructive and comprehensive discussion.
YouTube has become the newest source of news and entertainment for the younger generation, which is why VCoPs are continuing to grow in size (Cunningham and Craig 2017, p.80; Papadamou et al. 2019, p.1). Whereas in the past people looked to the radio, newspapers, and television, they now go online. Because of this cultural shift, it is important to look further into the fundamental changes that are currently taking place. Previous studies have already noted the importance of looking into people’s social media behaviour, especially the younger generations’ practices (Storsul 2014;
Richards et al. 2015; Doherty 2020). The majority of the research field specifically focuses on the well-being of children and adolescents who use social media (Richards et al. 2015). Deborah Richards et al. (2015) discovered that social media mostly affects the mental health of children and adolescents, specifically lowering their self-esteem, which is seen to be primarily caused by cyberbullying. There have also been studies that specifically focus on YouTube’s effect on children and adolescents. For example, a study was conducted that explores the effects of exposing children to the platform’s video content for educational purposes (Neumann and Herodotou 2020). This study demonstrated that YouTube may help “develop children’s critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving” through means of co-viewing and conversations with parents (p.77). In addition, previous research on cancel culture has primarily underlined the involvement of social media platforms but has discovered that there is an unforgiving and somewhat
6 cruel nature perpetuated by the participants of cancel culture (Ng 2020; Tufekci 2018).
These studies mostly view cancel culture as something that happens to VCoPs, instead of a phenomenon that is led by them. Instead of perceiving social media as a ‘thing’ that affects its users, this thesis highlights that the responsibility lies with multiple parties, such as the platform’s users, owners, and the inherent nature of the medium itself.
Studying different social media platforms and their users’ behaviour remains a crucial discourse because social media present the opportunity of becoming the birthplace of society’s future issues, norms, and cultures. Moreover, the rise in popularity of cancel culture shows that these virtually formed values are evolving to become a materially institutionalized phenomenon. Although social media misuse has been an ongoing issue since the widespread use of these technologies (Fisher 2018, p.127), cancel culture has the potential to evolve into an effective means for audiences to hold people with a large following accountable for negative influence and damaging behaviour. However, for this to work effectively, the VCoPs must avoid becoming entrenched in a single viewpoint or moral stance. Fortunately, history demonstrates that society naturally shapes itself through continuous change and constantly gives way to new perspectives and changes.
In this thesis, I focus on studying the building blocks and complexities of cancel culture on social media. The emphasis of this study is on discovering how cancel culture has spread amongst the audiences of popular creators within the beauty community on YouTube. I chose to study YouTube because the platform has a direct unfiltered and unmediated form of communication between the audience and the YouTuber through the comment sections on videos. Moreover, some YouTubers use YouTube for vlogging, which can act as a personal diary that their fans ‘read’ through and look back at the previous actions of the YouTuber in question. Finally, some of the biggest online scandals originated on YouTube. For example, Jaclyn Hill, Trisha Paytas, and Jeffree Star, who are all successful and famous YouTubers, have been at the center of scandals such as Lipstickgate and Dramageddon (Nyman 2020a). In all of the scandals on YouTube, the audience played a big role in the handling of the reception and punishment of the creators. In various ways, YouTube’s inherent structure allows the audience to hold judicial power. Meaning, the audience has a say in YouTube’s official policies as a platform and thereby contributes to the platform’s moral stance. This is
7 why the comment sections under video content on YouTube are a good representation of cancel culture in action. This thesis claims that the current complexities of cancel culture create an undemocratic environment on YouTube since it is used for social control rather than to address social injustices.
To effectively conduct the research for this thesis and test this claim, I ask the following research question: How is cancel culture (re)defining the relationship between audience and creator on YouTube? Ultimately, this thesis aims to map out cancel culture, how it came to be, which aspects it triggers, and how the relationship between audience and creator is (re)defined. To research cancel culture, this thesis discusses five main concepts that relate to cancel culture. These five concepts are 1.
Social Media Activism versus Online Shaming, 2. Platform Surveillance, 3. Toxicity and Authenticity as Social Norms, 4. Virtual Communities, and 5. The YouTube Celebrity.
First, in the chapter on social media activism versus online shaming, I discuss the differences and similarities between online activism in comparison to shaming people on social media platforms. Second, I discuss theories on platform surveillance (Hrynshyn 2019) to explore the role that YouTube plays in the exposure, collection, and spreading of personal data that leads to categorizing individuals into social categories.
Third, I discuss toxicity and authenticity (Obadimu 2019; García-Rapp 2017a) which highlights the role of YouTube as a seminary for different accepted norms and values in the ‘offline world’. I specifically focus on the alleged need for authenticity and the acceptance of toxic behaviours. Subsequently, the concept of virtual communities is discussed, since VCoPs are a crucial part of YouTube and its function. Lastly, the concept of the YouTube Celebrity (Hou 2018) is explored, by looking at theories surrounding the institutionalization of YouTube as a platform. By utilizing this thesis’
hypothesis, research question, and these concepts, this thesis contributes to the much- needed discourse of cancel culture on social media.
To answer the research question, this thesis will conduct a discourse analysis of the audience’s reception of scandals that originated and then continued to develop on YouTube. This reception is examined by taking eight comments related to six different videos that embody the main points of critique on the scandals. In order to fully comprehend the situation and the reception, interactions on Twitter between the
8 individuals involved are also included in the analysis. Often, YouTube’s younger audience tends to lead the discussion about YouTube drama on Twitter by identifying what others are saying about it. In some cases, drama on YouTube was caused by a post on Twitter. Thus, including tweets in the analysis will provide a more comprehensive picture of cancel culture. Moving on, this thesis will specifically focus on YouTubers who belong to the younger generations ‘Millenials’ or ‘Gen Z’ age groups, which usually, though not exclusively reaches adults up to the age of 35. The reason for focusing on these generations is that they are the most active users of social media platforms and engage more than older age groups do. Therefore, younger users also have a bigger impact and influence on online cultures, norms, and behaviours. In addition, YouTube is now the main source of news and entertainment for these age groups, meaning that they spend their free time actively engaging with each other on this platform. Moreover, a majority of the YouTubers who have been cancelled by their audience also belong to the Millenial or Gen Z generation. For example, Charli D’Amilio (b. 2004), Shane Dawson (b. 1988), and James Charles (b. 1999) are famous creators on the platform who have all been ridiculed for mistakes they have made publically.
Thus, it is logical for this thesis to stay within the boundaries of this specific demographic.
This thesis is structured in five sections. The first section considers the methodology and approach of the thesis. Here, the methods and procedures this thesis utilizes and the choices made are clarified. After discussing the methodology, in the second section, a sample case study is used to determine whether the methodology is effective and to see which theories are relevant to the topic of this thesis. However, the video I use in the sample analysis does not have many comments, so I have selected the ones that most accurately represent the audience’s viewpoints at the time. The third section discusses the theoretical framework. In the theoretical framework, relevant theories discovered in the sample analysis will be used to explore cancel culture and reflect on the findings of the analysis – thereby further contributing to the demarcation of the research field. The final section of this thesis focuses on the main analysis. The analysis is conducted through discourse analysis, where the comments, views, and tweets surrounding the six different YouTube videos are thoroughly examined. At the
9 end of this thesis, following the completion of the research and analysis, the conclusion discusses the findings and will propose a path for future research to consider.
10 2. METHODOLOGY
Over the past two years, there have been multiple ‘cancellations’ of popular beauty vloggers. For example, beauty influencer and makeup-guru Jaclyn Hill was cancelled back in 2019 for selling (what were assumed to be) expired lipsticks (Simeon 2019).
Various lipstick bullets had spots, hairs, and other unidentified textures on them. Some considered Hill’s tweets in response to the assumptions to be snarky and defensive.
This prompted serious backlash from fans. Other YouTubers in the beauty community publicly gave the lipsticks negative reviews (Capon 2019a), which led to their fan-bases conspiring against Hill to try and expose her for scamming her customers. Hill attempted to settle the commotion by refunding her customers the correct amounts of money paid for the products. Additionally, Hill addressed her fans in a video titled “My lipsticks” (Hill 2019), wherein she tries to explain that there was nothing wrong with the makeup and that she was not at fault in the situation. Nevertheless, her fans blamed Hill for lying and trying to cover up an attempt at prioritizing profits over customers’ health. Fans believed that she was being dishonest about the products and disinterested in the wellbeing of her audience (Rackham 2019). Due to this scandal, the entire production of Jaclyn Hill Cosmetics was temporarily halted and Hill lost approximately 70.000 subscribers on her YouTube channel. The big issue is that, due to the nature of cancel culture on YouTube, Jaclyn was not able to save her company or her brand once her fans had collectively decided that she was “the bad guy”. Jeffree Star, who is one of Hill’s peers on the platform, uploaded a video one year later titled “Does Jaclyn Cosmetics Deserve A Second Chance? […]”, which reinforces Stars’ audience to remain collectively skeptical over Hill and additionally it emphasizes the judicial-like authority the fans held over Hill and her makeup company.
Situations such as Lipstick-gate need to be situated within a broader sociological context wherein activism, justice, and punishment have been positioned as a tool, driven by ethos and moral code, used for shaming public figures on social media (Mielczarek 2018, p.77). This climate is arguably damaging to the growing young audience watching YouTube for entertainment because it involuntarily involves them.
This was previously not possible with television, because that medium did not allow for direct communication between audiences. However, YouTube does allow it. By drawing
11 on the five theoretical concepts, I argue that the current social climate on YouTube allows cancel culture to use activism as a shield for fans to hold authoritative and judicial power over YouTubers such as Jaclyn Hill. However, cancel culture runs after the drama, whereas social activism is about tackling social issues. This climate encourages the creation of an undemocratic environment where new social constructs are formed by trends and biases that occur within VCoPs (Ng 2020).
This thesis will perform discourse analysis on the comments posted on six different YouTube videos associated with a “Dramageddon”. A Dramageddon refers to a dramatic ‘falling out’ between two or more YouTubers associated with the beauty community on the platform. The name is a combination of the words drama and Armageddon, which quite literally translates to a dramatic fight between good and evil before the day of judgement (Lerner 2020). I will use discourse analysis as outlined by Jeffrey D. Wall et al. (2015). A discourse analysis entails the study of written text or speech amongst other topics and focuses on the significance of the sequence of sentences. Wall et al. distinguish a number of steps, which I will follow here. The first step I will take in performing the discourse analysis is to explore the production process of the video by looking at the involved YouTubers’ background (Wall, Stahl, and Salam 2015, p.268) This means that I will look at the community’s current perception of them by studying news articles and viewing other videos addressing them to establish their reputation within the community. This is necessary to determine the starting position of creators in the drama, and bring to light any previous controversies they have been involved in. Furthermore, I will look at video comments and tweets about the YouTubers that came to light after the event. Second, I will establish the context in which the comments are made (p.265). For this, I will look at the time the comment has been posted and compare it to the upload date of the video. The Dramageddons in question is still progressing and changing to this day. At different moments during its evolution, audiences had different opinions on the creators. That is why the date of publication of the videos is crucial. For example, a comment that was made in retrospect of a Dramageddon phase might have a broader knowledge and understanding of the situation than a hateful comment made during the event. Third, I analyze the comments underneath the videos by primarily searching for references to the event or dislike
12 towards the YouTubers, which allows me to determine if the context influences the commenter’s argument (p.277).
The videos that I use in this thesis represent the development of the relationship between audience and creator during the ‘three phases’ of Dramageddon. The continuous evolution and changing audience perspectives make Dramageddon an ideal case to study for this thesis because it represents the complexity of cancel culture and the ever-changing nature of society. The first phase (also called Dramageddon 1) started in late 2018 on Twitter, when a group of four YouTubers; Laura Lee, Gabriel Zamora, Manny MUA, and Nikita Dragun decided to bash another popular YouTuber called Jeffree Star. They did this by allegedly referencing to him in a photo that Zamora posted to his Twitter account. Instead of joining the four YouTubers, the audience turned against them and sided with Star. I first analyze the video titled “GABRIEL ZAMORA SHADES JEFFREE STAR & IT BACKFIRES!⎮PART 1” (Here For The Tea 2018) uploaded by a so-called “drama channel” named ‘Here For The Tea’. This video addresses the situation that started Dramageddon in its entirety, and it showcases the perception that the audience had at the time of the YouTubers involved. I chose to analyze a video uploaded by this drama channel because the audiences commenting on the video consists of a mix of fans from all of the involved YouTubers, whereas a video uploaded by a YouTuber reaches more of their own fan-base and may encourage a biased perception. Additionally, this video offers an outsider’s perspective on the situation and is placed in a neutral and unbiased position. A year after the drama had settled, Manny MUA uploaded a video wherein he responds to his cancellation, titled “I was "Cancelled" last year, lets finally talk about it” (Manny Mua 2019). I have chosen to look at this video because it signifies the end of the first part of Dramageddon and represents the shifts in perception that the audience had made during that time.
The second phase of Dramageddon began in the spring of 2019 when YouTuber Tati Westbrook uploaded a (now deleted) video titled “Bye Sister” in May, wherein she makes serious claims that her ex-friend and colleague James Charles is a sexual predator. Charles defended himself in a YouTube video responding to Westbrook, which completely changed the audiences’ opinion on the situation and changed the way they treated Charles in the community. Two months later, Westbrook responded to the
13 situation with yet another video, wherein she accuses Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson of manipulating her into targeting Charles. For the analysis on Dramageddon 2, I first analyze the video “James Charles response to Tati’s “Bye Sister” video (He Lost 2Million subscribers)”, uploaded by the channel ‘Stasia’s Secrets’ (Stasia’s Secrets 2019). This video is a reupload of Charles’ original video since he took it down due to backlash from the audience. Although it is not the original upload, it still showcases the negative perspective that the audience had of Charles. The core of the shift predominantly took place when Westbrook uploaded “BREAKING MY SILENCE…” (Tati 2020). However, the YouTuber has unfortunately disabled the ability to post comments on this video which is why I will not be including it in this analysis. To showcase the shift from the audience’s perspective, I analyze the comments on the video “No More Lies”
by James Charles (James Charles 2019).
Finally, the third phase of Dramageddon is discussed. Although this phase overlaps with the second phase’s final shift, it still makes a significant contribution to answering the main research question of this thesis. The overlap is frequently referenced as Karmageddon (Nyman 2020b) because the beauty community considers Dawson and Star to be deserving of their cancellation. Before Karmageddon, Dawson was a highly praised documentary producer on YouTube and even managed to redeem Star’s reputation by filming and uploading a documentary about their collaboration on an eyeshadow palette. However, after Westbrook’s video appeared the community’s opinion changed. This is the shift of phase 2: Dawson and Star were no longer the authentic YouTubers they appeared to be. Dramageddon 3 officially started in the summer of 2020 and ended early in 2021. This phase started with Star’s cancellation, which was sparked by an ex-friend exposing Star’s racist behaviour. Star denied these allegations and called his former friend a ‘clout chaser’ (social climber or fame-hungry person). However, Star has been publically racist before, so his audience was quick to believe the ex-friend (Payne 2018). Dawson defended Star by excusing his racist behaviour and saying he was “like family and much more” (Haylock 2020). In the sleuth of people digging up Star’s racist past, the audience also looked into Dawson’s online exploits, where they uncovered racist comments, pedophilia-related content, and accusations alleging beastiality (Haylock 2020). Karmageddon and Dramageddon 3 do
14 not have a redemption arc, and to this day the YouTubers involved remain cancelled.
To analyze this last phase of Dramageddon, I will first discuss a re-upload of a video that, in my opinion, sparked this scandal. The video is titled “ORIGINAL VIDEO: I WAS JEFFREE STARS FRIEND THE TRUTH I WANT YOU TO KNOW SOMETHING Uploaded By TAB!” and was uploaded by a user named sanders kennedy (sanders kennedy 2020). In this video, Star’s ex-friend, who is called Tab David, publically unmasks Star’s bigotry. The comments on this video demonstrate how VCoPs on YouTube go about discussing a serious social issue such as racism. Second, I analyze a video uploaded by Trisha Paytas titled “I just want to move on” (blndsundoll4mj 2021).
Before the video, Paytas was friends with Dawson for over 12 years and even defended him during Karmageddon. She is most known for being problematic and often gets cancelled by YouTube VCoPs. Yet, it seemed that she had gained the beauty community’s trust through the video when she announced that she ended her friendship with Dawson. This video by Paytas solidifies the end of the narrative for Dramageddon 3. At the end of the analysis, I address the current developments happening after the three phases of Dramageddon in a brief discussion.
The comments I will use for the analysis were sampled by using the systematic sampling method. Systematic sampling gives all comments an equal chance of being chosen for analysis. From each video, eight comments were selected that showcase the different debates that the audience is conducting. These eight comments are divided into two sections of four comments each. Some of the comments are lengthy, which is why taking four comments is more beneficial than analyzing a larger number of comments. As it is not possible to determine the age, gender, or sociocultural background in the comments, a sampling method that is representative of specific marginalized groups is unachievable (Ross 2020). However, all commenters on the video are members of the beauty community and so giving the comments an equal opportunity makes room for a smaller form of representation of the audience’s collective opinions and motives. For the purposes of this study, the audience will be viewed as a collective, and not as individual audience members since cancel culture is performed by a large group of people conspiring together and not necessarily by an individual on their own.
15 The body of this thesis has been divided into four main chapters. In the first chapter, I carry out a sample analysis. The sample I discuss concerns arguably the beginning of cancel culture on YouTube, namely the case of Mike Lombardo (Lindsay 2020). In 2014, 8 years after the first YouTube video was uploaded, a group of “young female YouTubers and fans” accused over 40 male YouTubers of a multitude of sexual misconducts. The female creators and fans justifiably held the male creators accountable for their actions in a form of activism and plea for justice (Tait 2017). This sample analysis functions as a test to see if the two projected theoretical concepts of virtual communities and platform surveillance are still to be associated with and still relevant to cancel culture. Additionally, the sample analysis is also used to discover possible new relevant theoretical concepts to use. Once these concepts have been fully explained and possibly new ones discovered, they will be further outlined in the theoretical framework. The theoretical framework is discussed in the second chapter of this thesis. This chapter is meant to set boundaries for the relevant data by emphasizing and defining specific viewpoints relevant to cancel culture. The main analysis is subsequently discussed in the fourth chapter, where the relevant concepts and pre- tested methodological approach are applied. The main analysis carried out concerns the beginning, evolution, and future of Dramageddon. By analyzing an event that has history and is still developing to this day allows for both a historical and topical representation of the effects cancel culture has on the relationship between audience and creator. The findings discovered in the main body of this thesis will ultimately be discussed in the conclusion. Finally, the last part of the conclusion suggests different approaches for future studies to take on this topic.
16 3. SAMPLE ANALYSIS
In this chapter, I will use a sample case study to explore what characterizes cancel culture on YouTube today and to subsequently determine which concepts relate to cancel culture. To achieve this, I look at the case of Mike Lombardo. Lombardo was a popular YouTuber in the early 2010s until he was cancelled for carrying out sexual misconducts on underage girls. During this time, YouTube creators started to become more famous and successful. For example, in 2010 the luxury beauty brand Lancôme appointed popular YouTube beauty-guru Michelle Phan as the company’s ‘official video make-up artist’ (Adams 2015). It became clear that it is possible to build a proper career out of producing YouTube content – once you have reached a certain level of popularity, brands will begin to reach out for endorsement deals (Wu 2016, p.11). In turn, the audience’s interest in monitoring the YouTubers’ lives and getting to know them increased (Tucker 2018, p.3). In the springtime of 2014, the YouTube community brought to light a multitude of sexual assault accusations involving over forty male YouTubers. Accounts on Tumblr began to accumulate video content of young girls who were coming forward about their experiences. The accusations ranged from emotional manipulation to serious statutory offenses (Lindsay 2020). However, at the time the term ‘cancel culture’ was yet to become institutionalized. In this case, the focus remained on the community actively protesting against these male creators, and for some, it “marked one of the first successful ways an online community self-policed its own predators” (Lindsay 2020). Nevertheless, this statement must be taken with a grain of salt, as conversations about this particular event are no longer actively discussed and are thus largely unknown to many current audiences on the YouTube platform (Nossel 2020). As a result, the entire ordeal has effectively become censored by default of no longer being in the public eye.
I will exclusively be looking at a video uploaded by a creator named
‘Sabrinabeeee’ because Lombardo’s original channel and its contents have been taken down from YouTube. The video I look at is titled “Regarding Mike Lombardo”
(Sabrinabeeee 2012), which was uploaded in 2012. This year marked the first emergence of the sexual assault accusations against the forty men. Sabrinabeeee’s channel momentarily has 334 subscribers, but the video has over 17,534 views, which
17 means that it has managed to extend beyond Sabrinabeeee’s regular audience to include a broader range of viewers. In addition to this, the time of audience interaction in the comment section aligns with the video upload date, meaning it most accurately represents the relationship the audience had with Lombardo at the time. I have chosen to use this specific video because it signifies the beginning of a chain of events and scandals that reached their height in 2014. Moreover, this video was uploaded before Lombardo faced the consequences of his actions in 2013 when he was sentenced to serve prison time for five years on formal charges for the possession of child pornography from eleven underage girls (O’Brien 2014). At the time, Lombardo was 24 years old whilst his youngest victim was 15 years of age.
To begin this sample analysis, I will first briefly explore the discourse put forth in the video by the creator. This creators’ opinion on the matter is important because she considers herself to be part of the ‘Nerdfighter community’ (one of the first large YouTube communities), which makes her the current spokesperson for representing the relationship between the community and Lombardo. Sabrinabeeee claims not being able to understand how the Nerdfighter community blames the victims for the abuse they endured, instead of holding Lombardo accountable for being the perpetrator. For example, an insight that Sabrinabeeee shares is that, unlike the traditional celebrity, YouTubers are accessible and involved with their audience through replying to fan comments and mail. According to her, the victims are vulnerable and impressionable, as they are teenagers who were allowed to talk to one of their idols. Many of the insights Sabrinabeeee shares correlate to the discourses on YouTube celebrities, behavioural norms on social media, and virtual communities ( Strangelove 2020, p.158; Smith 2016, p.345; Marwick 2015, p.16; Carpenter and Amaravadoi 2019; p.46).
Now I will analyze the comments on Sabrinabeee’s video. There are a couple of comments that agree with the creator’s viewpoints and that side with her on the discourse. A commenter with the username ‘Nix Nightbird’ responded by claiming:
“The guy exploited young teenagers to get his jollies. I have nothing but sympathy for the victims; They were just kids who idolized the wrong jerk.”
Another user named ‘Morbidlyobesecat’ says:
“I don't know why this has many dislikes when what you're saying is all so very true.”
One commenter also mentioned that Lombardo is considered a celebrity to these girls and that they would also be excited to correspond with them romantically if they were fifteen years old, too. These comments exemplify a part of the Nerdfighter community taking the victims’ ‘side’, by agreeing that Lombardo’s actions were wrong and acknowledging that the victims were influenced by his status within the community.
However, as Sabrinabeeee stated in the video, one part of the community is shifting the blame on the victims. This side holds the victims responsible for falling victim to Lombardo’s advances. For example, a commenter with the username ‘Society needs a system update’ posted:
“If you are 15 and cant stop yourself from exposing yourself online something is wrong with your brain”.
Here, the user believes that fifteen is old enough to understand the consequences of one’s actions, and is, therefore, able to make conscious decisions.
Two other commenters with the usernames ‘Cory’ and ‘Katrina’ posted these responses:
@Cory: “I don't think the victims are to blame, either. But neither do I think they should be called victims, and neither do I think there's anything to blame anyone for. When I was fifteen, there was no way in hell that I'd naked Skype with anyone if I didn't want to.
In order to consider these girls victims, you necessarily have to consider them stupid or immature. [Lombardo] didn't force them into it, they chose to do it. They did something with someone they wanted to do it with. Fifteen is not ten.”
@Katrina: “I'm not really on either [person’s] side here but I think 5 years is a ridiculously long time. […] And the media is making it seem like the girls were children.
The youngest was 15. […] at 15 people can make up their own decisions. Two of the girls were 17. While they were minors, they could hardly be considered children. 5 years for receiving/sending pictures to teenagers aged 15-17 is way too high. […] All those girls had to do was say no and not reply. At [their] age they can make their own choices.
It's not like he was in front of them with a gun […]”
19 The comments on this video make clear that there are two discourses. One which states that the victims are to blame, and one which states that Lombardo is fully responsible for his actions. This discourse has divided audiences into two sections. The best way to approach this in the main analysis would be to first explore theories about virtual communities in the theoretical framework. Furthermore, a topic frequently addressed in the comments and the video mentions the accessibility the YouTube audience has to the creators on the platform. To explore this more in-depth, I will discuss the theories around the institutionalization of YouTube and the YouTube celebrity (Hou 2018) further in the theoretical framework. Moreover, the Lombardo case seems to closer resemble online activism, rather than relating more to online shaming due to the active legal actions taken against Lombardo and the other men involved. In general, activism sets out to create social or political change. This is to say, in contrast to cancel culture, activism fights for social justice and is primarily driven forward by a group of activists who have the common goal of holding a perpetrator responsible for their actions and initiate social or political issues (Allen 2017). Although the audience was divided, there were legal consequences for Lombardo that led to change on the platform within the Nerdfighter community. Yet, a majority of YouTube audiences have still not heard of the Lombardo case, meaning that the same mistakes could potentially happen again. Moreover, all of the forty accusations that came forward involved male YouTube creators. Perhaps this is merely a coincidence, but I still want to find out which role the platform plays in these instances, in hopes of finding out more about the construction of cancel culture. Additionally, some of the comments on Sabrinabeeee’s video could potentially be psychologically damaging to the victims if they were to read it.
However, YouTube allows for freedom of expression, both positive and negative. I want to explore the consequences of this freedom, and if it is one of cancel culture’s triggers.
This sample analysis has shown that in addition to the three anticipated concepts related to cancel culture, there are three more concepts that are furthermore important to take into consideration. These concepts are social media activism versus online shaming, the YouTube celebrity, and toxicity and authenticity as social norms (Obadimu 2019; García-Rapp 2017a). First, it is necessary to distinguish social media activism from online shaming, since these are two elements that play a large role in the
20 complexities of cancel culture. By distinguishing them, the construction of cancel culture will become more clear (Nixon 2021). Second, I want to discuss YouTube’s role as a platform in cases such as Lombardo’s. I want to explore how YouTube makes room for a more intimate relationship between YouTuber and audience, and if it further encourages the polarization of audiences. Finally, I examine ways in which YouTube allows for extended freedoms of expressions, including expressions of hate, and explore how this is a driver of cancel culture.
21 4. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Previous studies on YouTube have approached the medium from a multitude of different disciplines, such as political communication, behavioural psychology, and even rheumatology (Ricke 2014; Lange 2014; Singh et al. 2012). Thus, it can be argued that different disciplines have found a shared common value in focusing on the platform as a research topic. To demarcate this study within the Media Studies research field, this thesis discusses five key concepts in the following chapter: 1. Social Media Activism versus Online Shaming, 2. Platform Surveillance, 3. Toxicity and Authenticity as Social Norms, 4. Virtual Communities, 5. The YouTube Celebrity. The definitions of these concepts can vary widely across multiple disciplines, and the meaning of a concept can depend on the approach of the assessment. This is why it is important to now discuss each of the concepts relevant to this thesis to clearly define what is meant with each term. Additionally, this combination of concepts covers different angles of cancel culture: the origins, YouTube’s contribution, the different social environments, the construction of virtual communities, and the drivers behind it. These concepts will be applied to the main analysis by first exploring the discourses within the comment sections, and subsequently applying the theories to explain and dissect the discourses.
YouTube can be studied within the realm of Media Studies because it has become a hybrid platform between a social medium and a digital content distribution platform. Since its development, the platform has quietly shifted from being restricted as a social medium into becoming a mass medium, which contributes a stronger social influence on society (Humphrey 2011). As a social medium, YouTube allows its users to follow content creators, communicate with one another in the comments or through video format, and share YouTube’s content to other platforms. Similar to Facebook, YouTube also makes room for marketing and advertising. YouTubers have the opportunity to monetize their content and part-take in sponsored posts, much like influencers currently do on Instagram (Tornetta 2019). Since recently, YouTube is considered a newer form of mass media. Michael Strangelove (2020) defines the difference between traditional mass media and YouTube:
22 Audiences are watching and interpreting YouTube videos not just as passive viewers but as active commentators and as producers of their own videos. The categories that once strictly divided society into producers and consumers are becoming increasingly blurred. This single social fact has significant implications for the next stage of capitalism and its media culture. (Strangelove 2020, p.158) In other words, the audience is more involved with the production, distribution, and reception of the content uploaded to YouTube and according to Strangelove, this is an indication of a political, cultural, and social shift in society. This chapter will further demonstrate how media scholars approach the five concepts differently.
4.1 Social Media Activism versus Online Shaming
This thesis has stated that cancel culture is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, cancel culture finds its roots in activism for political and social awareness and accountability for social injustices. On the other hand, it shares a close relation to ‘online shaming’. The practice of shaming has been around for centuries, with documentations tracing back to ancient civilizations (Oravec 2020, p.291). It has since been integrated into modern-day societies. For example, The United Kingdom practices ‘tax shaming’ in hopes to deter tax-avoiders and close loopholes that make the tax law vulnerable to extortion (p.292). Eric Posner describes shaming as “[…] a form of social control. It occurs when a person violates the norms of the community, and other people respond by publicly criticizing, avoiding or ostracizing…” (Posner 2020). In addition to Oravec, Posner also acknowledges that shaming has played a crucial role in rudimentary legal systems. He states that “even today the perp walk, public trials, criminal records, and all the rest ensure that anyone who encounters the law will be publicly shamed. “[…]
People who are tempted to commit a crime are deterred not only by the threat of fine and imprisonment but also […] by the vision of the shame that they would bring down on themselves and their families if they are caught” (Posner 2020). In other words, Posner believes that shaming can also be seen as a form of punishment. Shaming that is used as punishment is meant to elicit embarrassment for the unfortunate one being
23 shamed (Oravec 2020, p.296). In her article, Lauren M. Goldman (2015) also addresses the utilization of shaming as a punishment tool on social media within the American justice system. She argues: “Because people create their own communities via the Internet, public shaming sanctions that utilize an offender's online presence could be particularly effective.” (Goldman 2015). In this situation, a criminal would have to post their mugshot on their social media profiles for their friends and family to see, and for them to ultimately shame the perpetrator. However, online shaming is not always controlled by policies or a judiciary. There is no way to make sure that the online shaming is not personally targeted at someone, or psychologically damaging to the one being shamed. Therefore, Oravec argues: “[…] but efforts to direct the power of moralistic imaginations toward the development of callous and insensitive ways of addressing social problems can foster unfortunate and often unforeseen societal outcomes” (Oravec 2020, p.306). To avoid this, Oravec claims that only morally pure people can judge those who are “morally corrupt”, but that these people are in fact fictional (p.299). In other words, the people who shame others on social media are morally corrupt as well, and inconsiderately speak up about serious social issues, such as alcohol abuse or cultural appropriation, topics on which they may well be uneducated or insensitive. Online activism has proven to be effective in the Lombardo case, where eventually Lombardo was incarcerated for his behaviour towards underage girls. This ordeal has since been hailed as “cancel culture done right” because it is seen as activism for the greater good (Lindsay 2020). However, Nils Gustafsson and Noomi Weinryb (2020) argue that activism on social media is based on an individualized economy that promotes self-expression, and as a result, organizations grow into different factions of online communities (Bennett 2014). This is primarily known as connective action. Moreover, Gustafsson and Weinryb claim that this individualization is promoted by a populist culture on social media (Gustafsson and Weinryb 2020, p.432).
The authors continue their argument by stating that:
Internet entrepreneurs mired in techno-utopian libertarianism designed their platforms accordingly. However, although users adapted their behavior to the affordances created by the new technology, they also came up with novel ways to take advantage of these platforms that were not envisioned by their creators
24 (Baym, 2015). […] these unforeseen consequences of mass action, not only for protest but also for logistical coordination of volunteers, pose specific populist challenges to the way society at large, and most pertinently civil society, is organized. (p.433)
That is to say, social media users begin to take advantage of the platforms by pushing individualization and consequently creating large political communities, which puts at risk the formation of democratic societies at large. These communities subsequently depend on individualized charismatic authority, a concept introduced by sociologist Max Weber (b.1864). A society dependent on individualized charismatic authority is considered to be “inherently unstable”, because it does not contain any “economic rationality”, and relies on bouts of emotional enthusiasm to work (p.436). Another theory suggests that social media activism is becoming more “phatic” rather than “dialogic” - meaning that there is less interest in discovering information and more about the social interaction itself (Miller 2017, p.260). Vincent Miller (2017) argues that these communities consider passing on the conversation as being more important than focusing on the content of the talk (p.262). As a result, the authenticity of
‘understanding’ disappears, and educated individual opinions wanting to contribute to the conversation get flushed out.
From these articles, it has become apparent that activism and shaming on social media are fickle constructs. Both situations call for a ‘morally pure’ (Oravec 2020, p.299), or ‘techno-utopian’ (Gustafsson and Weinryb 2020, p.432) environment on these platforms, which is arguably an unachievable goal to chase. Instead, the reality is that the authority of formed activist communities is not supported by ecological rationality, but rather by bouts of emotion that are driven by connective action and phatic conversations. The same happens for shaming; where punishment for one’s unacceptable actions is at risk of psychologically damaging and permanently ostracizing the unfortunate one being shamed. Although it is important to recognize crime on social media and to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions, the foundation on which shaming and activism on social media stands is undoubtedly unstable. Subsequently, its instability poses a serious risk to the democratic values and organization of society today. This section has explored the origins of cancel culture and has found that these
25 roots are unstable and knotted. Activism and shaming in the online sphere share the same intentions as their judicial and economic counterparts yet are worn down by the moral corruption and irrational emotions of the community. Thus, cancel culture is fragile in its build, meaning it is not currently fit to act as a tool for YouTube communities to use when seeking accountability and responsibility from a YouTuber. For the main analysis of this thesis, the theories put forward by these authors are applied to the comments, which are then more easily categorized into sub-sections of four.
4.2 Platform Surveillance
Surveillance is a term that can be understood in a few different ways. It can be perceived as a part of daily life when people are paying attention to their surroundings, friends, or family. It can also be defined as an authority monitoring citizens’ or employees’ behaviours. Social media platforms do the same; they watch and track the behaviours of their users (Brown 2015, p.1). In this thesis, the concept of surveillance is explored by discussing the digital role of social media platforms in structuring communications to and between users. Derek Hrynshyn (2019) claims that communications on social media are not free from ‘external forces’. He states that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are moderated by the ‘owners of the systems’ wherein they produce communication (Hrynshyn 2019, p.33). For example, algorithms calculate the interests of a diverse group of social media users and provide content to them based on their personal data profiles. Meaning that if a group of users occupies themselves with watching alt-right political video content on YouTube, that is all they will see. Hrynshyn argues that this decentralized structuring of communications on social media causes a bias to form, which subsequently depends on the digital behaviour of users who are influenced by online communities (p.32). In other words, social media communities are often brought into contact with only one side of the story, usually due to political ecosystems. Thus, they are unable to form a fully realized opinion on the matter due to their limited exposure to information. On the one hand, the exposure to information on social media has also played an important role in bringing attention to and mobilizing aid and support for political movements, such as the Arab
26 Spring (Karolak 2016). On the other hand, it can affect the way users consume or take in certain pieces of information. According to Ian Brown (2015), surveillance changed into a social convention in the late twentieth century. Moreover, this change affected
“power dynamics, institutional practice, and interpersonal relations” (Brown 2015, p.1).
Brown continues his argument by stating:
Social networking tools make it much easier for individuals to share information about their friends and acquaintances, with or without their consent. Any of these actors, in turn, may treat individuals differently based on that information, and share it without their explicit consent – including using identification technologies to link surveillance data back to individuals. (p.2)
Brown suggests here that one’s personal information can be shared by other social media users without consent, which may make others treat the affected user differently based on the information they see. Brown argues that this is also how social media algorithms work; collecting personal information, classifying individuals, and providing the opportunity to judge individual profiles based on i.e. political risk or ethnic background. Brown calls this social sorting (p.5). Social sorting allows governments to increase “privilege for the powerful” and further discrimination against marginalized groups. In short, by mining, archiving, and sharing data social media platforms automatically contribute to the segregation and marginalization of ethnic and political groups from the inside out.
Furthermore, Beth Tucker (2018) argues that social media not only allows for biased exposure to information, it also allows for extremely fast proliferation. Tucker continues by stating that on social media the “many watch the few”: meaning, a large audience keeps track of an individual. She states that social media allows for free speech that is unfiltered by a moderator, which leads to individuals leaking opinions to their large audience at a very fast pace (Tucker 2018, p.3). Moreover, Tucker argues that this happens because society has become one of ‘synoptic surveillance’ – allowing for “unprecedented and constant access” to information (p.2). Tucker claims “when a celebrity says something that does not align with the image created, or with popular societal values, they are ‘dragged’ or ‘called out' on what they have said, usually by a
27 great volume of people and very quickly” (p.3). This proves that social media allows for constant and rapid spreading of personal data and unfiltered opinions, which evidentially leads to changes in the relationship dynamic of the interpersonal, institutional, and powers.
These articles have shown that social media platforms play an integral role in the exposure and spread of information to users. In most cases, this leads to certain (political) groups exclusively being exposed to the type of content they sought after, leading to further instigation of their (extremist) views. Moreover, social media platforms have altered the relationship dynamic between interpersonal relations, power dynamics, and institutional practices. Since users do not need to give consent to the spread, sharing, and collection of personal data, others can distribute it at will. In turn, users will treat the affected differently based on the information they are exposed to. On a higher level, this is called social sorting, a phenomenon that contributes to the segregation and marginalization of ethnic and political groups on social media. Additionally, social media allows for a fast proliferation of information. Due to unprecedented and constant access to information, tweets by celebrities containing unfiltered opinions are shared at a very fast pace. This leads to the possibility that the perception of a celebrity can change in almost an instant.
On YouTube, this means that communities likely change sides based on new information they receive. However, YouTube can influence this information by recommending specific videos catered to an individuals’ preferences. The platform may push a certain perspective or side based on the users’ previous interests and behaviour, meaning that YouTube may encourage a set perception instead of introducing new ones. For example, if a user is invested in watching videos that criticize a famous YouTuber, they will further receive more videos sharing this same perspective because the platform knows that they want to watch them. This user’s perspective is subsequently strengthened by the influence of an entire community agreeing with it.
This is also most likely why the Nerdfighter community was divided into two sides during the Lombardo case. For the main analysis, I will select common opinions shared in the comments, such as showing fondness to the involved YouTubers or reference to other
28 video content, which I will then use to determine whether the platform potentially influenced the discussions.
4.3 Toxicity and Authenticity as Social Norms
It has long been suspected that the media shift how people understand and perceive social norms (Shearer 2019). For example, advertisements have been known to shape the way people think their bodies, skin, or lifestyle should look. Companies do this to gain an advantage over their competition by appearing more transparent and socially aware (Geertz and Herman 2017). Arguably, social media platforms and online communities do the same thing. People who use social media visualize their personalities through the content that they post on their profiles. Just like in the offline world, there are certain expectations and standards surrounding one’s behavior (Carpenter and Amaravadoi 2019; p.246). According to Christopher Carpenter and Chandra Amaravadoi (2019), there are injunctive and descriptive norms. Injunctive norms are the social behaviours that are expected, and descriptive norms are how people actually behave (p.238).
Authenticity and toxicity are both expectations on social media platforms.
Previous research has shown that authenticity is an important social construct for audiences, advertisers, and YouTubers alike (Lajeunesse 2018, p.43; García-Rapp 2017a, p.121). Creating authentic content and performing an authentic persona is essential to vloggers for them to sustain audience attention and engagement (García- Rapp 2017a, p.124). According to Florencia García-Rapp (2017a), authenticity is not a permanent or equitable concept. Instead, she argues that it is a ‘performative’ concept that is dependent on the context of a given situation, and therefore has a tendency to shift between specific definitions (p.131). Moreover, García-Rapp claims that authenticity and credibility go ‘hand in hand’ with each other, because the term in itself implies certain transparency: “sincerity and trustworthiness” (p.127). In other words, audiences who trust YouTubers because they seem sincere are more likely to engage with and stick to them. Thus, YouTubers who appear disingenuous are more likely to be repelled or avoided. Furthermore, García-Rapp (2017b) argues that a loyal audience contributes to growing popularity and relevancy, primarily due to the way the vlogger’s
29 content “shapes ties with viewers” (García-Rapp 2017b, p.235). The author argues that online celebrities must simultaneously remain legit and relatable, more so than mainstream mass-media celebrities, because they must show master skill and knowledge to be “worthy of recognition” (p.132). This is to say that YouTube stars are expected to follow the social norms and values on social media, and if they break these norms and values they will be ostracized by the audience or not succeed in the first place.
On these platforms, one is expected to be authentically themselves. However, this means that there is room for hateful expressions of emotion if this is authentic to one’s person. These hateful expressions can take the form of trolling, bigotry, or political extremism. In addition, one can receive hate from others for simply being themselves because it is either frowned upon or disagreed with. Both terms are expected, implemented, and have since become the social norm. Adewale Obadimu et al. (2019) argue that 73% of adults have come across a form of hate or harassment, and 40%
have personally experienced it (Obadimu et al. 2019, p.215). However, according to Obadimu, platforms such as YouTube are taking precautionary measures to try and prevent hateful commenting on their site by allowing an option that filters out offensive words. Yet, he claims that social media are a “breeding ground for toxicity” (p.214), but that it is still a practice that violates social norms (p.216). Perhaps toxicity is a violation offline, but online it can almost be expected every time. A reason for this could be because social media allows for freedom of speech and expression, which means that people are going to share their opinions, and some of those opinions are going to be hateful. Merlyna Lim (2017) states that by allowing the freedom of expression to continue on social media, hateful expressions are given freedom too: “While social media sites allow users to exercise freedom of speech, these also encourage people to exercise the freedom to hate. While individuals frequently use the phrase “freedom of speech” to defend their own right to voice opinions, they actively attempt to silence others” (Lim 2017, p.420).
The articles discussed here have shown that media are a core influence on the lifestyles and behaviours of audiences. These influences are shaped and formed by advertising companies into becoming the social norm, and because of social media,
30 these norms are also moving into the online world. However, social media has become a breeding place for toxicity: 73% of adult users are exposed to online harassment. A reason for this is that social media allows for unfiltered and authentic freedom of expression, which contains hateful opinions, too. Another important social value on social media is the construct of authenticity. YouTubers who appear sincere and genuine are more likely to keep and grow their audience. If the YouTuber breaks the social norm by being disingenuous, they run the risk that their audience will reject them.
Once this happens, the YouTuber is no longer deemed “worthy” of recognition and is subsequently ostracized from the community. However, if the YouTuber is authentically toxic, they are more easily forgivenn than if they had been dishonest. The comments which I analyze in the main analysis will be searched for mentions of authenticity or derogatory and hateful expressions. By doing this, I provide further insight into the mechanisms of cancel culture, and how the nature of social media shapes the relationship between audience and YouTubers.
4.4 Virtual Communities on YouTube
Online communities or Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoPs) allow people to come together and discuss topics they would otherwise not be able to. Previous research has shown that these VCoPs allow individuals to grow and gain knowledge that crosses languages and borders (Gray 2004). The idea of communities forming on the internet is not a new one, yet it remains a controversial topic of discussion (Strangelove 2020, p.103). The social media platform most commonly associated with VCoPs is YouTube (p.136). According to Michael Newman (2008), this is because, since the beginning of the platform, it takes cooperation between audience and creator to make the medium
‘work’ (Newman 2008). This is to say that VCoPs are a crucial part of the function and understanding of YouTube. Moreover, not only are VCoPs integral to YouTube, but the platform also can stimulate their formation (White 2011). Strangelove argues that internet communities are “interconnected and heterogeneous”, which is in contrast to real-life communities that are “bounded and isolated” within themselves (Strangelove 2020, p.104). This is to say that members of an internet community are also part of
31 other interacting cultures and societies. Strangelove states that one of the ways to define a community is by shared interests, such as fan communities who share an interest in a celebrity or television show. Strangelove claims that, on YouTube, it is not so much about a group of people who look for each other within their shared interests, but more about people going down the same route:
Yet there is more to online communities than interest, as Steven G. Jones points out. Online communities not only are ‘composed of people who are necessarily connected, even by interest, but are rather groupings of people headed in the same direction, for a time. (p.105)
Furthermore, Strangelove claims that YouTube encourages space for multiple communities because people ‘identify with it’ and develop relationships with other communities. These communities subsequently enter into debates to support and protect their interests from others who disagree. Strangelove argues: “To a certain extent, then, where there is disagreement and debate, there we find community. If we want to know what types of community YouTube has enabled, one of our best sources will be the internal debates and controversies that are found among YouTube’s members.” (p.105). In other words, YouTube allows for multiple communities because there is always going to be a community that opposes and argues against the views or interests of another group.
Moving on, Nancy White (2011) provides an interesting insight on VCoPs on YouTube, by stating that they often encourage damaging behaviours in young teens, most commonly of which being self-harming. White states:
Of [Stephen Lewis’] adolescent patients, he says that about one-third seem turned off by the videos and another third seem comforted by them, encouraged to start or continue cutting. The other third is neutral about the videos. […]
"These kids (who harm themselves) talk about feeling alone and empty," says [Clair] Crooks. "Suddenly, here's a group that understands me and has the same problem. (White 2011)