Dear Social Media Stars: Stop Taking Advantage of Your Followers
By: Gabby Frost (@gabby_frost)
As the internet grows, the fans of social media stars also rise in numbers. In the past ten years, we've seen YouTube, Vine, and other social networking apps dominate our lives. Some people take advantage of the hype surrounding these apps and eventually gain thousands, even millions, of followers on their account. It's rad that these apps give a platform to showcase talent, but it's tragic to see famous social media stars take control of their impressionable followers. Whether they're trying to make money off of something ridiculous or perpetuate toxic standards, too many stars are doing it.
Vine was created back in January 2013 and climbed its way to the top of the charts a few months later in April. People were given the challenge to make an entertaining video in just six seconds. For most people, making a short video appealing seemed like a difficult feat. On the other hand, there were others who mastered the art of Vine and attracted people quickly. Although popular Viners range from different races, genders, sexualities, and religions, there are a particular group of individuals who seem to benefit from the app better than others: teenage boys. Not just all teenage boys, though, only ones that a significant amount of people deem attractive. No matter how some of these guys got their start, they all gained a similar following and got put on a pedestal by their fans. One popular group of boys that comes to my mind instantly is Magcon.
Magcon is short for "meet and greet convention," and started in September 2013. The tour lasted until April 2014 when multiple members quit the tour. The original lineup of Magcon consisted of 11 Vine stars (Shawn Mendes, Nash Grier, Cameron Dallas, Carter Reynolds, Taylor Caniff, Aaron Carpenter, Jack Gilinsky, Jack Johnson, Matt Espinosa, Hayes Grier, and Mahoghany LOX); 10 of which were male. A majority of Magcon fans were – you guessed it – teenage girls. People who decided they wanted to attend Magcon had three options for tickets: general admission ($20-$25), priority ($70-$85), and VIP ($175). General admission ticket holders weren't able to meet the Viners. Priority ticket holders had the chance but were not guaranteed to like VIP. The fact that this convention would charge people at least $70 to meet someone is outrageous, considering that the target market was impressionable, young girls.
Although Magcon lost its popularity, its attempt at a revival occurred just earlier this year with the addition of Jacob Sartorius to its lineup. Sartorius is a popular user on the app Musical.ly, which allows users to create lip sync videos. At the age of 13, Sartorius was able to captivate the attention of millions with his videos and of course, mainly gained female attention. While he was on stage during a Magcon event, he legitimately got up and rapped the ABCs. Later on, he recorded his own songs for fans to purchase. After listening to his work, it was evident to me that he only created the songs to make a profit. You could tell just from the lyrics it was a pathetic attempt to grab money from young girls who didn't know any better. To make it even worse, Sartorius always tweets out things like, "RT if you would date me" and other flirtatious messages directed towards his fans. He also tweets out selfies with flirty messages and often has his tongue sticking out or bites his lip. As the sister of a 12-year-old boy, it's disturbing to see someone so young try and take advantage of girls who find him attractive. If my brother made thousands of girls believe they have a chance to date him and tried making money off of their love, I would be furious. It's not okay in the slightest bit that these young boys think they can capitalize off of being "attractive."
It's not just the boys of Magcon and other male Vine & Musical.ly stars who are taking advantage of their fans; YouTubers are also guilty of doing this. A majority of YouTubers start off thinking nothing will happen from making simple videos. Most of the time, their videos continue being the same as always and don't stray from their norm. The only thing that changes is how much power they have. With more subscribers comes offers of advertising products in their videos. After promoting products, many YouTubers create items to sell or release music. It's clear that some YouTubers are creating music just to make more money than they would have been. They know that their fans will buy anything they put out even if their voice has blatantly been autotuned. (I'm not saying that all YouTubers that release music are doing it just for personal gain, it's just that some appear to be)
YouTubers even try to make money off of music that isn't even theirs. Andrea Russett recently announced that she would be releasing a mix CD of her favorite songs called "Mind Medicine." None of the songs on this album are hers, but her face is on the album. She's allowing fans to pre-order this along with a "limited edition" bundle that comes along with a signed poster and a pin. Andrea even states in the description of the item that she "curated this emotionally charged compilation to pay homage to twelve insanely talented artists that deserve so much more recognition for their work." If she wanted to give these artists more attention, shouldn't she just tweet out for people to listen? It would also be easier to promote them if she made a Spotify playlist online so her followers could hear for free instead of paying at least $15. It's incredibly hard to make it into the music scene just like YouTube and other social media sites. The least she could do is give these artists a boost since she clearly has an impact on people. Even if she is giving these artists royalties for using their songs, it's obvious she's still making money off of it. Why does she get to make a profit off of making a playlist? Other social media stars make playlists, and none of them are expecting to get paid for it. I understand if she wants to share these songs, but it's extra to ask for money for a playlist she created.
Social media is a beneficial outlet for people to be creative and share their work, but the people who become famous from it need to learn what things aren't okay. No one should be taken advantage of just because they're a fan of someone. It's hard for fans to realize they are manipulated into purchasing items. Instead of making people popular for being "attractive," we need to make people famous who are trying to make the world a better place. Make people famous for being funny or talented, but if those people end up abusing their power to earn money, call them out.