In a world of clickbait, anonymous trolls, and Photoshop, it can sometimes be hard to know what’s real. For years, YouTubers have posted intimate looks into their lives and thoughts through videos known as “vlogs” (“video blogs”). Some vloggers have even taken up the challenge of posting a video daily (an idea sparked by Shay Carl, and currently championed by Charles Trippy who holds a Guinness World Record for most consecutive days vlogged). But while these YouTube stars claim they’re offering viewers glimpses into their “real” life, viewers have to remember that they’re only seeing an edited 10-20 minutes of a 24-hour (sometimes more) period of time. Many of these vloggers have become outspoken amateur life coaches, telling viewers that “happiness is a choice” and that positive thinking can allow you to achieve the success these Internet personalities have garnered over the years.
But they’re lying.
Shay Carl and the Shaytards, the pioneers of daily vlogging and YouTube’s “first family,” may be the biggest culprits that I’ve seen of perpetuating the lie that happiness is a choice and that maintaining a positive attitude is essential to success. For years I watched their family grow both in size and financial wellbeing as they built an empire of channels on YouTube, all the while Shay’s bubbly, silly attitude filling videos with pep talks. I’ve watched the birth of their two youngest children. I’ve followed Shay’s incredible weight loss journey. I’ve seen them move from Idaho to L.A. to back to Idaho. I’ve mourned the loss of their dog and laughed at their kids’ antics. For a time, they felt like distant cousins who I only knew through videos, a one-sided communication. But at some point, I grew weary of listening to Shay tell me about the importance of positive thinking, because I realized that 1) depression isn’t solved that easily; and 2) sometimes things just suck and you need to acknowledge it before you move on.
While I may have grown disenchanted with the life and philosophies Shay Carl exported to YouTube, many followers remarked in the comments how inspirational he was to them. While I don’t doubt that Shay was a great virtual cheerleader for many, the problem is that he was living a lie. In 2016, it was revealed that Shay Carl was an alcoholic. When he spoke of this problem, Shay made it seem like an issue of the past, something that had been dealt with. In early 2017, however, news broke just before the Shaytards planned to take a year off from the internet, that Shay Carl was still struggling with alcoholism and had cheated on his wife. By the time all these truths started to come out, I had long ago unsubscribed and wasn’t entirely shocked. What I was surprised by was how well he had masked the problem, as well as how many people in YouTube community knew that he was a partier and drinker, especially in the early days of YouTube. If anything, this showed how easy it was dupe viewers for years about major problems.
Shortly thereafter, Shay posted a message on Twitter apologizing and acknowledging that he had a lot of work to do in his personal life. The family promptly stopped posting vlogs to their channel, and Shay has since deleted his Twitter account.
It’s hard to know if a little more honesty in front of the camera would have helped Shay Carl confront his issues, but other vloggers have found talking to the camera to be quite therapeutic.
I began watching Charles Trippy of CTFxC fame when I was a junior in high school. I followed him through joining We the Kings, marriage, two brain surgeries, cancer, divorce, and just recently, his second marriage. It’s been a bumpy road, its roughest patch occurring with the abrupt announcement that Charles was getting divorced. Fans rapidly took sides and filled the internet with rumors of what we’d missed all these years of watching them live their lives.
When the infamous “WE NEED TO TALK.” video was uploaded, I was absolutely obliterated. Their relationship had always seemed like #relationshipgoals to me, and to see that reality shattered with the truth in a single video was incredibly disheartening. The CTFxC fanbase became an incredibly volatile space for a year or so afterward, and for a while I had to stop watching the videos. Charles, his first wife, and his current wife have all endured such incredible hate from the internet in that year following the video that I am still surprised they stayed on YouTube. I think the hate largely came from the viewers not know what to believe or think anymore when the unhappiness of that relationship had been kept from us for so long. How could the fans trust what we were seeing was the life that Charles was living?
Since the divorce, Charles has become more open about his struggles, often using the camera as an outlet for his emotions, particularly his frustrations from his health and medication issues. While the videos still maintain a positive, fun vibe, these moments of honesty show the strengths of vlogging and what initially caused such a large community to build around this content. I definitely have a lot of respect for Charles and his videos have always felt much less edited and more honest than the Shaytards. And offering up this full range of emotions not only makes these edited videos feel more real, but gives a more balanced take on having a positive attitude versus acknowledging when something sucks.
Newer vloggers seem to be taking a more balanced approach to their videos, learning the benefits of having an outlet like this as well as a community to lend support during tough times. Happiness feels much more earnest when I’ve also seen someone stress over buying a house or cry over the loss of a loved one or struggle with chronic illness. If anything, these moments of hardship have shown me that you can survive the impossible, that joy exists despite frightening diagnoses, and that honesty is often healthier than positivity.
If you’re looking for some honest vloggers, check out these channels:
nowthisisliving Shannon gives you a candid look into her life, most notably her relationship and breakup with girlfriend, Cammie.
WatersWife Vlogs Aimee is a longtime vlogger who in the past year has been doing an incredible job of sharing her and her husband’s grief journey after the stillbirth of their son, Beckett.
JesssFam Jessica has been vlogging her life and her experiences with pregnancy and motherhood since the birth of her daughter when Jessica was a teen. Since then, she’s birthed four more kids, endured several breakups and divorces, and finally married Chris, who has two sons of his own. Her videos are a wonderful look into co-parenting and blended families.
Tessa Violet Formerly known as meekakitty, Tessa is a longtime YouTuber whose content has evolved to honest blogs and music videos as she pursues her music aspirations. I especially love how self-aware she is of her feelings, and find her content to be very relatable to twentysomething females.
Cullen & Katie Another long-running vlogger, Cullen and Katie and their two kids, Macey Gaines and Brooks, provide a great balance of fun and reality. I especially appreciate the emotions they’ve showed regarding the passing of Cullen’s father several years ago and their more recent experiences with buying and selling a house. They do a great job of making the mundane and messy adventures of parenting into something hilarious and enjoyable for all audiences.
TheDeFrancoFam If you want someone who tells motherhood like it is, then you’ll love Lindz DeFranco, wife to YouTuber Philip DeFranco, and mother to three-year-old Trey (and another son on the way!). Whether she’s discussing the struggles of raising a toddler or her own mental health issues or pregnancy, she holds nothing back. I really enjoy Phil and Lindz’s relationship, and the humor they bring to their adventures as a family.
Featured Image: CharlesTrippy Facebook Page