In the last five years, there have been a number of Youtubers releasing books, some fictional (like Joey Graceffa’s Dystopian trilogy), and others non-fictional (like Shane Dawson, Miranda Sings, Tyler Oakley, and so many others). Youtubers, using their influence, often write books of “self-help”, or a series of essays, or something similar to memoirs. They provide advice, despite the fact that they are only in their mid-to-late twenties. It’s a bizarre case, one that I have been feeling the need to unpack for a long time.
Now, while John Green is technically the first youtuber to release a book, he was an author first, so I will just skip him.
The first youtubers to publish a book after gaining their popularity were Blaire and Elle Fowler, publishing the fiction book Beneath the Glitter, in 2012. From then on, Youtubers began publishing their non-fiction books, with books such as I Hate Myself and In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World gaining quite a bit of traction. Most of these centered around Youtubers’ tales of their childhood, functioning as a pseudo-memoir despite the fact that most of the authors were in their early-to-mid twenties.
It wasn’t until 2014 that the first actual “help” books came out from a Youtuber, with Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen: a Guide to Eating, Drinking and Going with Your Gut. It’s help aspect comes from the fact that this is a recipe book, although within the next three years tons of “self-help” books came out.
Now, while I have no qualms with things such as recipe books and fictional novels, the memoirs and self-help books kind of get to me. And it’s not like it’s business or fashion advice, either (Michelle Phan published Make-up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style, and Success- Online and Off in 2014, which offers both business and fashion advice, as well as maintaining a healthy attitude), but rather actual life advice. This isn’t to say that someone who isn’t in their twenties can’t give life advice. It just seems odd that someone who is in their twenties are offering advice books to their audience-most of which are in their early or mid teens.
To me it’s difficult to imagine my teen-self or any of my friends following the advice of someone who, quite often, never got their degree in college, and made their career in a very competitive environment. It also seems weird to read a memoir about someone who hasn’t even made it to their thirties, yet. Most people don’t write memoirs until they’re almost in their fifties, or even later. It’s usually after they have lived quite a bit. That isn’t to say that a lot hasn’t happened to a young person, but most Youtubers’ memoirs are quite mundane. They have childhoods that may be tough, but are often not unusual.
Of course, some of these Youtubers can provide some insight that their younger audiences can relate to. Things such as mental illness, eating disorders, being a part of the LGBT spectrum, and other such hardships may connect to people who are stuck in similar positions. The only problem is that the writers are so young themselves, still growing and learning, that what they write in one book won’t be how they feel ten years down the line.
Perhaps rather than sticking to full on life advice, they should stick to subcategories that they excel in for now. There are so many ways that you can provide advice to young people without it being how to live. There are also many ways to write personal anecdotes without writing full memoirs. It’s better not to rush into things so young, despite our tendency to do so.