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Potential ‘influencers’ reject college for a career in social media


May 8, 2019

From a young age, I can remember spending hours upon hours finding new YouTube channels to binge-watch. I’ve built such a large subscription box and watch some YouTubers so religiously that I forget that they aren’t my friends in real life (kind of sad, I know.) My personal favorite were always makeup tutorials, but since I began watching YouTube and following influencers on social media, it has become an entirely new ball game. What started out as a fun way for people to make videos about essentially anything they wanted has now become a lifestyle and a serious career path for those we refer to as “influencers.”

I can’t quite recall when it switched from being a fun hobby to a career choice, but these days I hardly know anyone who hasn’t at least heard of James Charles, Emma Chamberlain, Trisha Paytas or any of the other extremely popular influencers. These “influencers” are making a ton of money, as well, many of them driving luxury cars, appearing on different talk shows and festival stages, and shopping at Louis Vuitton on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Some are as young as the age of 16.

Almost none of the YouTuber’s I watch attend or plan to attend college at any point in their life. It crosses my mind often about what their future will look like; will they still remain as popular? Will their viewers grow out of them? And furthermore, is there a plan of action to switch their careers to some other path?

We can easily see that over the past years that the emphasis on going to a four-year university has lessened. There is a strong push for people to attend technical schools, where they can learn a trade – as there is a strong need for people working in the trades. But what about becoming an influencer? Could it be something that replaces college altogether?

Although influencing has gained a large amount of popularity over the last 7 or so years, I don’t believe there is a feasible way for the career to completely replace the need for college.

Many viewers wonder how some influencers make it to the big leagues, while others remain small and unknown to all but those who have already stumbled across their social media. When I see lesser-known pages on Instagram or YouTube, it’s not because they have bad content to present, but rather because they are lacking originality. It’s easy for the very famous accounts to follow the “trending” videos, and recreate them in their own style. If a lesser known account does the same, they will likely get pushed to the bottom of the notification page. Originality, raw personality, humor and creativity is what gains popularity, and once a following is established, influencers can count on their followers or subscribers to remain loyal.

I know so many people (some days, myself included) would adore starting their own YouTube channel, but be warned; it is a full time job, whether people want to accept that or not. Not only does being an influencer require hours of filming or photography, but editing, appearances, meet and greets and hours of research that is not shown on camera. What starts out as a hobby has a chance to blossom into a full time gig, which is likely just as exhausting as a regular 9-5 job.

So the question to be answered, is the desire to be a social media influencer replacing college attendance? Overall, I would have to say no.

Think in terms of singing, how many people do you personally know that have a wonderful singing voice? Maybe you’ve heard them sing at church, a school talent show or just driving in the car. I can think of about 10 people in my own life that I genuinely believe deserve to perform in Madison Square Garden – I even have a friend who has released two of her own albums. Statistically speaking however, what percent of the population are famous singers? Not many.

It’s the same with social media influencing. No matter how funny or good looking someone is, if they don’t have some driving force that sets them apart from the rest of the world, it is not likely they will succeed in the business.

There is an exception; I believe that social media can and does replace college for those who are already well on their way in the business. For those on their way to fame, creating content creators can make them money, but they have to put in the work, just like any other full-time career.

Monica Marsh is a student at UW-River Falls.