Being Private In A Public World

Our lives have become almost entirely publicized, from the most obscure teenager to pop star sensations. In the past, in order to rise to stardom, an actor, singer or performer marketed himself or herself as a talent. They publicized their talents through separations between themselves and their fans such as newspapers, television, and radio. But today, common household names come from social media platforms such as twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Not only are pre-established celebrities connecting more directly with their fans through social media, but previous unknowns are emerging from obscurity to become Youtube sensations. No longer does someone require artistic talent to achieve notoriety, although many YouTubers possess it. A new kind of celebrity is emerging from the fertile ground of social media, a celebrity that does nothing especially different from the everyman, and lives his or her life nearly indistinguishably from fans, except for one thing--it's all broadcasted.

Vloggers, or YouTubers that video log their day to day lives, or even people who sit down in front of a camera for a living and discuss their breakups, disappointments, struggles with family members, jobs, sexuality, weight, opinions on social and political matters and personal crises, have made the decision to sacrifice their privacy in order to achieve fame. For the first time in history, people have been able to intimately follow the true-life story of someone living in another country. But while this breadth of available information is a valid choice in our increasingly publicized worlds, what happens to the private life of individuals who make a living by sharing their lives with the world? What does this say about the ever-decreasing value of privacy on the Internet?

Most social media frequenters are so familiar with the lack of privacy that it hardly seems abnormal. We are all used to gathering quick information about a friend of a friend, even getting as specific as family vacations and birthday celebrations. But what might jar even an acclimated teen is the amount of personal information fans of celebrities have come to expect from their idols. While the paparazzi have always hounded movie and TV stars for unflattering pictures of them in every day life, in the new world of interpersonal fame, fans are able to harass their heroes directly. YouTubers in particular are constantly on the receiving end of boundless requests for information from fans who do not respect the YouTuber's right to any level of privacy in his or her personal life, expecting total transparency.

While this is mostly the harmless background noise of fame, it can become seriously harmful to the creator's lives. The SacconeJolys, Irish vloggers living in London who upload their daily lives to the Internet and have over a million subscribers, announced their third pregnancy due to pressuring from fans. This announcement did nothing to stem the flow of intrusive remarks, including comments about her weight gain, forced the family to prematurely announce the pregnancy and later feel compelled to announce their miscarriage. When one particularly eminent YouTuber, comedian Jenna Marbles, underwent a public breakup with her boyfriend several years ago, Jenna's fans took the news as personally as though Jenna had been one of their closest friends. MSTAR news even reports that "Jenna's fanbase, mostly consisting of preteen & teenaged girls, were deeply upset by the shocking news...posting reactions like 'MY LIFE IS OVER,' 'I feel like my parents are getting divorced,' and 'everything I know about love is a lie.'"

While it is true that vloggers have the right to share as much as they wish about their personal lives with their viewers, it comes with a cost--fans that feel entitled to live their lives through the lives of their favorite YouTubers. The barriers that once separated celebrities from their fans has been removed, and with it ushered in a heretofore unimagined community of fans who genuinely feel as close to the relative stranger on the camera as they do to their own families. The divide between the personal and the public is disintegrating, and though it allows individuals to speak their minds and spread their ideas in a way never before possible, it comes at the cost of dissipating the line between private and public. It is essential for all of us to maintain the last vestiges of privacy and bear in mind, whether we are searching for information on someone's twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or if we are feeling aggrieved that a YouTuber didn't share something about his or her life with us, that we all have a right to keep some aspects of our lives to ourselves, free from the prying eyes of the Internet-- even those people who make a living sharing their lives with the world.

The SacconeJolys make videos that delight and entertain their fans. Instead of thanking them for their contribution and for their incredible generosity for bringing the world into their lives, we demanded more. Jenna Marbles creates content to make people laugh, not to be peppered with laments about how she conducts her personal life. We owe public figures more than to treat them like characters in a book, instead of acknowledging their right to privacy. And we owe ourselves the realization that, as much as we may enjoy their content, they are not our friends or family. Instead, we all have to work together to draw a line and respect one another's privacy on the Internet. Only then can we create, bond, and share our lives through the incredible platform that social media has created.