For the last four years, Ingrid Nilsen has been one of my best friends. She stood by me through three broken toes, a horrible hair cut and my brother going to college. And I have been a good friend to her as well.
I've listened to her talk about how devastated she was when her father died, her paralyzing fear of public speaking and her chronic acne. I wanted her to explain the strong connection between us, so I emailed her. When she didn't write back, I messaged her on Facebook, tried contacting her through Twitter, emailed her a second time and still, no response. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I wasn't. You see, I know Ingrid. I know when and how Ingrid had her first kiss, when she broke up with her boyfriend and when she moved into her new apartment. But she doesn't know the first thing about me. Ingrid Nilsen a.k.a. MissGlamorazzi, is a YouTube star with 2,986,752 friends just like me.
I am a part of the "YouTube Generation." We look at everything though an Instagram filter, spend our nights trying to create a cool snap story and have learned to condense our most profound thoughts into 140 character tweets. We are the generation of kids who are either uploading our ideas onto the Internet or constantly watching and reading someone who has. With social media it can be hard to see the hierarchy. Even though the platform is open to everybody there is still a leader and a follower.
I can tweet and so can Lena Dunham, but that doesn't mean we have the same amount of power. I can upload a YouTube video, but that doesn't mean people will watch. I have listened to Ingrid talk for hours upon hours about everything from lip color to shoe style but that doesn't mean she's going to write back. I am just one of Ingrid's 2,986,752 admirers and I often forget that.
Okay, that's not really fair. Ingrid was a tomboy who had nothing to do with makeup until her college roommate took her to Sephora and helped her get her first mascara. In that moment, Ingrid's life changed. She developed a love for makeup. Makeup helped her form confidence. The YouTube channel Missglamorazzi was started at three in the morning because she wanted to share that feeling of confidence with other people. She didn't start it with aspirations of YouTube stardom. At the time, YouTube stars didn't really exist.
Ingrid's first video was a simple tutorial, a how-to on red lips. The second was a product review, the third a primer 101. Soon, people were watching. Now she's a Cover Girl "Glambasator." She's the perfect role model: she's smart, pretty, funny and she cares about her fans -- she cares about me. Or so I thought.
We are living in a time where a 16-year-old can talk to millions of people from their bedroom. They may look like us, talk like us, wear the same clothes as us, but at a certain point (when she's on the red carpet at the VMAs) the most popular YouTubers become celebrities disguised as the ultimate girl/boy next door. Celebrities disguised as friends. And this is where it gets confusing. I wouldn't write Jennifer Lawrence and expect a response. I know she lives in a different world than I do. One with Oscar parties, private jets and multimillion dollar houses. But YouTube stars speak to us from their bedroom. They communicate with us though our laptops late at night. We watch them laugh though our phones on the subway ride home. YouTube stars live in this grey area. It many not not have been their intention, but they have become a marketing tool, they are both better than you, and somewhat attainable.
I may be just one of the 2,986,752 adoring fans that make it possible for Ingrid to make a living, but she is also one of the few people that knows how to calm me down when I'm upset. The "YouTube Generation" may be a victim of a marketing ploy but not anymore than the generations before them. In the 1920s, we had radio stars. In the '50s we had television stars. Now we have YouTubers. I may know the details of Ingrid's life more than she knows the details of mine, but then again she helped me get ready for the first day of school. Maybe I emailed her at the wrong time. Or she was simply too busy to write back. Sometimes it takes me a few days to respond to my friends and I can count all them on my fingers.