Monday, September 18, 2006

Why lonelygirl15 Matters/Doesn't Matter

Lonelygirl15 is the screen name of young woman who posted up her diaries on YouTube. Ends up, lonelygirl15 was a big fake. There are three big points that come out of this whole thing.

Thing #1: Quality Matters
The lonelygirl videos were good. They had stylish editing, well-lit sets, good dialog and an attractive presenter. That last element should not be understated, and is not unique to lonelygirl. A good amount of discussion after Amanda Congdon left rocketboom concerned the attractiveness of Amanda.

The big thing about this point is that, the lonelygirl videos were simply posted on YouTube, with no more fanfare than anyone else's videos. And yet, they are the ones that popped. People like good stuff, CGM or not. That is a good thing.

Thing #2: lonelygirl hijacked the YouTube brand
What if the producers of the lonelygirl videos simply put them up on their own site? Or on iFilm or Heavy? The effect would not have been the same, because the YouTube brand stands for independent creation of personal videos. Something on YouTube (unless its marked as an ad, or totally clear that it is from a professional film) is assumed to be real, honest and personal. The lonelygirl producers put this fake diary up on YouTube and gained (greatly) from its success, including the mystery around whether or not it was real.

Of course, this came directly at the expense of YouTube. Personal videos viewed on YouTube are now somewhat tainted, because people were tricked. That means YouTube lost some amount of value. That is a bad thing.

Thing #3: Who really is real?
Not to get all French Deconstructionist here, but so what is Bree was fake? Is anyone we see on YouTube real? Not really. We don't have a direct investment in their reality, and often we simply consume their message and move on. So, Bree is just as much real as anyone else posting a diary. Online personality is a shifting, strange thing and we should not be surprised that any person we encounter is real, fake or somewhere in between.

That is an interesting, odd thing and one that we need to get comfortable with.
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