YouTubers – Defeating Stigmas and Taboos

Eadaoin Fitzmaurice

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Youtube is changing how we share information

The way in which we share information is ever-changing. Our parents may have sent letters when they were younger, while we send texts. Some things that may have been previously considered private, are now being openly discussed and widely accepted.

A revolution is occurring right under our noses, and many of us may be unaware of it. Now more than ever we are beginning to see changes in the information we share with others. Stigmas are diminishing and taboo topics are being discussed more than ever. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have contributed immensely to this transition.

According to StatisticBrain.com, YouTube, the video-sharing website, clocks in almost 5 billion video views a day. As a result, content creators are recognising the power and influence of their voice. Many have used their channel as a way of breaking social stigmas by getting people to talk openly about their mental health, sexuality and sexual health, amongst other subjects.

Youtube Generation by jonsson
Youtube graffiti art by jonsson

Melanie Murphy talks sexual health:

Among these creative minds influencing change is Irish YouTuber Melanie Murphy. With over 400,000 subscribers, Melanie is widely known for discussing everything from acne to sex toys. She along with Youtuber friends Hannah Witton, Riyadh K and Zoella, to name but a few, have redefined how we think about mental and sexual health.

Sexual health has certainly been considered a taboo topic for many years, however times are changing and people are recognising the importance and the benefits in sexual education. The sex toy industry revenue sits at over 15 billion dollars each year, yet people are terrified to admit that they own and use them. Youtubers are being recognised for openly discussing sex and sex toys. This has sparked huge discussions in the comment section of these videos and many people have become more comfortable with the idea of sharing their sexual experiences as a result.

Melanie discusses sex toys, masturbation and pornography.

I caught up with Melanie to get her view on why she feels it’s important to discuss these kinds of topics:

“YouTube is a stage where you can stand before the whole world and say whatever you wish to say…it’s jam packed full of music videos and computer gaming, makeup tutorials and vlogs, all the fun stuff, and oftentimes the more awkward subjects are left out because they’re not the easiest to discuss when you know anybody could be watching.

As a natural over sharer and having an honours degree in education and training, I feel I have a responsibility to be as open and honest as possible because content that puts others at ease about themselves is lacking and yet is always so highly appreciated. If I stuck to makeup videos I’d get far more views but my passion is igniting discussion, smashing taboos, connecting with and relating to others and peeling back layers of myself to become fully comfortable with everything I was taught to repress growing up.

Real, open communication on things like periods, STIs, sexuality and other things is majorly lacking in schools (or at least, that was my experience growing up) and I think it’s wonderful that people now have the ability to do their bit to educate or comfort people online. It provides a lot of value – just being honest about those things on your channel, and it’s enjoyable too and almost self-therapeutic!”

Grianghraf Melanie Murphy

Melanie ranks as the 24th most subscribed to Irish channel on Youtube. Photo Credit: Facebook – Melanie Murphy

Mental Health on Youtube:

Similarly to sexual heath, mental health has been a topic that may have been considered unspeakable in the past. Many Youtubers have come out to their viewers talking about their own struggles with mental illness and sharing their personal remedies. This has encouraged a train of thought that lets people know “it’s ok not to be ok”.

With over 12 million subscribers and being the 50th most subscribed to Youtube channel in the world, Zoella has used her channel to promote discussions on mental health, particularly anxiety. She herself suffers with anxiety and she has made many videos opening up about it. This has spurred other Youtubers to talk openly about mental health and has also allowed for audiences to share their opinions and problems in the comment section.

Zoella talks openly about anxiety and how she deals with it.

What does this all mean?

It is clear that Youtubers are part of a revolution, one that encourages us to feel comfortable about what we once considered uncomfortable. However, can we say that this is occurring prevalently across main stream media?

It seems we still have a long way to go before the stigma of mental health and the taboo of sexual awareness is entirely defeated. There are still many people who are afraid to speak out about their habits or problems and shy away from anything that may cross them out of the safe zone.  Youtube is definitely an example of how we are on the right path to a more open and accepting society, yet more is to be done. If you don’t suffer from mental illness or wish to discuss your sexual health many believe it still important to be educated on the subject. As Leonard Nimoy believes “The more we share, the more we have.”

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Eadaoin Fitzmaurice