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YouTube helpers stripping their subjects of dignity

Content creators have found an easy way to gainfully express their creativity at minimal cost. [iStockphoto]

Recent advancements in communication technology have had immense impacts on how we interact with each other.

It has been argued that social media platforms, for example, have had a double-edged sword impact on our lives. On the one hand, they have created great opportunities for people to buy and sell, leading to robust online business enterprises as well as improved general interpersonal communication among friends and families.

One of the most utilised platforms across the globe is YouTube. The pioneer video-sharing platform has over two billion active users across the world, coming only second to Facebook. With video marketing dominating the content industry today, YouTube has become the go-to platform for not only big corporations, but also small-scale enterprises seeking to achieve publicity.

Content creators have found an easy way to gainfully express their creativity at minimal cost.

The proliferation of YouTube channels is indicative of the potential for growth and income that creatives find in the platform.

One of the growing trends on YouTube is ‘philanthropy’- some YouTubers have made their careers out of ‘helping’ unfortunate members of their communities.

They film themselves handing out money to homeless people, buying food for the destitute and any other acts of kindness. While there is nothing wrong with helping the needy, or even filming, there is everything wrong with doing it just as another ‘trendy’ thing online.

Some content creators have taken the YouTube ‘philanthropy’ to unfortunate levels. There is little respect for the dignity of the subjects and, sometimes, you can tell that the YouTuber(s) focus is on views rather than the empathy that they have for the subjects of their videos.

I have watched videos of foreign YouTubers who come to Africa and other developing countries and showcase the cultures of natives in what can easily be interpreted as condescending manner. It feels like the line between showcasing the uniqueness of the cultures and exploitation is quite thin.

One thing we need to understand is that many content creators focus on areas/topics that are more likely to generate maximum views. They are in business. Therefore, it is not shocking to find people who are focusing on ‘helping the needy’, not for the good it brings to the subjects, but merely for the potential to generate views. Poor community members are baits.

While some people will argue that either way, the coverage offers visibility to the subjects, it is important to note that majority of the people do not understand their rights as subjects of the creators’ videos.

Content creators should remember to focus on the dignity of the subjects of their videos. People who film vulnerable members of the community should not exploit the latter’s vulnerability and naivety for selfish gains.

-Dr Kalangi is a communication trainer and consultant, Kenyatta University