On a random day a few weeks ago, I spent a good hour visiting and revisiting the Instagram profile of a Youtuber/beauty influencer because I was genuinely upset at the possibility that her and her longtime boyfriend had broken up. I read the comments that people were leaving on her newest pictures. They were a variation of questions about where her boyfriend was, glorified theses that cited other posts that proved why they were definitely, positively broken up, and, as always, unsolicited advice about a range of topics.
Oddly enough, the two of them went on to post break up announcements on their respective profiles later that week. The messages were heartfelt and as genuine as they could be. Kind of like the Instagram relationship press releases that have been respectively shared by Chris Pratt and Anna Farris, Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik, and Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, etc. you know the drill.
But unlike these celebrities, this couple had cultivated a following around their life that was attainably aspirational. Influencers wear many hats these days but it seems like there are few whose content feels genuine (a couple of sponsored videos here and there are harmless, they have to pay the bills too).
Because they could strike that ideal middle ground, it only made sense to root for their happiness.
After reading one of their statements for the first time I returned to it again, and again, until I felt bummed out enough to feel solidly pensive about the state of modern relationships for the rest of my afternoon.
Here were these two people I have never and likely will never meet in real life. For the past five years, I watched their videos (one part of the former couple is a beauty/fashion/lifestyle guru) as I got ready for or unwinded from an eventful day. When I studied abroad in the city that they live in, one of my friends and I visited the farmer's market they frequented in the hopes of maybe getting a chance to see them but also to feel more like locals.
I know that this probably sounds as weird as it feels to write about it. I'm not an active participant in any internet communities and am a stranger to comment sections. I didn't even start liking social media posts of people I don't know IRL until a few months ago. But that doesn't exclude me from being able to say that it made me sad to know that a relationship in which both people had strong enough faith in to broadcast it to hundreds of thousands of people had to ultimately come to an end.
Why do I care so much? Because everyone else does.
We're obsessed, to a degree, with other people's relationships; for reasons that vary between curiosity and envy, there's no hiding the appeal of spectatorship. How else could you explain the popularity of boyfriend/girlfriend tags on YouTube?
There's something about seeing strangers with varying degrees of fame live out their life publicly that crosses over with the appeal of reality TV. Except the space in which YouTube inhabits -- one where the creators are their own broadcasters and streamers -- has its origins in fostering community and encouraging creative expression. Those two tenets automatically call for transparency (for the most part).
The handful of YouTube and social media influencers I consistently follow feel familiar to me in a way that mainstream celebrities don't. I guess that means they've succeeded in their job; or perhaps, are more appealing to follow than the average person. At least the ones we know in real life.
We don't expect people with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and followers or more to share every detail of their personal life with us but we're intrigued when they do, even if it's just a glimpse.