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Are vloggers' click-bait YouTube videos fair to viewers?

Update: January, 05/2020 - 09:31

By An Phương

YouTube's golden age, when its content was built on the backs of responsible creators, might just be over.

There’s no denying that YouTube has long been a legitimate source of entertainment for millions. However, with YouTubers now doing just about anything for views, I honestly am concerned whether these click-bait videos, which are usually deemed entertaining, should continue to be supported.

Illustration by Trịnh Lập 

When I'm discussing Việt Nam’s YouTube scene, I can immediately think of many sensational videos, including Khoa Pug’s video about a Japanese woman kneeling and begging him to let the camerawoman eat at a Geisha Kyoto hotpot restaurant, and NTN Vlogs’ video about dropping 100 knives from a high place.

A dear friend of mine, Duy Anh, 18, told Việt Nam News that he and his friends were familiar with these two vloggers.

“We've subscribed to their channels for years! They upload many videos on a weekly basis, so it’s hard to miss them in the recommended section,” Duy Anh said. 

“Khoa Pug is famous for his travel journeys, and NTN Vlogs is known for always trying dangerous stunts and experiments."

“Though I don’t watch them regularly, I have to admit that YouTubers like Khoa Pug and NTN Vlogs who have 1 million views or more for each video always have unique ways to make their content fascinating to watch,” he said.

Anh Vũ, 20, another friend of mine, agreed with Duy Anh, and said that these videos showed him things with which he had no first-hand experience.

“Who would think of dropping 100 knives from the fifth floor just to see what the knives do, or boiling a can of Coke in a 300C-degree pan, which is what NTN Vlogs did?” Vũ said, pointing out the entertainment value.

I agree with Vũ in the sense that the content is relaxing to watch after hours of working, and that it satisfies the human need to discover the unexpected. However, it is also worth questioning the limits of the unexpected.

“I got to know Khoa Pug after he disclosed how a resort in Bình Thuận Province tricked him and took his money,” Vũ said.

Duy Anh observed the "case stormed the internet for days".

For his part, Vũ began watching Khoa Pug when he started travelling to his dream destinations. "I can’t help but notice that most of the time, Khoa Pug will have controversial titles to click-bait viewers."

“I didn’t mind this at first, but it began to really concern me when Khoa Pug approached the topic of travel from a certain perspective, which involved Vietnamese being looked down upon in other countries,” he explained.

Some of Khoa Pug's click-bait “formulas” included pretending to be poor and dining at a 5-star hotel and meeting anti-fans overseas, among other content, Vũ said.

“I can be fine with everything, but how Khoa Pug quickly jumped to the conclusion that a female waitress who was just following her distinctive Japanese culture and kneeling to serve him was experiencing gender discrimination was problematic.”

Always eager for entertaining and interesting content, I appreciate vloggers’ efforts to make videos, but the feeling of disappointment when I don’t see the "twist" in the video’s click-bait title or thumbnails of some vloggers really bugs me.

It’s fair for content creators to do whatever they want, but it’s not fair for people who expect to see the truth and seek pure entertainment.

“I feel like my expectations to see dangerous acts performed on certain YouTube videos, like the ones in NTN Vlogs, have increased,” Thanh Thuý, 29, said. 

“This might explain why some YouTubers don’t hesitate to intensify the way they go about their content to maintain viewers’ interests and even demands."

I agree with Thuý, who added that many well-known foreign YouTubers had done similar things to retain their top positions.

“The 23-year-old YouTube star Logan Paul and his infamous 'Suicide Forest' video is one example. He faced public backlash after posting a video in which he and his buddies ventured into the Aokigahara Forest only to find the body of a young man who appeared to have recently hanged himself,” she said.

“Paul didn’t just stop there. His camera lingered on the dead body, including close-ups of the poor man’s swollen hand,” she said, adding that he had been self-centred and insensitive, not to mention the other controversial content he had previously done.

Lê Tuyết Ánh, former head of the education department at the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said that young people tend to be curious and easily drawn into controversial content.

“As they are not mature enough to determine what is right and wrong, those click-bait videos can be detrimental to viewers’ fair perspective of the world,” Thuý said.

I agree with Thuý, because years ago I was convinced more than once that the dangerous and irresponsible acts performed in some million-view videos were contributing to those videos’ entertainment values.

I started to have a clearer picture only when I realised that I was judging the quality based on how far they would go to perform a dangerous act.

I believe many people have been misled to think that the level of controversy equals the quality of certain content.

All of my friends think that YouTube will probably have better tools to filter toxic content in the time to come.

“We can’t blame everything on the content creator as they only thrive when doing what society demands,” Vũ said.

“The number of videos with quality content has been lacking for quite some time, and it requires not only content creators but YouTube and viewers’ efforts to make the field healthy and clean again,” he added.

It's important that we all strive to be fair content creators as well as smart viewers! VNS