My son is the most social person in the family right now. He can strike up conversations with strangers, ask to borrow the phones of mere acquaintances, and volunteer to attend every social event in the family. I would love to say it’s the way he’s been brought up, take some credit for this new persona. But I have to concede that his recent social transformation owes everything to Youtube!
It began rather innocuously. About four months ago Ishaan announced that he was going to start his own channel on Youtube. We said okay, do you need any help? Apparently, the only help he needed was in setting up his account. Before we could say “Shawn Mendes”, he had recorded his “introduction” and his lip sync to a Shawn Mendes song, as also a rendition of the Harry Potter song in 99 seconds. Swept away in the tide of his new interest we offered him many suggestions. But Ishaan marches to the tune of his own drummer and that drummer bears no resemblance to his parents!
Since then he has posted more than a dozen videos ranging in length from a minute to 5 minutes, from “reaction” videos to horror ones. We praised him extravagantly for his shorter videos, while gently conveying to him that only his fond parents will have the patience to sit through his five-minute ones. Initially he expected people to “like” his videos just because he had posted one. He was hurt that everyone didn’t organically like and “subscribe” to his channel. This was his first rude awakening in the world of social media. I served up a lecture on how content is king and how there is no alternative for good content. He looked at me in genuine surprise, what’s subscriptions got to do with content?
His obsession with acquiring subscribers brought out a competitive spirit I had never suspected. This was partly fueled by an unacknowledged but definite battle for subscribers he started with his closest friend in school who has his own channel too. Strangely, while they compete they also enjoy and take pride in each other’s vlogs. Ishaan reminded me several times a day to send links to family, all of which I dutifully did. The subscriber base stayed firmly under 50.
Lady luck smiled on him a couple of months ago. He attended a social event in the family and a bit diffidently asked his cousins whether they would subscribe to his channel. Seeing their instant and enthusiastic response he knew he had stumbled upon a catchment so rich it boggled his mind. Suffice to say, he came away from that event many subscribers richer!
Encouraged by this success, he developed a multi-pronged strategy to boost his subscriber base. From neighbours he meets in the building lift to my mom’s doctor who paid a home visit, to our house help, he has caught many a hapless person by surprise. He has also approached his school mates, though peers can be brutal in their feedback. He not only managed to assure them that he will cater to their particular interests in his videos, but also promised them a treat when he got his 100th subscriber! A promise he kept.
But when he raced past his 150th subscriber we were intrigued. How was he acquiring subscribers at such an astonishing speed? That’s when he made the comment which we are still trying to digest! “A few well-placed comments, some strategic business transactions”, he told us, guffawing away. We realised he had figured out reciprocal subscribing with Youtubers whose vlogs he regularly watches. And “well placed comments” on friends’ blogs gets them to subscribe to his! For me this was a new side indeed to a son I always thought was more a dreamer.
The content monster in me wants to help him come up with more professional vlogs, with structured content. I have my own ideas for what will work well, all of which I want him to try. I want to iron every crease and smoothen his path. The urge to interfere is overwhelming, yet, I curb it. I know the best way he will learn is by experimenting and learning on his own, by making that shaky video and that clumsy one, ultimately, giving rein to his imagination. And when I watch him bravely facing the camera, I thank God for his initiative and his courage. And his now nearly 180 subscribers! Many, many, many more than what his “content specialist” mom has for her blog!