By Sarah Burstein, Staff Writer
@sarahh_burstein

./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Gage Skidmore

John Green and his brother, Hank, at VidCon, their annual YouTube convention./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Gage Skidmore

At this point, I can’t tell you how many times my mom has asked me what I was watching on my laptop, and how many times I’ve replied, “Oh, just some YouTube videos,” which would promptly send her into a whirlwind of questions. To many, especially those not a part of “Generation Z,” YouTube is a confusing place full of cat videos and surprise military homecomings. To millions of subscribers, however, it’s become so much more.

So what do people watch on YouTube? The answers (yes, plural) are seemingly endless. From makeup tutorials to daily video diaries to gamer channels to lifestyle video blogs (also known as vlogs), the YouTube universe consists of pretty much everything, and that’s not an exaggeration. Current trends indicate that the most subscribed YouTube channel right now is PewDiePie, a Swedish video game commenter with over 31 million subscribers.

31 million people watch a Swedish man play video games.

That’s a lot of influence.

And if you’re wondering just how much influence, according to the YouTube website, Nielsen reports that YouTube videos reach more 18-34 year olds than any cable network. Since its creating of the Partnership Program in 2007, more and more YouTubers are monetarily benefiting from their videos, some even earning more than six figure salaries.

You’ve probably heard of John Green, who penned the insanely famous YA novel The Fault In Our Stars, and started his channel VlogBrothers with his brother Hank in 2007, where they provide commentary on everything from pop culture to pressing current events.

Let’s also not forget the original makeup guru, Michelle Phan, who went from a struggling waitress to a connoisseur of all things beauty with over 7 million subscribers and her own range of cosmetics.

So why do YouTube audiences keep coming back for more? Aren’t you just watching normal people live their lives and do what they love?

Yes, you are, which is the main reason why the appeal is so strong.

There’s nothing quite like discovering a new YouTube channel and following the vlogger through his or her lives, even the unpleasant parts. I’ve watched makeup tutorials in which girls are not afraid to show their concealer-less blemishes to millions of viewers, or confessional-like vlogs in which people candidly speak about their issues with anxiety. I’ve watched household musicians rise in popularity to the point where they’re making chart-topping EPs.

YouTubers come from all walks of life. They identify as different genders, have different races, different sexualities, and most importantly, they make mistakes and are flawed, which is why they’re so important.

Whether people consciously realize it or not, we’re living in a world where we can virtually watch someone’s dreams come true video by video. A new type of media, and a new type of pop culture, that stresses the importance of celebrating normal people is emerging fast, and that’s a concept worth paying attention to.