Digital Heartbreak

Have you ever opened up Youtube fulling intending on watching a single video, and somehow you find yourself giggling at cute babies-playing-with-puppies videos forty-five minutes later? If yes, then you are not alone. If not, then you are both seriously deprived of a whole lot of cuteness AND a liar. The black hole you enter while mindlessly clicking from one video to the next is exactly what Youtube wants from you. It has (mostly) nothing to do with your impulsivity and lack of attention span, and everything to do with the evolution of Youtube’s web design and algorithms. While this phenomena is very interesting and potentially a topic of interest for a future blog post, it is not what I want to dive into at present. Instead, this blog post is a compilation of my thoughts and reactions to my most recent youtube binge… and it all started with @kosarajm‘s blog post from last Tuesday.

Miranda Sings… and gets a divorce

Last week, @kosarajm wrote an intriguing blog about user generated content and its social implications, specifically cyberbullying. In her post, Manika used youtube personality Miranda Sings and her new Netflix series “Haters Back Off” to delve into this conversation. Prompted by this post, I opened youtube to re-familiarize myself with Miranda’s parody channel when I saw a video by Colleen Ballinger (The real human behind the personality Miranda Sings) pop up on my side bar. When I clicked on it, I couldn’t believe what I was watching was genuine until I reached the end of the video. The video, titled “Life Update”, consisted of the distraught twenty-nine year old holding back tears while she talked to the camera as if it were a close friend or family member.

Needless to say this video left me feeling pretty uncomfortable and frankly as though I’d seen something I wasn’t supposed to. If you don’t want to take the entire 11:47 minutes to watch the video in full, I suggest you start at 6:14 and watch on from there as it is most relevant to my discussion of this weird viewer experience. As I sat and tried to understand what to make of the intimate seen I had just encountered, I noticed another video pop up in my sidebar…

Watching two complete strangers pour their hearts out to me about the tragic nature of their divorce made the human development and behavioral science major in me feel pretty uneasy. It also sent me into analysis mode which bring us to the current conversation.

Digital Disruption and Community

Recalling content from week one of this course, we can use Aligning The Organization For Its Digital Future  as a start-point. To refresh your memory, this review, in a nut-shell expresses the transformative nature of digital as it pertains to the workplace. Social media and digital content have revolutionized the business archetype, and in order to be successful, companies now find themselves in a race to digital maturity through the alignment of their people processes, strategies and business models in a rapidly developing digital environment. While these insights are essential to global business  and the revolution of culture and people-processes, this most recent youtube discovery has me more interested in the interactionist and social side of things. How are these new digital norms transforming the way we both define ourselves, and the way we exist in community with others?

These two youtube videos support our previous conversations about how digital media allows humans to interact in an unprecedented way. Relationships are made and social webs are formed through the interactive nature of social media. Not only are we consuming content, but we are touching it, responding to it, interacting with it. On the same token, not only are our digital selves consuming content created by other digital selves, but we are forming communities, meeting people we otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to meet outside of the digital world. Youtube personalities are a perfect example of this. Youtubers like Colleen Ballinger and her ex-husband JoshuaTV become household names. Their viewers are not simply viewers, but they become friends and fans- people invested in their day-to-day lives without ever having actually met them. Digital interaction provides us with a way of connection-making that has never previously existed, and in my opinion, it’s redefining our traditional notion of relationships.

I think this redefinition also calls into question the concern of digital privacy. However, I think this conversation is different from ones we have previously explored because of its consenting nature. Colleen and Joshua willingly published the personal details of their divorce, fully knowing that the content would then be out there for the entire world to see and touch and respond to and interact with. To me, this is almost more concerning than the more traditional privacy conversation regarding cyber-information sharing and targeted marketing ploys. The reason for this is because its voluntary- they want to publish this vulnerability because they feel they owe it to their consumers. As Colleen describes in her Life Update, “I’m making this video for the people who care about us and who have been a part of our relationship… I do feel like you’re part of our family… I’m really sorry.” I don’t know about you guys but this whole idea that she feels like she has to answer to an online community of strangers she doesn’t even know really weirds me out.

Moving forward

I’m not sure if there is a name to this digital-social phenomenon, but I wasn’t able to find much research conducted on the topic. While I am encouraged and overall in support of the disruption that digital media and social media networks have created in both the corporate and social spheres, I’m not sure what to make of this whole youtube experience. I think maybe from now on I should just stick to my cute baby and puppy videos.




  1. Really interesting post. I don’t watch MirandaSings regularly but I was fairly familiar with Colleen Ballinger and her husband, which is why I was shocked to find out that they are divorcing. It’s definitely a weird concept – we hear of celebrity divorces all the time, but she and her husband straddle that identity as both famous person and regular individual – which makes their experiences a lot more personal and relatable. I know privacy is a concern but as people who make their living off of videos documenting their lives for their loyal viewers, discussing this kind of thing is unavoidable. Still, it’s a sad situation and is one of the darker aspects of the social-digital age.

  2. wfbagleyiii · ·

    Those videos are hard to watch, and the skeptical part of me wonders if they’re completely staged. In one sense, I have deep sympathy for whatever they’re going through. On the other hand, as Josh points out, this is how they make their living. However, this could also be a therapeutic way to handle difficult situations, despite being highly public, and open to criticism. I think it speaks to a more widespread problem with social accounts. People generally only display the best parts of their lives.

  3. Great post! Happy to hear that my blog post was a source of inspiration! I agree, there were some parts of her video that just didn’t make sense to me. Especially her urge to make this an intimate announcement but also the need to address her online community. It’s sometimes strange how we know so much about these internet celebrities but how little they know about the people watching them. With platforms like Snapchat, we can see minute by minute what these celebrities are doing but it’s a very one way channel. It’s hard to stop sharing once celebrities create a connection with their fan base and feel obligated to share every last detail.

  4. fernaneq4 · ·

    As someone who can barely cry to close friends, I can’t empathize with these videos at all. I am sure it was how I was brought up but I don’t believe issues like this should be so publicized. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to know that everyone is going through the same thing — I just wouldnt have the cahonas to video tape myself in such a vulnerable state. I once found a video of my friend crying to her iPhoto camera. She had never shown it to anyone and had no reason to record it but she still felt compelled to record it. It’s interesting the psychology behind these videos, I even found a buzzfeed list showing selfies of people crying on Facebook: While I hope it helps them achieve amends, I could never do it.

  5. Nice post, and an interesting topic too! I also see videos come up a lot of the time about people going through tough times in their lives, such as divorces, miscarriages, and even deaths in the family. It’s all very sad and personal times in these people’s lives, so it’s surprising that they are willing to share with the entire internet what’s going on, especially considering that there are always trolls and spiteful people lingering out there. However, I can imagine that the support from these fans and viewers can help people cope with the event in a way. I also think it can also be helpful for viewers out there who are going through similar situations, knowing that someone they admire has to face something difficult as well and kind of can help provide moral support.

    This is kind of off topic (well, more like the opposite of heartbreak), but I’ve also seen YouTubers find love because of YouTube. Like PewDiePie met his girlfriend Marzia since she was a fan of his channel, and there also seem to be other YouTube couples who have met through YouTube.

  6. mashamydear · ·

    Really interesting topic! I didn’t expect to watch all 11 minutes and 47 seconds of Colleen’s heartbreak…but I couldn’t stop watching. Same goes for Joshua’s response. I think we have to take into consideration that these two individuals rose to prominence because of how much they shared with the digital community. They put out their digital selves in every angle and every form leading up to this divorce, so I think to them it feels fitting to put out this more vulnerable side. You can ~kind of~ compare it to Bradgelina and how invested people got in that relationship, even though most of them have never had any real interaction with the former couple. And shamelessly, I also wanted answers…so I think that’s what Colleen and Joshua’s community is feeling too. The whole digital element is also devastating in that there’s so much photo and video evidence of them together as a happy couple. I can’t imagine going through a public divorce and dealing with all of that!

  7. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Interesting topic. Personally I would never want my personal life publicized like that. Relating to one of the other comments, my closest friends haven’t seen me cry, why would I want strangers to see me cry. I do believe that this couple is in a very different category because not only did they choose to be “famous” but they chose to be famous as themselves. Actors on the other hand are famous through their portrayal of others. I don’t think they necessarily owed it to their fans but I do think that getting ahead of the comments and rumors was in their best interest.

  8. katieInc_ · ·

    Interesting post! As someone who either gets uncomfortable/awkward/says all the wrong things/sweats when other people cry, I honestly could only get through about 2 minutes of both videos. I was shocked that they were willing to post such detailed descriptions of their personal lives and genuinely felt for them. Yes, each could have been staged, but, assuming they weren’t, you could feel the heartache and sadness. I agree with your last point that this way of emoting is somewhat concerning and weirds me out. I’m not sure whether this will phase out on its own or become the new way of emoting or recovering from heartbreak. I am a firm believer in the power of human to human conversations and hope social media does not pressure this form of communication grow obsolete.

  9. I found this post so interesting and it made me question a lot. I find that digital in some way de-humanizes a lot of things, especially personal emotions such as this. Though to defend this phenomenon a little more, when Twitter first arose it was thought of as basically speaking to yourself. In 140 characters you simply talking to yourself, and hoping others listen. With everything trending towards video content now-a-days and there being no word count on that, these videos are similar. People are using the computer as a therapist, but the fact that these is no response and they are speaking to an empty room hoping others will hear seems weird? Without talking things out to another human how much does this method really help you to resolve your emotions compared to actually talking to those friends and family? Digital has already taken away so much of personal contact between humans (and this may be the last step to that). I agree with you, these videos make me uncomfortable and I’m going to stick to babies and puppies, and some Jimmy Kimmel.

  10. Very interesting post. I can’t help but wonder if a) it is real and not a stunt and b) if the fact that they feel a need to share about these moments online are not – in fact – part of the problem itself. Of course, cyber voyeurism goes back to the very beginning of the internet itself.

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