Why We Love Watching The Lives Of Strangers

January 28, 2019

“Isn’t it weird that I’m putting this on the Internet and you’re watching it right now? And I’m just some random girl. But you probably subscribe to me and you come back to watch me every week just doing normal things. That’s weird,” says Summer Mckeen during one of her ‘day in the life’ style videos.

She’s right. Why would anyone want to spend their free time watching someone else live their life, when they could be out living their own? It seems silly and boring, and yet, YouTubers are getting hundreds of thousands of views by posting videos with titles like “A Day in the Life of a California College Student.” None of these videos contain anything particularly exciting, but rather give a (supposedly) authentic look into their everyday life. These vloggers are giving us a look into their lifestyle from how they spend their time, what they eat, what beauty products they buy, and more. Why do we care?

Personally, I find these videos to be an incredibly relaxing form of entertainment. There’s enough going on to keep you interested, but not so much that you need to try to follow along or pay too much attention. It can be oddly soothing to listen to someone talk about their day or review a product you’ve been eyeing.

There’s also a level of intimacy that comes with these types of videos. Unlike “reality” TV, which only allows for an outside viewing experience, vloggers always talk directly to the viewer, “You guys know I love XYZ,” “I wanted to show you guys ____.” This format makes the viewer feel like they’re listening to a friend rather than looking at a stranger’s life from the outside.

Vlogs also have an element of authenticity that can be comforting to a viewer. Because these vloggers are grabbing any spare moment to document, they often appear on camera un-primped and unfiltered, allowing viewers to see them in their raw state. Additionally, they’re vlogging anything and everything that happens to them, whether it’s “exciting” or not. In a world where many people strive for perfection on social media, YouTubers can offer a level of realness that’s not always seen on other platforms. Of course, there’s editing and filtering, but there’s just something more authentic about an influencer actually talking to you and exposing both the exciting and mundane parts of their life, rather than only sharing the highlights.

Besides the emotional appeal of these videos, many watch them for utilitarian reasons such as to see a review of a certain product or get advice on something. I myself usually find a vlogger after a search for something specific such as a makeup review.  It can be useful to see a product used in real time rather than just a before and after picture, and many of these influencers feel trustworthy in their recommendations.

Whatever the reason for their popularity, vloggers won’t be going anywhere soon. Vlogging has become a business for many, but beyond that, vlogging offers a look at the everyday human experience. These videos are a reminder that even someone living across the country with a seemingly totally different lifestyle is actually not so different from you when you get down to it. They have flaws and bad days and their life isn’t always one big highlight reel. They aren’t glamorous 24/7 and they don’t always eat the most perfectly Instagramable dinner. In a way, these videos have a unique way of making people feel less alone, and that in itself seems reason enough for their existence.