Vlogging: a vicarious love affair

There’s nothing like getting in after a long day of school, university or work—basically living and unwinding in front of a screen of some sort. What could be lovelier than curling up on your couch, tuning out of your life and tuning into the lives of others?

YouTube is the central hub where people swarm to get their fix for a life that isn’t as hopelessly scripted as reality television but has the same charm as something out of a movie. Video blogging, otherwise known as vlogging, is the curiously popular practice of documenting one’s life. However uneventful it may be. Regardless, perfect strangers subscribe to YouTube channels that are dedicated to vlogging for their amusement.

Vlogging as a social media phenomenon is available for mass consumption in different genres. Ranging from day-in-the-life videos of celebrities doing mundanely fabulous things to your average Joe or Janet doing fabulously mundane things. YouTube allows users to upload, view, comment on and share original content.

Popular vloggers need to have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them both likeable and relatable virtual idols. YouTube vloggers that seem to have the most appeal are very niche YouTube channels like lifestyle vlogs, aesthetic vlogs (makeup and hair tutorials), and couple vlogs. Even within these categories there are sub-categories and the one that caught my attention most is the couple vlog category that are tagged as ‘interracial’, specifically the ‘black woman white man’ (bwwm) variety. Honestly, I feel as though confessing my membership to #TeamSwirl is an inexplicably noteworthy tidbit to explain my specific affinity.

I simply mention this to admit that I am one of the very people that shamelessly acts as the metaphoric fly on the wall a life that seems desirable. A life of culturally diverse companionship is something that I’m attracted to I think I want. But with the way the universe is set up, I’m going to have to settle for simply watching and hopelessly pinning over. Don;t worry though, I won’t lament my forever alone-ness. Instead I want to take the time to seriously consider the odd sense of community I feel with fellow #TeamSwirl vlog subscribers.

I’ve noticed that the majority of #TeamSwirl couple vlog subscribers and commenters are black women. And as a knee-jerk reaction, the insufferable phrase: “ooo, you found yourself a white man!” flashes across the back of my eyelids as I cringe at the association.  Now, I’m not critiquing interracial couples because other people’s relationships are exactly that, their exclusive business. But, what I am suspicious of is the commonly shared desire to bombard myself with interracial romantic narratives .

Different vlogs cater to different parts of us. Perhaps the parts that we find lacking in our lives like a sense of love and companionship. If you can’t secure a significant other of your desire then watching such a coupling is the next best thing, I suppose. After consuming hours upon hours of vlogs, contributing not to my happiness or sadness, I pondered why I sought out these specific videos. It didn’t matter what the giddy couples did or spoke about: ‘how we first met’, ‘our first kiss’ and ‘get to know us Q&A’ entitled videos all captivated me. The interracial couple could quite literally paint a wall together and I would be glued to my screen. Their togetherness, no matter how fleeting and short-lived, made me feel less alone. I look at the number of subscribers and comments on each video and imagine sitting in a packed theatre auditorium. All of us scattered across the world yet virtually gathered to watch this performance.

As lovey dovey as they looked, a part of me was jaded enough to know that this is not the full picture. I make sure to remind myself that this is not life after a vlog binge. I shouldn’t fall victim to believing that this finely scripted and edited video is the embodiment of their love, however endearing the banter might be. Despite knowing this, I subconsciously clip out the black woman’s face, in the vlog duet, and paste my own image over her love life. There is a sense of falling in love with the couple: you might find that after a few videos that you’ve grown fond of the man and can relate to the woman so much so that you two might be interchangeable. You study her mannerisms and convince yourself that if you can master this mimicry then you  stand a chance to ‘win yourself a white boy’.

Of course, one scolds themselves for such shameful thoughts born from envy and loneliness. A sobering video called The Darkest Truth About Love by The School of Life delves into this longing for companionship, reveals our self-deluded hopes for love and fundamental fears that locates the concept of love as an existential solution to the many questions that the human condition has to offer. I suppose couple vlogs, like romantic comedies, are alluring because they offer us an authentic fantasy where we can be acceptable Peeping Toms and Peeking Tinas. We do not watch because we want to be them but we wish to love and feel truly loved like them.

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