YouTube is a hub of information; from insightful discussions to music videos and hair and makeup tutorials, it is our visual “Google” search engine. Though, despite how much we learn from the video site and its users, it unfortunately, gives people platforms to share strange personal experiences. In their latest report on trends made viral by teens, Broadly notes that kidnapping stories have become the latest video blog phenomenon.
Although Broadly categorizes certain testimonies as survivor stories, there are thousands of “I Got Kidnapped” videos that do not focus on abduction but rather street harassment. “Typing ‘My Kidnapping Story’ into the YouTube search bar delivers around 223,000 results. Titles include “I got kidnapped??!”, “My Creepy Stalker Story–HE TRIED TO KIDNAP ME!!!!” and “Storytime: I was almost kidnapped.” The ‘almost’ here is important: A vast number of these videos are about ‘almosts’, with varying degrees of severity.” Broadly continues to reveal that videos like the latter are formulated with a click-bait approach to attract viewers to delve into their exaggerated story-telling world where YouTube users decorate videos with “photo-shopped black eyes” or have hit music singles to set the tone of their videos.
During their research, Broadly learned that some YouTubers were even bold enough to recount the kidnapping dreams they had, all for the sake of receiving sympathy for traumatic experiences they sometimes caused or only experienced during their REM cycle. Broadly notes of one video blogger they followed:
“Nessa and her videos have attracted over 908,905 subscribers, leading many to emulate her clickbait-style with all-caps titles and thumbnail pictures of photoshopped-on black eyes. …Another turns out to be about an Uber journey where the narrator simply refused to pay the driver. Another is about not being kidnapped, but about a dream the narrator had one time where she was kidnapped (no, really.)”
Despite shifting through the authentic and forgery accounts of kidnapping told online, Broadly claims teens are making people discuss sex trafficking and child abduction more, since the two issues are repeatedly swept under the policy rug. Most important, YouTube video bloggers claim to receive healing from sharing their kidnapping narratives, but at what cost?
Personally, I believe teen video bloggers who share personal accounts will alter how their generation will view and change the language used when discussing kidnappings. By everyone sharing variations of real or fabricated kidnapping stories, people may become desensitized to the gravity of these heinous crimes. The other problem with these shared experiences is the comparisons video bloggers use to attack one another’s character and authenticity. These attacks push teen video bloggers to compete with one another to see who has the “best” or most outrageous story that may become viral. No matter the intentions, it’s clear teens are succumbing to same narcissism that’s swept over all of society since the the dawn of social media. There’s certainly a place for survivor tales to raise awareness on a serious issue but what we don’t need are fantasy retellings of events that, for some young women, have been a real nightmare, as the woman below demonstrates.