“A long overdue apology”, “Doing What’s Right”, “Breaking my silence” and “Taking Accountability” are some of the generic and exaggerated titles of YouTube videos that have circulated around the platform within the past few months.
Calling these videos pathetic is an understatement.
Despite the influx of apology videos this year, these posts which garner millions of views are nothing new. Online media pages have even published articles ranking the worst YouTube apology videos of all time, jokingly stating ”How to apologize like a social media star” or detailing the different types of YouTube apologies.
Some of the most common reasons why YouTube influencers have created apology videos include discussing their racist past or unnecessary drama with other influencers.
Tati Westbrook, a makeup artist and Youtube influencer posted a now-deleted video, titled “Bye Sister,” calling out James Charles, a YouTube influencer who allegedly had predatory behavior. Her video practically caused him to lose over 2 million subscribers in three days. When Charles came forward, it was only then that Westbrook made another video apologizing for her accusations. However, that didn’t erase the trauma he said he felt as a result of Westbrook’s bashing.
Additionally, other popular YouTube influencers such as Shane Dawson and Tana Mongeau have posted their fair share of apology videos in the past, and received backlash to the point where they have made apology videos regarding their past apology videos. This further proves how pointless and shallow these apologies are.
If a subject matter is serious enough to be addressed on the YouTube platform, why has it been turned into another one of the internet’s jokes?
Before viewers get to analyze the videos themselves, many are later deleted or have the comments section disabled. Deleting the video essentially takes back the original apology, serving no accountability for the influencer’s wrongdoing and acting as if it was a mistake to upload.
“We have to all take accountability for our own actions and no one else’s. And that is what I will continue to do, and if I don’t, please f------ remind me,” said Jeffree Star, a makeup artist and YouTube influencer in his latest apology. However, since his comment section is disabled, the audience would not be able to hold Star accountable for his actions. Disabling the comments also disables the opportunity for viewers and creators to have a conversation.
If an open discussion is not possible, then who is the apology for? It isn’t fair to the audience supporting the influencer’s livelihood to not even have their voice heard on the platform.
Famous YouTube apology videos neglect the most important part: authenticity. Many influencers who are called out for messing up and pushed by their audience to make an apology video are so quick to defend themselves, deflecting the topic at hand and explaining how their actions do not make them a “bad” person.
Instead of simply addressing the situation, or why the issue was wrong in the first place, it’s easier for internet stars to talk about themselves and their own struggles, click upload and hope the viewers’ criticism will end.
While it is up to the YouTube creator whether they post online, disable comments or limit who views it, the one thing that they can never control is how people perceive their apology. Not everyone will be forgiven for their actions. The purpose is to apologize for something that hurt someone else or many people, so those same people deserve the right to refuse or accept the apology.
This standard applies not just online, but also in real life. The difference between apologizing to one person and apologizing to an audience is that there is room for misunderstanding and for those same actions to be repeated again and again.
Even if the apology from the person in front of the camera is authentic and they take accountability and apologize profusely, at the end of the day, the apology is still just words.
Apologies are not the solution, they're the foundation. Saying nice, meaningful words without actions to back them up does not change what has already been done.
Influencers should stop being defensive and talking about their own struggles and instead approach their apology as a way to spark conversation around the situation. This would give them the chance to discuss if their wrongdoings were blown out of proportion, if they should be forgiven and how they can grow.
Going forward, don’t take influencers’ apologies seriously or at face value. As this nation –– and the world –– faces a pandemic and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, society is becoming more aware of how vital it is to hold people accountable for their behavior.
There is no time to let people with fame or power take hold of our beliefs because of their social standing and broken promises.
The YouTube personalities who think of their mistakes as lessons and use what they learned as an opportunity for social growth are the ones who truly make a positive influence.