YouTube stars and fans are gathering in London for Summer in the City, the UK’s largest and longest-running online video festival. We meet the people who get to call YouTube their job.
Lewys Ball is a 19-year-old YouTuber whose make-up tutorials and vlogs of his daily life as a student have earned him a following of more than 300,000.
He’s been posting videos for more than five years and tells the BBC he has no regrets about documenting his teenage years online.
“I have lived my teenage years from 13-19 with every moment documented online – I know some people would hate it but I love watching back 14-year-old me.
“I was obsessed with social media from a young age – I started a YouTube channel just uploading random clips of my pets when I was 8 or 9 years old.
“Then about five years ago I broke my arm and I found Zoella and all those people and saw they were making videos weekly for a specific audience and not just uploading clips of their mum falling over or their dog barking.”
He says within a week of discovering these YouTube channels he posted his first video – a vlog about his experience of primary school.
Growing up online
Lewys’s videos, which have now had a combined 16 million views, document everything from his clothes and make-up to holidays abroad.
As someone whose years as a teenage boy have been atypical to many others, he says his experience of “growing up online” was a positive experience.
“Posting videos online has helped me find who I am as a person and bring out the best in my personality.
“As a teen I had a thick skin. Between the ages of 14-16 for a lot of people hate comments would affect you, but I’m lucky that they didn’t get to me at all.”
He says seeing people commenting on him as a teenager was “strange” and that he was different from a lot of YouTubers who already had a distinctive identity, whereas his was changing all the time.
“For people who followed me when I was 14, I changed by the time I was 18 and people would be commenting ‘what happened to the old you’ – I’d grown up and everyone else had done it, except they hadn’t done it online.”
“People say whatever without consequence”
Like many YouTubers, Lewys has not been immune to trolling and hateful comments shared across his social media platforms.
“There are many people online who are supportive of what I do, but also so many who tear down not just me but other YouTubers.
“I’ve never heard of another YouTuber who hasn’t received a hate comment or a dislike.”
He says the online world can be less accepting than the real world as “people can be nice to your face but say whatever they want online”.
“[Commenters] have this anonymity so if they were a stranger walking past you in the street they would never say something like that you.
“On YouTube people can say whatever they want without any consequences.”
The unglamorous side of YouTube
For Lewys, he says he likes to keep his videos quite loosely edited, because as a viewer he prefers “watching videos where you feel like you’re having a conversation”.
“I think it’s necessary to show the unglamorous side because it brings you closer to the audience,” he says.
“They can see themselves that you don’t always have your eyelashes on and nails done – for me a lot of my audience is my age or going through the things I’ve gone through so for me I can be a lot closer if I open up.”
He tries to paint an honest picture of his life as a university student too -which he juggles alongside treating YouTube as a “full-time job”.
“I try and incorporate my uni life – a lot of YouTubers don’t go to university or have already been through it, but my viewers go to university and then have no one to look to.
“I know two years ago I would have loved to have seen what the experience was like”.
The beauty industry
He also says part of showing his life online is not promoting an unrealistic image and dislikes “over photo-shopping” that can be seen a lot amongst beauty influencers.
“On Instagram, a little smooth out is fine but its really disheartening to see some brands post those images when people are literally drawing on make-up.
“When I first started and saw all this flawless make-up online I didn’t understand how they even achieved it, now I know it’s because of posing, professional lighting and the camera.
“When you go on social media you’re seeing the best lighting and angle of that look and it’s important to remember that.”