Sometimes I have trouble getting to sleep at night, so I’ve taken to watching things on YouTube that help gear my brain down to a manageable level. This has led to my discovery of the phenomenon of product reviews. There are a lot of people with their own channels, where they talk about the most mundane things imaginable: vegetable peelers, squirt guns, ballpoint pens, keychains, spoons.
I love these people. I’ve written about ASMR before, which is a sort of neurological condition that causes some people to experience pleasant sensations, sometimes called “head tingles”, when really pointless and boring things are explained in great detail. I have ASMR in spades; when it comes over me, it’s practically paralyzing. I think in my case it almost functions like a learning disability. It was a real problem for me in school. I had a very hard time concentrating on certain subjects because of the sleepy feeling that overcame me. But sometimes, like those nights when my brain is doing nine thousand revolutions per minute and I need to get to sleep, that sleepy feeling is a good thing.
It was while I was searching for ASMR-inducing videos that I discovered grav3yardgirl, which is the nom du Tube of Texan Bunny Meyer. She calls herself that because she sometimes… uh… goes to cemeteries and tries to communicate with the dead. (This is actually a very popular thing on YouTube, too. Do a search for “ghost box” or “ghost hunter” and you’ll see what I mean.)
Let me first say that grav3yardgirl is not an ASMR inducer. If anything, she’s the opposite. She’s very high energy, to put it mildly. I don’t recommend watching her if you’re trying to get to sleep. I do recommend watching her if you’re out of coffee and need something to jolt you out of your stupor.
At first, I really didn’t know what to make of grav3yardgirl. Her appearance is unusual and unpredictable; sometimes she appears in stunning vintage dresses and sun hats, other times in bright lipstick and camouflage T-shirts. Sometimes she looks like a supermodel, and at other times she resembles Pippi Longstocking coming down from a three-day bender. She appears entirely comfortable in her own skin regardless, and that is what I love about her.
She’s also hilarious. She is a walking stream-of-consciousness text generator, utterly unconcerned with whether anyone thinks she’s funny or not, whether she sounds deep or not, whether she’s coming across as annoying or entertaining, whether people think she’s important or silly. She is just unabashedly herself.
grav3yardgirl is also hugely famous, at least on YouTube. She has over seven million subscribers, which means she generates somewhere between $500,000 – $2 million per year in advertising revenue. Yes, you can make that much money putting up videos of yourself talking about random stuff.
With stakes that high, there’s a lot of competition, and because the bar for starting a YouTube channel is at ankle level, you get all kinds. YouTube celebrities can be a pretty nasty lot. I’ve come across a few who have made entire careers out of making fun of people, pulling mean pranks, insulting the very young and the helpless, and making total strangers feel like crap. Some of them are outright psychopaths, doing things like making fake 911 calls that result in SWAT teams being sent to the homes of their rivals, or punching random people on the street. There are parts of YouTube that are basically a cesspool.
But grav3yardgirl is a class act all the way, even at her most deliberately ridiculous. She never seems to have a nasty word to say about anybody. She doesn’t swear. She doesn’t discuss sexuality in crass terms. She doesn’t make fun of anyone. She just… does her thing: product reviews, seances in cemeteries, thrift store hauls, visits to Wal-mart… whatever the hell she feels like doing.
Who cares? you might ask. It’s 2016. Why should we be concerned with standards of decency any more?
Well, I care, because I’m the father of two young girls, aged 10 and 13, and it’s really important to me who they model themselves after. Their first role model is going to be their mother, of course, and they couldn’t do better than her. She’s smart, confident, beautiful, strong, and hard-working, and one of the reasons I married her was because I knew she was going to be a fantastic mother.
But my girls also spend a lot of time watching YouTube (with Safe Mode on) and as a result they’re picking up a lot about the online world. There is a great deal of nasty, shallow behavior there. I don’t want to shelter them too much, and I can’t protect them from everyone I don’t like. But there are certain YouTubers I’d be only too delighted for them to watch more of, and grav3yardgirl is top of the list. I hope my daughters grow up to be as confident and sure of themselves as she is.