Thursday, January 22, 2015

(R) Trip to Tokyo, and thoughts on fans and YouTube

Another too-long-tweet-turned-blog-post here. :)

I'm finally home from Tokyo! I spent the last week meeting up with a ton of friends, making new friends, and taking many videos of yet-to-be-determined quality (hopefully a few are usable).

You would think that after three years of making videos I would have some sort of professional mentality where I would know exactly what qualities a good video needs and thus record confidently and efficiently with a clear image in my mind of how the final video will turn out... but it never happens that way. It's still awkward recording in public. It's awkward talking to yourself, it's awkward talking to a camera, and it's especially awkward trying not to get in the way of or cause trouble for the people around you who are just trying to go about their day without showing up in the background of some foreigner's camera.

I also have a tendency to get lost in the moment enjoying my surroundings or talking to people, and I almost always forget to take pictures together with people (and slightly less often but still more than is acceptable also forget to take videos).

I initially went to Tokyo to meet Jun's and my long-term internet friend Melodee Morita in person. Fortunately, I was able to take a picture our second day together!

Melodee is one of those people who are so truly, genuinely, kind and sweet that they could tell you a story where they were less than perfect with another person and you would just laugh and think it was adorable, and that doesn't really count as being mean because omg you are the nicest person ever. (Not that she told me a story like that; she didn't.)

She works and lives in New York, so I was super happy to get the chance to finally meet her!

It turns out that Melodee picked the perfect time to come to Tokyo because I was also able to meet up with a ton of other people who were also just visiting or were otherwise very often too busy to hang out a lot. Best buddies Sharla and Grace were a given, and I was also able to catch a lunch with Chika (our first time really getting a chance to talk; it was wonderful!), and new friend and soon-to-be-jvlogger Miranda (who brought a lot of incredibly delicious Mexican snacks for us to try!) I also met jvloggers Sapphira (yet to debut) and Anora of Yummy Japan! And here's where I fail with pictures, because the only other one I took that wasn't purikura is this one. ↓

It was really a YouTuber meet fest. We all took videos together, so look forward to those in the coming months! I say months because legit you guys have no idea how many videos we end up with sitting in an editing queue, fading out of memory and relevance. (Figuring out which videos get edited and uploaded first is a half complex/half arbitrary process that would need a separate blog post to explain.)

In any case, I was so excited and happy to meet all of these people! There's something so easy and refreshing about hanging out with other people who also make videos, because we all share similar hardships and understand exactly what to do when the other person's recording. We all happily commiserate with each other on the time it takes to edit or add subtitles, talk about how we deal with negative comments, and brainstorm ideas for collaborating. Most of us YouTubers start out making videos alone, so meeting other people who do the same things and think about the same problems is always really fun.

YouTube is strange because you see someone's image and hear their voice online, and you get to feel like you know them even when you've never met before in real life. When you finally get a chance to meet, many people (myself being one of them) often act like you've met a dozen times before. This goes for meetups where both people are YouTubers, and it also goes for meetups where one person's a video maker and the other is a viewer. I love this. The main point of my original too-long-tweet was wanting to talk about this.

I was very luckily able to meet quite a few people in Tokyo I just so happened to dumbly stumble past at the right time who recognized me and thankfully called out. It happens every now and then in Nagoya, but Nagoya is a smaller city and to be honest I don't leave the house that often anyway, so it's not a fairly frequent occurrence.

I remembered to take two pictures.

It feels really strange.

I'm very, very happy to meet these people, always. Like I said before, it's easy to talk to people like friends when they already know a bit about you, and especially when you share the common experience of being in Japan. It feels like I have friends everywhere. But it's also embarrassing, because I am always unsatisfied with something about our videos, and I can't feel proud to meet people and be like, "Yeah! I made those videos!" I feel more like, "Yeah, I made those videos, although I suck at speaking and I don't think I got my point across correctly here" or "I kind of changed a little bit since that video and it doesn't really reflect my mindset anymore" or "I don't know if you noticed how shaky our camera was or how horrible the sound quality was but it was really unprofessional and at this point with our channel I feel like we should have been doing better."

Once our videos are uploaded, I can never watch them again because I don't like looking at myself and seeing all my mistakes popping out at me.

Don't get me wrong, I think we have a lot of good stuff. But is it stuff that's worthy of being recognized on the street over? I dunno, that's kind of weird. Getting recognized in public is something that happens to famous people. Famous people are people who are like... up there, you know. Different. Not down here in the real world with us average people. Of course that's not true, but that's how it feels to me. I start to get uncomfortable when viewers are referred to or refer to themselves as fans (not that any of the people I met in Tokyo did that). YouTube doesn't help with this, because they refer to viewers as fans, too.
The first fan link up there shows everyone who is subscribed to you (assuming their subscriptions are public). So according to YouTube, you literally only have to be subscribed to someone to be a fan of them. I think that usage of the word is too liberal, and I don't like how it adds distance between the video creator and the viewer.

I know I said in my job video I would never talk about my job again, but parts of it end up being relevant here and there, and since this is a blog I feel like I have a little more leeway here. In the military keeping professional distance between people of different ranks is stressed very strongly, to the point of being an actual military law under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (fraternization). That makes sense for the military. A military needs very strict rules and regulations to keep order, which helps the military function as efficiently and predictably as possible during the fog of war.

But this isn't the military. We're not even famous people. We're just people who make amateur videos. Does there need to be that distance? I don't think so.

I understand why YouTube and some YouTubers refer to their viewers as fans. Technically, some viewers could meet the defining criteria of being a fan. But I think that's a bit... egotistical? Like you're saying you think that just because you made some videos, you deserve fame? Maybe for YouTube that makes good business, because fans buy merchandise and support people to the point of giving those people a public persona, which makes YouTube look like they're creating celebrities, which makes YouTube look good and makes more people want to join YouTube and ultimately YouTube earns more money.

But it's also encouraging video makers to think of themselves as being famous, which leads some of them to soaring egos and superiority complexes, and I don't think that's what YouTube should be about. 

I like viewers being friends. I enjoy meeting them. I enjoy talking to them. I enjoy being able to share my thoughts. I've said before that while Jun and I were dealing with our long distance, being able to just get online and chat with someone immediately on Twitter or YouTube was an almost indispensable resource for protecting my mental health. My favorite part of uploading videos is reading the new comments that come in. The first two days after uploading a video I will almost obsessively be checking our new messages the moment they pop up (I have an application that alerts me when we get new emails, wootwoot).

This does get hard though because it's impossible now for us to respond to everyone. I was that socially awkward kid in school who always started sentences quietly and then got cut off by more outgoing people saying something else, and I would never be able to interject and get my own questions or thoughts in, so I'm a bit sensitive toward ignoring people when they're asking questions. I feel like a douchebag when I can't respond to questions. I know most people realize and even expect that YouTubers won't answer their questions, but I still feel bad.

By the way, thank you to everyone who commented on the last blog post, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to reply to all of them yet. I did read them all. To the person who asked if maybe I was apologizing so much due to subconscious feelings of disappointing my mom or something like that, lol, that really made me laugh. But no, you start to get a little paranoid about what you're saying after you've been doing YouTube for a while because literally everything you say can offend someone. A significant portion of things you say will be misunderstood or misconstrued, and then used angrily in rants against you, and it kind of sucks... No matter how hard you try to get your point across, someone always gets upset. Since I can type more freely here in a blog without worrying about people clicking out because it's too long (like we do with videos), it's easier to add all the disclaimers I predict I might need in preparation for potential criticism. It sounds kind of crazy that that's something I even have to think about, but yep, that's one thing I've learned to do after all these years. The sad part is I apparently have no ability to predict how people are going to react to the things I say so most of the time it ends up being fruitless and I make some people angry anyway. Oh well.

Anywho, this was just a little more insight into my mind here. It's a lot of things I've been wanting to say for a while, but never really seemed to fit in in a video anywhere. And no apologies this time. IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, TOO BAD.

Just kidding. Don't get angry.


  1. So refreshing to read your blogposts :)!

  2. Again - a very good blog post! It's great that you share you feelings about these things here, I think it is the right place for it much better than a video. I'm glad to hear you've had a great time in Tokyo and that you were meeting lots of friends.
    I can't even imagine how you must feel filming in public and talking alone to your camera, maybe I'll try it on my next vacation doing a trip report or something, not that I want to upload something just to be able to emphathize :D.
    I like it how you see your viewers more as friends than as fans and I think in your case it is just the right point of view! Not that you don't deserve to have fans but on hangouts or social media and of course in your videos, you act like you are talking to friends! And I think your super nice and down to earth personality is one of the things why you are one of the, if not the most popular and succesful Jvloggers. I feel like if would meet for a coffee or something we could talk for a long time without the situation getting akward, I also think it is totally fine not respond to every message, comment and tweet because you get a lot of these and everyone should understand that. And all this is very much appreciated, by a lot of people!
    I wouldn't think to much about the people you might have offended or you might will offend, there are tons of people on the internet who just want be offended or at least pretend to be, to get in an argument and/or to get angry. Everyone is entitled to have different opinion, everyone should have his point view, everyone should have the possibility to disagree and I personaly like moderate nice respectful discussion, I like to state my opinion but I also like to hear other peoples opinions and think about it. But it should all happen in a respectful way. A lot of people just want to hate and want to be mean, so don't take them to seriously!
    So this are my thoughts to your thoughts and again: sorry for the bad english, I know I've made mistakes but I'm to lazy to go through it again so I play the it'snotmynativelanguage-card :D

    - Flown87

  3. Thanks for blogging and jvlogging ! I appreciate you doing so as I get to see people and places I miss. 'Japan' Thanks again, Stella in Ar. but was born and raised in Japan.

  4. Hi Rachel, I am glad you got to meet all those people. It's because you are an average American/Japanese person that I enjoy your videos. If I wanted a professional tour of Japan, I would log on to National Geographics, or Discovery channel. After reading your last blog, I know even if made a video that was perfect, you would still see a flaw I am a fan of you and Jun; if I was ever to get to your neck of the woods, I would try to meet you both and have tea for about an hour, just to say hi. Rachel, you do a good job with your videos, just relax and enjoy the moment Can hardly wait for your next tweet on your blog.
    I wish you and Jun to be well, and happy.

  5. I see what you mean on the video things, I don't really like looking back on things I made in the past either, all the flaws are just kind of like YAH HERE I AM, then I just end up throwing stuff away or trying to fix it, but it's whatever I guess. And so you don't like it when people come up to you when they see you and tell you that they like your videos?

  6. It's so nice to read your thoughts about being a Youtuber.:) I'm a blogger and although I don't have many readers, I can understand how you feel. This is probably one of the many reasons why I choose to be anonymous. I'm always careful about what I write and I am hesitant about writing personal things. When I do write personal things, I get more sensitive when people criticize me. Anyway, it's nice to know that despite the downsides of being a vlogger, it's still fun and you get to meet many nice people. It's wonderful to be heard and to be understood.

    I enjoy watching your videos and their "imperfections" are what makes them so special and enjoyable (because it somehow makes the viewers feel more connected to the vlogger)

    I also watch Sharla and Grace's videos. I owe you guys a lot. I learned a lot from you and you made my recent trip to Japan a lot more fun! :)

    I'm looking forward to your new videos!

  7. Dear Rachel,

    You, Jun, and Leo are an absolute delight and a breath of fresh air! I found you on Youtube as I was researching my very first trip to Japan. My best friend and I are traveling to Tokyo and Kyoto Feb 1- Feb 14, 2015. We understand that it's a long-shot (and please, please don't feel obligated in any way) but we would love to treat you and Jun to tea or lunch or just a stroll to thank you for all of your advice and wisdom! Having watched many of your videos, we feel far more prepared to be completely and utterly out of our comfort zones - ha! We're a couple of old birds in our 50's (actually, I'm turning 50 on Feb 4 - the whole reason for our Japanese adventure!!) My name is Shelley and I am a fellow redhead (yay!) from Missouri and Sandy is a blonde Brit from London. We both live in California, now.

    We plan on staying in Tokyo for 4 nights Feb 10-14. I've never posted on a blog before so I hope this actually reaches you! Please feel free to look me up on IMDB (movie website - Shelley Phillips) I'm an actress and Sandy is a small in-home preschool owner and teacher. I hope your 2015 is proving to be a stellar year!

    Sincerely, Shelley and Sandy

  8. Hello,

    we don't know each other, but I watch your videos from time to time (and yes, I have the impression that I know you a little) - I just want to say that you're both doing a great job.

    Rachel, you speak your mind clearly and your thoughts are easy to follow - at least for me, and I'm Pole and I can't say I'm fluent in English. I'm often impressed by the way you're prepared for different topics and by the fact that you point out the distinction between facts and your opinion. It's not that common and it's definitely worth praising.

    As for the fame issue... well, you publish your videos -> you expose yourself to public -> you gain popularity. Eventually you're famous (at least in some circles). You might even be recognized somewhere in Eastern Europe ;) I like the way you see this matter, though.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Hi Rachel...!

    I just want to say that I hope you will let go of the worries and stresses about YouTubing, because you are a NATURAL...and also so much fun to watch and listen to, that even if you go on and on for a long time and thing you are taking too much time, really it is pleasant anyway. And feel free to contradict yourself. How can we even be human without changing our minds about things at times?!

    You and Jun are both just super fun to watch and listen to and I think as long as you keep explaining things and sharing things on YouTube you will be enjoyed by many people. As far as the "fan" label goes, I understand what you mean about it seeming too egoistic. I think a nice balance is not to refer to others as "fans" yourself -- but to accept it graciously when someone tells you they are a fan. I know when I tell people I am a fan, it is because I usually do not know them well (or at all) and it is the best way I know to tell them that I heartily support what they are sharing with the world. And if that makes them feel good, what is the problem with that? Nothing, really.

    I hope you will continue to elucidate to us about what things foreigners say and do (and how they smell or whatever) is responded to by the Japanese people. It is always fascinating to learn every little aspect of different cultures!

    Your new fan!


  10. Miranda is going to be a J-vlogger??? why? :O

  11. Miranda is going to be a J-vlogger??? why? :O

  12. Hey Rachel,

    good to see another post from you! :)
    That subconscious guilt thing is something I'vee seen enough in people, so I thought maybe I'd throw it in, but I'm super glad it's not an issue!
    I can only imagine how awkward it is to speak into a camera in public, or even at all, because I'm one of those persons who tend to duck as soon as a lens is directed at them.
    I'd like to second the thought that you junst CAN'T make everyone happy, there'll always be someone who feels entitled to spew negativity at people. So I actually applaud the notion of "You don't like it? Too bad." ;)

    Keep doing it your way and be happy! :D

  13. Ha! Our blogs look the same! And I've never rad your before. Oops, I meant read but I'm leaving it. Your videos are much different than others I watch. I guess it is because your mindset. You're so...down to earth. I always try to comment to youtubers like they are my friends and not OMG FANGIRL CENTRAL BLARG. Ya'll kinda are my friends (in a good way, not a I'm so lonely way).

    I just want to say, I love that mindset. I hope things don't get to overwhelming for you because I don't want you to stop making videos.

    Have a great day!

  14. I empathize with your need to apologize in anticipation of criticism on two levels:
    First, I work in hospitality and immediately apologize for any type of criticism or issue presented to me regardless of whether or not I was actually even involved. Second, I live in Northern Alberta, which is in Canada, a country that uses the term so frequently that "sorry" is not actually considered an admission of guilt in courts of law.

    At the end of the day we all possess qualities or personality traits that in some situations act as our greatest strength and our biggest weakness in others. I guess the key to peace of mind is in not attempting to change that about ourselves but in simply being aware of and accepting that reality.

  15. But it's MUCH more likely to stop reading a post for being too long then it is to stop watching a video in the middle just because of length...

  16. Hi Rachel. First Say hello to JUN and the cats. Second... Hmm I actually like hearing you "complaining" about things. That make me feel like you are more like a real person. There was one time I was reading the comments and one person bashed you badly ... I was upset and clicked to see how poeple react to it and I saw your response... It was very interesting to me as you weresnt angry or hurtful or even trying to explain yourself. They way you responded irritated me so much until i saw your post : you do get hurt and feel angry or helpless some times. .... I dont know how to end this ... good job rachel ... you are awesome .
    PS . can jun make more video in junskitchen ? a man while cooking is really sexy ...


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