Kent students pick up camera, make vlogs

Kelly Fiorentino in the airport before flying to Italy. 

Dylan Reynolds

When Shawnize Burns uploads a YouTube video, she can expect anywhere from 60 to 6,000 views.

These numbers are light-years away from the views earned by major vloggers, but Burns, a senior sociology major, said she isn’t in it for fame.

“My supporters and my friends, they keep me motivated,” Burns said. “They get on my back too, like ‘When are we getting a new video from you?’”

Her channel — Shawnzy B — includes videos ranging from makeup tutorials to lifestyle vlogs. Vlogs, or video blogs, are an increasingly popular form of first-person storytelling.

“It started out just showing my makeup and stuff, and then later on it branched out into being a creative outlet,” Burns said.

Burns is one of many Kent State students who are building a following on the video-sharing site.

Having a YouTube channel was a longtime goal for senior fashion merchandising major Kelly Fiorentino, who started making lifestyle and beauty videos in 2015.

“I’ve watched YouTube videos since middle school, and I always thought it would be so fun to do that myself,” Fiorentino wrote in an email, adding that “it’s a fun way to document my life to look back on years later.”

In Fiorentino’s latest video, “Moving to Italy!,” she says goodbye to family and navigates the airport before boarding a plane to study abroad. The video is a candid first-person look at her day — a hallmark of the video format.

GlobalWebIndex reported in 2016 that 44 percent of internet users watch vlogs each month. Among the college-aged demographic of internet users, that number is over 50 percent.

“[Vlogging] is a form of self-expression,” said Paul Haridakis, a communication studies professor. “Every technology we have, we figure out ways to use it to express ourselves.”

Haridakis believes more people are making vlogs because of that desire for self-expression coupled with easier access to video technology.

“We like to look into other people’s lives; vlogs are an example of it,” Haridakis said. “But if you think about it, we also like to do it with reality TV shows. We love to see shows about people who end up in kind of a trainwreck. That’s been a general attraction in media for viewers.”

With many YouTubers’ lives playing out like reality shows, they’ve had their fair share of controversy.

Ohio-born vlogger Logan Paul faced backlash this month for uploading a video with footage of an apparent suicide victim. Paul has taken down the video and was removed from YouTube’s premium advertising service.

Senior communication studies major Jada Jenkins, who makes beauty vlogs, believes Paul’s behavior was caused by a desire for fame.

“I felt like that’s another part of the whole ‘doing it for subscribers’ thing,” Jenkins said. “I think a thing that is becoming more current with YouTube and social media in general is that people just want the views and they want the money that comes from it.”

Jenkins, known on YouTube as Frosty Jay, said she is motivated to create videos by friends and family, not views.

“I have friends and family I don’t see often, so by showing my hair tips and my makeup tips through video, they can just pause and play as much as they would like to and learn those skills I learned,” Jenkins said.

Getting the channel started was a struggle for Burns, but now the only difficulty is balancing filming with her college schedule.

“When I first started vlogging, it was weird holding the camera up and talking to it while people are looking at you like ‘What is she doing? Who is she talking to?’” Burns said. “But I started to tune them out. The hard part now is finding time to actually record because of lives and school.”

Burns hopes the Shawnzy B channel will surpass 1,000 subscribers soon and continue growing from there.

“I just want to be more out-there, get more exposure (and) just build it up,” Burns said. “I don’t have to be a big YouTube star. It would be nice if I made it up there, but my goal is just to get more exposure and more views and just encourage more people.”

Dylan Reynolds is a feature writer. Contact him at [email protected].