By Lelina Chang
Using social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Youtube has become the norm for people in the age of technology. However, among the millions of users on the web, it’s not the norm to become “Tumblr-/Insta-/YouTube-famous.” Among South’s students, junior Alison Zhao has become a mini YouTube sensation, currently having over 3,200 subscribers on YouTube and over 700 likes on her Facebook fanpage.
It all started on a lazy summer day when Zhao was sitting at home with nothing to do. Eager to occupy herself, she decided to make a YouTube video showing off her new Spongebob ringtone to her friend. After her first video, Zhao realized that she enjoyed the video-making process. She decided that making YouTube videos would be a great way to occupy her time during the summer and interact with people without leaving her house.
“I started making videos where I would just talk about day-to-day things [while having] a humorous take” said Zhao. To her surprise, people loved it and started sending her direct messages and posting comments about how funny her videos were. Before she knew it, people were subscribing to her YouTube channel.
“I never expected it to become a big thing,” said Zhao. “I never expected myself to get subscribers [either] because the whole concept seemed so far out of reach, so I was thinking ‘Oh that’s never going to happen to me.’”
People who have YouTube subscribers must appeal to the audience of the world-wide web. For Zhao, it is her humor and the relatable topics she blogs about that draw viewers and subscribers to her channel. “What I like to talk about are things that just happen. For example, awkward moments in life that everybody faces,” said Zhao. “I guess what I’m trying to do is get people together and share their moments. It’s like a unifying experience.”
Over time, as Zhao continued to post simple videos every so often, she gradually gained more and more followers. Now, she has over forty videos on her YouTube channel, “Ilikealison.” On average, each video receives around 3,000 to 5,000 views, with her most popular video receiving over 12,000 hits.
Zhao is not only known in the U.S.–her fans are from all over the globe. “I honestly don’t know how they find me, and that’s why I don’t know how I’ve come to this point… because I don’t know where [my subscribers] are coming from!” said Zhao. “According to my YouTube statistics, there are people from Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and the Middle East!” In fact, Zhao has made friends with YouTubers just like her from states like Georgia and Arizona and from countries like Australia. “We’re friends now,” said Zhao, “and we actually talk on a regular basis.”
Many fans connect with Zhao by messaging her on YouTube or by posting on her Facebook fanpage. Some fans have even made fan-art for Zhao–sketches and art pieces of the “ilikealison” icon.
Zhao’s fans eagerly await her weekly videos. One fan commented on Zhao’s fanpage, “When do you think you’ll make a new video?! I’M IN DESPERATE NEED OF LAUGHTER.”
Now that Zhao has such a big fan base, she feels obligated to make videos on a weekly basis. “If they are giving me their time of day to watch my videos, to comment, and to give feedback, then I should give them my time of day to give them more because that’s what they want,” said Zhao.
Even with such a huge obligation to make weekly videos, Zhao is still able to juggle her musical endeavors, swimming, and her junior-year workload. It takes on average three hours for Zhao to film, edit, and post a video on YouTube. She often spontaneously comes up with video ideas. “Sometimes when I’m in the shower, ideas come to me,” said Zhao. “So as soon as I finish, I jot them down.” She currently has over twenty ideas saved.
Before filming her video, Zhao spends five minutes typing up what comes to mind for that video idea. After five minutes, her word document is filled. Then she proceeds to the filming process, which usually takes about a half an hour including all the bloopers. “Sometimes I sneeze when I talk, so I just need to retake it,” said Zhao with a laugh. After filming, Zhao proceeds to the editing process, which she finds equally enjoyable. Finally, after editing, she posts her video. Sometimes when she has extra time, she makes two to three videos just in case she is super busy one week and isn’t able to make one.
As a mini youtube sensation, Alison has begun to gain the attention of her peers at school. Junior Radhika Viswanathan stumbled across one of Alison’s videos during a club meeting. “Someone had put her video about why she doesn’t like magazines on the Smartboard, and I remembered thinking, ‘Oh wow, isn’t that Alison in my grade?’ I had no idea that she had her own channel, and when I found out, it seemed like she was a celebrity!” Viswanathan said.
“I have a lot of people that come up to me in the hallway and tell me that they loved my video and I thank them,” said Zhao. “Some people come up to me and introduce themselves because we’ve never met before.”
People who personally know Alison are extremely pleased by her videos and support her hobby as a YouTuber. Junior Kenny Lu said, “The first video that I saw made by Alison literally left me laughing non-stop. I had always found Alison to be a comical person in school and I love being around her. [But] now, it’s as if she’s always there so I’m really happy.”
Little did Zhao know that the creation of that first Spongebob-ringtone video would manifest into something that would become a regular part of her life. For now, Zhao plans to continue this hobby into her college life and onwards. “There are just so many perks to YouTubing. I love filming the videos, editing the videos, getting to interact with different people, and just being able to make other people smile or laugh,” said Zhao.